New State Budget Extorts Money from Local Governments
I am deeply troubled by new and unexpected developments that are now emerging from one of the 11th-hour state budget “trailer” bills passed by the Legislature. This particular funding measure, AB 1484, directs counties to take money from cities.
Without warning, the State of California has given cities in the 29th Senate District a three-day notice to pay millions of dollars in newly calculated fees. The sudden and unexpected “demand for payment” also carries a threat that any delay in payment will result in additional late fees.
Brea city officials informed my office that they received a bill for more than $15.5 million. The City of Walnut reports that they received a bill for $3.9 million, while the City of La Verne confirms it has received a payment demand of near $1.9 million. They had three days to pay the bill or incur penalties that can amount to 10% or more. In Brea’s case that’s $1.5 million. This is unacceptable.
The eye-popping bills are the result of actions taken in 2011, when the Legislature abolished California’s 400 redevelopment agencies in a vain effort to close the state budget gap. The action left agencies and local governments scrambling to pay their outstanding obligations.
The Legislature took further action this year to pass another bill demanding repayment of some previously distributed redevelopment funds. This week, the Department of Finance directed the counties to waste no time in calculating the bills, sending them with notices that the full amount, in some cases millions of dollars, must be paid within three days or incur severe financial penalties.
On July 12th, even while some local agencies were attempting to question the amounts or negotiate lower payments, the Department of Finance issued a letter stating that the previous demands for payment will not be reduced.
I question the wisdom of this move. Local services have been cut. Firefighters and police officers have been let go due to local budget shortfalls. Three California cities have already been forced into bankruptcy and more may be headed in that direction. The last thing our communities need is a state government literally balancing its budget on the backs of local government.
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Pension Reform Efforts Fall Flat
A key deadline has now been missed for placing public pension reform efforts on the November ballot. It now appears that the Governor’s 12-point public pension reform plan, which Senate and Assembly Republicans introduced into bill form, will not be acted upon.
Frustrated by inaction on these reform efforts, I made the motion to bring reform bills SB 1176 and SCA 18 directly to the Senate Floor during Senate session last month. Both bills contain the Governor’s proposed reforms, word-for-word.
Each parliamentary maneuver I made to bring both bills up for public scrutiny and public debate went down to defeat. Watch my presentation and the subsequent vote here:
Senator Huff Brings Pension Reform Legislation to Senate Floor
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Opponents Sink Bond Reform Legislation
Legislation designed to protect taxpayer funds from waste and misuse has been defeated in the Assembly Business and Professions Committee. SB 633 sought to strengthen oversight and accountability for bond funds through audits that are currently conducted by the California Department of Finance (DOF).
If these audits reveal that a state agency has improperly spent bond revenue, the DOF issues a “corrective action plan.” SB 633 would have strengthened oversight by creating consequences for agencies that fail to comply with the corrective action plan. Specifically, SB 633 would have given DOF additional authority to issue “cease and desist” orders to halt the spending of bond funds until the corrective action plan is implemented.
The Legislature has no controls or statutes in place that enforce corrective action for the misuse of bond funding. Sound policy demands consequences for unlawful activity, especially where taxpayer dollars are involved.
SB 633, which faced no opposition in the Senate, ran into unanticipated trouble during the committee hearing. Opposition that was never received in the Senate surfaced without warning in the Assembly. The listed opponents to SB 633 included Audubon California, California ReLeaf, California Urban Forests Council, The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land.
California spends billions upon billions in bond funding and taxpayers have an expectation that this money should be spent on projects that voters approved, not wasted on perks like cars, dining or airport red carpet memberships.
I introduced SB 633 following a report by the Little Hoover Commission that uncovered inadequate oversight of bond revenue administration by state agencies. A 2011 audit of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy discovered inadequate tracking of project costs, vague descriptions in progress reports and expense claims, and unreported project funding sources.
A similar audit conducted of Proposition 50: The Water Security, Clean Drinking Water, Coastal and Beach Protection Act, which voters approved in 2002, found that money from the bond was used to pay for exclusive airport “Red Carpet Club” membership and other travel expenses that had nothing to do with water quality.
The spending of taxpayer money deserves better protection.
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I was pleased to host a meeting of the superintendents from all over Senate District 29. We met to discuss the Governor’s May revise of the budget and other issues concerning education. I am grateful for the attendance of the superintendents and for their insight. It was helpful to be able to communicate with those who are most directly affected by the budget and hear their concerns and suggestions. This collaboration is a great way for me to listen to educators and for their voices to be heard. Together we can continue working together to improve education and the future of our students.
Superintendents Meeting with Skip Roland on far left with Brea-Olinda USD.
Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell visiting in
my office to advocate for Orange County issues.
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SB 1186 ADA Lawsuit Reform
A very important bill that is moving through the legislative process right now is SB 1186. This bill would provide businesses an opportunity to defend themselves against lawsuits that arise from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Authored by California State Senators Darrell Steinberg and Bob Dutton, SB 1186 has received resounding support from the business community which was echoed at the Capitol when the Senate voted 36-0 in favor of passing it on May 29th. This issue resonates deeply with me. I hosted an ADA Compliance Workshop and an ADA Compliance Townhall in partnership with the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce and Brea Chamber of Commerce, respectively, in an effort to make business owners aware of these lawsuits and equip them with the information necessary to protect themselves.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that no individual can face discrimination based on a disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, or accommodations of any public place by anyone who owns, leases, leases to, or operates a public place. This law has become a source of frivolous lawsuits against business owners where many times businesses pay settlements for minor ADA violations costing many thousands of dollars. SB 1186 seeks to ensure the rights of the disabled are protected and, at the same time, reduce frivolous lawsuits that are brought against business owners. This bill is still a work in progress and stakeholders are meeting weekly. Final language for SB 1186 should be completed by the end of July. While all details have yet to be negotiated, I am hopeful of bipartisan support to get this bill approved by the end of this legislative session. Legislators and stakeholders seek a win-win compromise where disabled individuals can easily access all properties and business owners will not be forced into settlement payments with predatory lawyers.
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Brea Chamber CEO Receives Award
Brea Chamber of Commerce CEO, Sharon Wagner, was honored by the Western Association of Chamber Executives (W.A.C.E.) at their annual conference in Las Vegas as an Accredited Chamber Executive. Sharon also graduated this year from the W.A.C.E. Academy, a three year professional development program focusing on chamber management essentials.
Sharon has served as CEO of the Brea Chamber of Commerce since April of 2009. As a voluntary, non-profit organization committed to improving the economic environment of Brea, the Brea Chamber of Commerce gives a voice to the business community, promotes business-friendly legislation, and attracts new businesses to the area. Sharon was one of 9 executives accredited this year, and one of 44 who have received the designation since the award was first given in 1993.
The award was created as a means to encourage executives to continually expand their skills by furthering their education and seeking formalized training in their field. It also encourages executives to strive for professionalism and constantly contribute to the betterment of their industry. W.A.C.E is an organization dedicated to the education and professional development of chamber executives.
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