As a fiscal conservative and county supervisor, I’m adamant that public funds should never be used for political purposes. Never once have I voted for either the City of Woodland or County of Yolo to take a position on a state ballot measure. I believe it’s inappropriate for government entities to get involved in the political process.
With that being said, local government organizations don’t need to be muzzled from the political process, especially with the continual increase in power of other public representatives including public employee unions. The opinions of local governments are often critical voices in campaign debates, and they don’t use public dollars to advocate their position. Moreover, it doesn’t mean that gutting and amending bills during the last weeks of legislative session is good policy. But Senator Jerry Hill wants to change the rules of the game and completely silence local government associations in state and local ballot campaigns.
In a stunning act of desertion from his roots in local government, former County Supervisor Hill is pushing an end of session “gut and amend” bill designed to silence local government leaders from politics at a critical time. His proposal would broaden the definition of public funds to include the private funds that government associations rely upon for political involvement.
Don’t be fooled. SB 594 is a ploy to disempower one set of players in the game of politics, while empowering another.
The power grab by former Republican San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill not only seeks to undermine local police chiefs, sheriffs, DAs, council members, school principals, and supervisors, but it also constructs an empire for Kamala Harris and the office of the Attorney General. At a time when local governments have reduced staffing by nearly 30 percent, SB 594 gives the Attorney General enforcement authority over local governments, further expanding a gluttonous state bureaucracy and adding dozens of new positions on the taxpayers’ dime.
Attorney General Harris would be far more partisan in her administration of these duties than the sometimes less partisan Fair Political Practices Commission, whose actual mission includes this kind of oversight. The basis for the Attorney General’s target organizations will no doubt be decided by power politics.
The Republicans in the legislature have been slow to realize the underlying reason for this piece of legislation. In fact, the bill received GOP votes in committee last week. They should vote against this measure just because of the “gut and amend” tactics used by Senator Hill.
But let’s be clear. As odd as it may seem, local governments are likely solid GOP allies when it comes to reform on issues of pensions, education, and public works. The Republicans should staunchly oppose this measure to ensure it does not receive a 2/3s vote, while hoping that Governor Brown, a local government champion as mayor of Oakland, will veto this blatant union overreach.
Matt Rexroad is a Yolo County Supervisor and former Mayor of Woodland. He is also a partner at Republican political consulting firm Meridian Pacific.