Bill to Boost Local Investment in Infrastructure and Affordable Housing Passes Assembly Floor

Photo by Liz Sanchez-Vegas on Unsplash

Special to the Vanguard

Sacramento, CA – This week, ACA 1 passed the Assembly Floor with a supermajority vote of 55 to 10. ACA 1, a constitutional amendment to boost local investment in infrastructure and affordable housing, would ask California Voters to approve a reduction of the vote threshold for the approval of bond and special tax measures for local affordable housing, supportive housing, and public infrastructure projects from a two-thirds vote to a 55 percent majority.

“I am extremely overwhelmed and grateful to all of my colleagues, our sponsors, stakeholders, and advocates for their unwavering support of ACA 1 throughout the years. With the passage of ACA 1 off of the Assembly floor yesterday, we can celebrate this momentous step forward together and continue our push as it heads to the Senate,” said Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry.

She added, “State and federal dollars alone will never be able to fund every local infrastructure priority, so it is critical that we give locals the tools they need to work with their communities and prioritize their critical infrastructure projects.”

This same vote threshold 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.

In practice, local officials will propose a local bond or special tax to fund local priority projects. The voters in that community decide whether they support the idea or not. The voters would still need to overwhelmingly—with 55 percent of the vote—support a bond or special tax for it to be approved. Local officials will still control which priorities they recommend to voters, and local voters will still control how and where their infrastructure bond or tax dollars will be spent.

ACA 1 is equipped with several accountability measures to ensure fiscal accountability, transparency, and oversight. ACA 1 protects voters by requiring the State Auditor to review and oversee locals’ annual financial and performance audits, establishes a trained citizen’s oversight committee to ensure all proceeds are spent responsibly as voters intended, requires public notice, addresses conflicts of interest, and requires a 5% cap on administrative fees.

Finally, initiative funding shall only be spent on projects and programs that serve the jurisdiction where the initiative is passed.

“By lowering the voting threshold, we are asking our communities to take responsibility for building new affordable and supportive housing, providing for public safety, and reducing the number of un-housed people in the street, on top of new and increased infrastructure needs caused by decades of neglect,” continued Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry. “More importantly, ACA 1 provides fiscal accountability, transparency, and oversight. Voters want to know how their local government invests their hard-earned money.”

Since 2001, over 2,200 local revenue measures were placed before voters, and 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 two-thirds vote threshold. If this amendment became law, those measures to fund local investments and create jobs would have passed.

“We have taken away a series of tools for local governments in our State to invest in their communities. This is an especially difficult burden for small cities and towns like my 4th Assembly District,” said Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry. “A two-thirds vote threshold is discriminatory. The question is whether, in our California democracy, we think one voter should count half as much as another. I think the time has come that we should all count equally. But we have maintained a 55% supermajority so the threshold is responsible.”

ACA 1 has the support of the Housing Committee Chairs from each House. Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-San Francisco) have joined as Principal and Joint co-authors. This brings the total number of bicameral coauthors to 51.

The California Professional Firefighters and the California State Building and Construction Council are co-sponsors, accompanied by vast support from across California of local governments, housing advocates, labor groups, building trades, public safety, parks and open space groups, library advocates, and business groups, among others.

“ACA 1 will empower Californians to take action in their communities,” said Chris Hannan, President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council. “By lowering the bond approval threshold from a supermajority requirement to 55 percent, local governments will be able to invest in vital projects that provide our members with thousands of good paying jobs and tackle the critical needs of our communities throughout the state.”

“By passing ACA 1, the California Assembly committed to bringing power back to local voters and communities and ensuring that the will of the voters is represented. It will give local governments the tools they need to address our communities’ affordable housing needs and wants,” said Amie Fishman, Executive Director of NPH. “This is the kind of game-changing affordable housing policy we need—to strengthen local communities, protect the will of voters, address local infrastructure challenges, and level the playing field.”

“Ultimately, ACA 1 gives California voters greater control over how their taxes are spent and raised, and makes us better able to meet the challenges that we as firefighters face in California,” said Brian K. Rice, President of California Professional Firefighters. “ACA 1 is not a tax, and it doesn’t raise a dollar of new revenue. It is a chance for the voters to look at the 2/3 versus a 55% threshold and make a decision on that.”

“This is a positive first step for local fire departments across California that are struggling with tight budgets as the need for emergency services is on the rise. Far too often, voters up and down the state have made their voices clear as they stepped up to support local propositions that provide secure funding for public safety only to fall short despite winning the majority of the vote,” said Frank Lima, General Secretary-Treasurer of IAFF. “ACA 1 is now one step closer to creating a more democratic process that allows voters the opportunity to abandon the unreasonable 2/3 vote threshold and establish a more fair 55% threshold to approve measures that help keep the public safe.”

“Every day, cities all over the state are grappling with the need to improve and maintain infrastructure—our streets, roads, and bridges—and ensure the availability of affordable housing so that more families have a safe place to call home, which they all deserve. We know that without more resources and tools to finance the repair and upgrade of infrastructure and address housing needs, our cities cannot continue to be the economic engines of our state,” said Carolyn Coleman, Executive Director and CEO of the League of California Cities. “We applaud Speaker pro tem Aguiar-Curry and thank the Assembly for advancing ACA 1 that will provide additional flexibility to local agencies to secure the resources needed to fund critical infrastructure and housing for our residents.”

“ACA 1 is carefully crafted to preserve and protect the will of an overwhelming majority of local voters,” emphasized Bruce Gibson, Supervisor, County of San Luis Obispo and First Vice President of CSAC, “I urge the Legislature and the Governor to move this important issue to the ballot so that voters can be heard.”

“From Sonoma to San Diego, communities across the state have benefited from self-help measures that have funded the development of their local public transit systems. In the years ahead, these measures will take on increasing importance as we strive to build transit systems that are more sustainable, equitable, and accessible,” said Michael Pimentel, Executive Director of the California Transit Association. “We applaud Speaker pro Tem Aguiar-Curry for pursuing ACA 1 to provide more California communities with the opportunity to enact the self-help measures they need to transform their mobility options.”

ACA 1 proposes an amendment to the California Constitution. If passed by the Legislature, the proposal would go to the 2024 November ballot for voter approval during the next statewide election. ACA 1 now heads to the Senate.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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