Committee Approves Bill to Limit Donations in School, Special District Elections

Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

Special to the Vanguard

Sacramento, CA – Legislation advanced from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that would place limits on the amount of money that can be donated to candidates for school boards and special district offices, ensuring fairness in local elections.

“My bill puts a cap on donations to ensure fairness while encouraging a more diverse field that is more reflective of the population,” Sen. Dodd said. “Getting big money out of elections for smaller community offices is essential. These well-financed campaigns favor the wealthy at the exclusion of grassroots candidates and people of color.”

California has thousands of publicly elected governing boards managing an assortment of agencies including schools, community colleges and special districts. Elections often receive little media coverage and even less scrutiny of campaign donations, which are not limited by state law and can exceed money given to candidates for higher office. Currently the default is to allow unlimited contributions, and only three special districts statewide have adopted voluntary limits.

In response, Sen. Dodd introduced Senate Bill 328, which sets an individual donation limit of $5,500 by a person, business or committee to a candidate for school board, community college board or special district board. The contribution limits are equal to those set for the state Legislature. The bill would allow local governments to vote to adjust the limits, but the default would no longer be unlimited. The bill uses the framework of then-Assemblymember Kevin Mullin’s Assembly Bill 571 that set the same limits for city and county offices in 2019.

SB 328 was approved Wednesday by the Assembly elections committee on a 6-1 vote. It previously was approved by the Senate.

“This is a good governance measure that will help maintain the public trust in our local elections,” said U.S. Rep. Mullin, who was elected to Congress last year. “I appreciate Sen. Dodd carrying on that legacy and I’m proud to support this important reform.”

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1 Comment

  1. Ron Oertel

    In response, Sen. Dodd introduced Senate Bill 328, which sets an individual donation limit of $5,500 by a person, business or committee to a candidate for school board, community college board or special district board.

    “Who” was contributing that much to a candidate for one of these types of positions in the first place”?

    Getting big money out of elections for smaller community offices is essential. These well-financed campaigns favor the wealthy at the exclusion of grassroots candidates and people of color.”

    I would think that this has very little to do with “people of color” or “wealth” of a particular candidate, and more to do with interests which can benefit from the election of a particular candidate.

    Do teacher unions, for example, contribute to such campaigns? If so, I think we’ve found the “problem”, as well as the reason that school districts sometimes “create problems” for the communities which host them.

    A limit of $5,500 from each “donator” is still a significant sum of money for these type of races.

     

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