Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and some of her colleagues held a press conference and rally in support of her bill, ACA 1. ACA 1 would reduce the local vote threshold for approval of bond and special tax measures, from a two-thirds vote to a 55 percent supermajority.
This is the same vote threshold that currently applies to all local school construction bond measures. By making this change, ACA 1 puts housing and infrastructure projects on par with school proposals, so that cities, counties, and special districts have a practical financing tool to address community needs.
The bill is sponsored by the California State Building Trades, California Professional Firefighters, and Housing California, along with many other supporters.
“I have seen first hand the deterioration of our once world-class infrastructure,” the assemblymember said during remarks on Wednesday. “As local government committee chair, I have heard about deteriorating buildings, decrepit community facility and our extreme lack of affordable housing.”
She said, “I also know first hand that every single neighborhood, community, city, and county in California is different. This is why ACA 1 is so important. ACA 1 is targeted to help urgent needs of local communities to increase the supply of affordable housing, and supportive housing for our vulnerable populations.”
She added, “ACA 1 addresses public infrastructure challenges including funding of libraries, parks, hospitals, fire stations, broadband and more. This will empower California communities to take action at the local level to improve the economies, neighborhoods and residents’ quality of life.”
She unveiled a list of what she called “near-misses” – projects that received 55 percent of the vote but did not reach the current two-thirds threshold and thus never funded projects to improve infrastructure in local communities.
“By reducing the local vote threshold for approval of bond and local tax measures, from two-thirds to 55 percent, this measure will put power into the hands of local government and local voters,” she said.
She hearkened back to the days for a majority of a small city where the two-thirds threshold prevented them from going forward to seek local bond measures, and said “we’re opening the doors to our communities if this is passed. We need communities to have this in their toolbox to move projects forward.”
Cesar Diaz, the Legislative and Political Director for the CA State Building Trades said, “ACA 1 would (bring) parity for local school districts by providing funding for local school districts so that local communities are not blocked by a small group of voters and are able to provide for themselves and their local priorities.
“ACA 1 also considers the need of statewide voters, as these voters often support statewide bond measures to assist local areas and have difficulty passing local funding initiatives. Our state and its local political system are (under) enormous pressure to maintain our existing infrastructure as well as address infrastructure needs caused by climate change, building more affordable housing and to provide funding for vital services that improve the quality of life for all residents and communities across the state.”
Brian Rice, President of the CA Professional Firefighters, said “ACA 1 simply gives voters a chance to say whether to change the vote on critical infrastructure to affect affordable housing and public safety. Ultimately ACA 1 gives California voters greater control over how their taxes are spent and raised, and makes us better to meet the challenges that we as firefighters face in California.”
He added, “ACA 1 is not a tax and it is not an introduction of new revenue, it is a chance for the voters to look at the two-thirds versus the 55 percent threshold and make a decision on that along with our brothers in the building trades, the fire service, we support ACA 1 strongly.”
Carolyn Coleman, Executive Director of the League of CA Cities said, “Everyday, cities all over the state are grappling with the need to improve and maintain our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges and our streets and we may say our potholes – we are also working hard to support the need for more affordable housing in our communities.
“We all know that our families – everyone deserves a safe and decent home to live in and we need to do more there.”
For every dollar spent on infrastructure, there is a return benefit of several dollars back to our economy from the related construction jobs and activities. These critical projects include fixing streets and roads, constructing public safety facilities for police and fire departments, upgrading water and flood control systems, deploying broadband for internet connectivity, and maintaining parks. Not only do these construction and maintenance efforts improve communities and residents’ quality of life, they also create new local jobs.
Since 2001, over 2,200 local revenue measures have been placed before voters. Nearly 80 percent of all two-thirds supermajority measures garnered more than 55 percent “yes” votes, but ultimately failed passage because they fell slightly short of the current two-thirds vote threshold. If this amendment became law, those measures would have passed. Because this measure would change the Constitution, the proposal would need to be placed on the ballot for approval in the next statewide election, should the Legislature pass it.
The constitutional amendment requires two-thirds vote in both the Senate and Assembly, and then approval from the voters of California in 2020.
—David M. Greenwald reporting