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Special Recognition for Legislators Who Supported Local Government in 2006

Throughout 2006, many legislators offered assistance to the League or were supportive of city issues in various ways. The following 10 legislators, selected by the League’s lobbying team, are individuals who stood out during the 2006 legislative session for their efforts in working with the League and supporting local government. 

Senator Sam Aanestad (R-4, Grass Valley) was the epitome of a legislator determined to advocate for his cities in his dogged pursuit of SB 1733. This bill, which was signed by the governor, provides more flexibility for small cities (or rural counties) that are assessed mandatory minimum penalties for water quality violations and wish to use the penalty money toward fixing the problem that caused the violation. Several times during the year, Sen. Aanestad took critical steps to help broker a resolution of thorny issues, reaching across the aisle to pave the way for negotiated agreements. Without his timely actions, SB 1733 would likely have stalled. Cities in his district — and small cities throughout the state — should thank him for his persistence.

Assembly Member Sam Blakeslee (R-33, San Luis Obispo) has earned the League’s special recognition for the second year in a row for championing the interests of cities. In particular, he highlighted crucial issues in the video franchising bill, AB 2987, and raised important technical questions, such as whether proposed language in early versions of the bill on the allocation of franchise fees were a fee or a tax. He co-signed a letter with Republican leader Assembly Member George Plescia (R-75, San Diego) pointing out many of the bill’s shortcomings. Assembly Member Blakeslee continues to demonstrate his policy knowledge and interest in good government.

Assembly Member Bill Emmerson (R-63, Redlands), in his capacity as vice-chairperson of the Assembly Local Government Committee, has established himself as a thoughtful and prepared legislator who weighs his votes carefully, particularly when considering measures that would reduce or remove local authority. Assembly Member Emmerson was helpful to the League and cities in a variety of ways during 2006. He worked closely with the League and authored a package of legislation to increase local authority over group homes. He also deserves the thanks of city officials for supporting the infrastructure bond package on last November’s ballot, including the housing bond. Assembly Member Emmerson has an excellent staff that maintains an “open door” approach when working with League lobbyists.

Assembly Member Noreen Evans (D-7, Santa Rosa), a former council member from Santa Rosa, worked closely with the League on land use and housing issues, and authored two bills sponsored by the League. AB 2158, which was vetoed, would have required councils of government to consult with local agency formation commissions prior to developing regional housing allocation plans. This bill would have helped protect cities from unreasonable housing allocations when they lacked available land. The second bill, AB 3042, would have provided local governments with more flexibility to exchange regional housing need allocations; this bill was dropped after it became loaded up with too many conditions to be workable. Assembly Member Evans is a tenacious author who fights for her bills. Furthermore, she does not bend easily when pressured to vote for legislation on the Assembly floor that would undermine local land use authority.

Assembly Member Loni Hancock (D-14, Berkeley) has been a leader in the Assembly on a troubling issue for cities: the Density Bonus Law. This year, she sponsored AB 2484, which would have created a safe harbor for cities that have created high-density areas within their communities. The current law applies an across-the-board bonus regardless of the level of zoning in place. Unfortunately, AB 2484 was held in committee with other density bonus bills for further study. However, Assembly Member Hancock has been open to city issues and concerns, and will be a leader on any future legislation in this area. Assembly Member Hancock was also one of the few legislators who voted against AB 2987, the video franchising bill. 

Assembly Member Ted Lieu (D-53, Torrance), a former city council member, is willing to cast tough votes against legislation that would harm local control and authority. One such bill was SB 1322 (Cedillo), which would have exempted “super group homes” (seven or more beds) and shelter housing from local approval processes in a way that was inconsistent with other planning and housing laws. Assembly Member Lieu held fast despite significant pressure from the author who was trying to get enough votes for passage, and displayed similar stamina earlier in the session by refusing to support legislation that would have shifted the state’s liability for flood damage to local governments. In addition, Assembly Member Lieu incorporated city perspectives while working on green building legislation; for example, he used concepts from a 2005 League green building resolution and worked with League staff to incorporate them.

Assembly Member John Laird (D-27, Santa Cruz). As a former League board member and mayor of Santa Cruz, Assembly Member Laird has remained a helpful friend of the League in the Legislature. As chairperson of the Assembly Budget Committee, he was one of a handful of legislative leaders awarded a ceremonial shovel by the League for his support of the infrastructure bond package. His office also worked in close consultation with the League on the development of legislation to improve flood emergency response plans. In addition, Assembly Member Laird successfully authored League-sponsored legislation, AB 1602, which makes adjustments to vehicle license fee (VLF) distribution formulas to assist those city annexations of inhabited areas and proposed incorporations that were potentially affected by the 2004 VLF-property tax swap.

Assembly Member Roger Niello (R-5, Fair Oaks), a former Sacramento County supervisor, has proved to be a staunch defender of the principle of local control. In 2006, he authored a League/CSAC-sponsored bill, AB 2176, that was aimed at limiting the Legislature’s ability to impose mandates on local government through the use of a local “fee disclaimer.” The Legislature has been increasingly passing legislation that circumvents mandate laws by including a “fee disclaimer clause,” which says that the state does not have to pay the cost because local governments have the authority to levy fees. Assembly Member Niello has also been helpful to the League by opposing other bills on the Assembly floor that would expand mandates on local government.

Assembly Member Todd Spitzer (R-71, Orange). As part of his commitment to public safety, Assembly Member Spitzer is co-chair of the Governor’s High Risk Sex Offender and Sexually Violent Predator Task Force, formed to review the placement and monitoring of high risk sex offenders and sexually violent predators throughout the state. Assembly Member Spitzer recognizes the integral role of cities and counties in managing sex offenders, and has attended several meetings with League members to discuss this issue. He wants to ensure that state and local governments work collaboratively when sex offenders are under direct supervision, so that there is a comprehensive and cohesive network of interventions available to control the behavior of sex offenders and prevent recidivism and future victimization. Spitzer will certainly be a major part of any future legislation in this area, and as a former county supervisor and school board member, he has proven open to local government issues and concerns.

Assembly Member Lois Wolk (D-8, Davis), a former Davis mayor and Yolo County supervisor, was one of the key Assembly leaders on flood issues. Passionate about the topic, Assembly Member Wolk and her staff were very receptive to the suggestions and issues raised by the League on her flood bills. Her leadership in rejecting the seriously flawed omnibus flood bill sent to the Assembly by the Senate at the end of session reflects courage and convictions of the highest standards. The League applauds her actions.

This article appears in the January 2007 issue of Western City
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