California Prop 31 Revisited

California Ballot Initiative–Prop 31 Revisited    

Still Recommending a Yes on Proposition 31

      Whenever California has an election and there are Propositions involved, we attempt to objectively, from a conservative point of view, and make recommendations on each of the Propositions.  This year was no exception and on August 24th of this year we posted our recommendations (  We have received inquiries on several of the recommendations but there was one thoughtful comment that we approved and thought that it deserved a second review of the text of the actual Proposition 31.  Proposition 31 is fairly complex and involves changes to the California Constitution as well as California State Law.  When you print the text, your printer will yield a nifty little 15 page document comprised of a myriad of legal phrases and statements.  You need to be somewhat careful when reading changes to the California Constitution and sometimes refer to the original text in the Constitution to see what is actually changing, or not.

The person leaving the comment also left 3 links to other articles that discussed this Proposition.  Only two of the links actually worked and they are:

California’s Prop. 31: The Revolution Will Not Be Publicized, By Stanley Kurtz, National Review Online, 9/10/12
Comments by Stephen Frank on 09/23/2012 •

Beware Prop. 31: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, by Katy Grimes

I encourage you to go to those articles and read them for yourself.  I also encourage you to download the text of Prop 31 and read it yourself as well.  Go to Starbucks first and grab a double latte! 

Analysis Revisited:

     I am especially interested in this proposition as I have served as a Mayor of a California City for 6 years and am interested in any measure that impacts Cities and Counties, especially where the State or Federal Governments are involved.  (School Districts are included as well)   Further, Cities and Counties are the last frontier for constituents who can easily grab a councilman or board of supervisors member and convey their opinion.  Cities and Counties are at the mercy of the State and Federal Governments to get back a small portion of the taxes that have been collected from their local constituents while having to provide the meat and potato services such as police, fire, education, roads, water, sewer and other essential services.  Local governments don’t have the luxury or the money to engage in social engineering as do their State and Federal counterparts who control the lion share of the cash and pretty well do as they darn well please.  It is important to note that Cities and Counties today band together with mutual assistance agreements, and other cooperative agreements through their “Country Association of Government” (COG).  These are bodies made up of the county and each of the cities within the county.  The COGs are independently staffed and assist the entities in various ways including preparing applications for State and Federal Grants.  So, the COMMUNITY STRATEGIC ACTION PLANS in this Proposition are not exactly new and inter-agency agreements, cost and revenue sharing ideas are not new concepts.    But I digress…

     When reading the text, skip Section 1, Findings and Declarations; and Section 2, Purpose and Intent, as these are “paid political announcements”.  Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 deal with changes to the current budget process, if you can call it a process! 

  • Section 3: 
    • a.  Requires a 31 day “cool off” period before a bill can be heard or acted upon.  They can override this with a roll-call vote of course.
    • b.  Requires that laws be available to the public 3 days prior to a vote.  Does not specific how or what method of public notice will be used.
    • c.   Lays out when legislation becomes effective based on type of law.
    • d.  Back door out allowing for legislation to be effective immediately if it is an emergency.  It does require 2/3 roll call vote which isn’t easy even with the Liberals in charge…
  • Section 4: 
    • If a piece of legislation increases expenditures or reduces revenues by $25,000,000 or more, then the legislature has to offset its costs/revenue loss or the bill is void.  This is a typical “Pay-Go” like Pelosi said the Liberals enacted in 2006 but never followed it.  This would be in the State Constitution.
  • Section 5:
    •   a.  Requires 2/3s roll call vote to override a Governor’s veto.  (Fat Chance with this Administration/Legislature)
    •   b.  Details of when legislation becomes law based on which of the two budget years it is passed and what action the governor takes.
    •   c.  If a law is introduced by not passed in Budget Year 1 by 1/31, it cannot be reintroduced during BY2.  If a law fails to pass in BY1, it cannot be reintroduced in BY2.
    •   d.  This is kind of goofy.  The legislature has to meet after 7/4 of BY2 to be the Oversight for its own legislation and programs.  Fox and Hen House anyone?   They also have to perform oversight on Community Strategic Action Plans (CSAP), plans submitted by local authorities.  This is a bit vague and could present problems…
    •   e.  The governor is given kind of a  line item veto for appropriations within bills.  It would require a 2/3s roll call vote to override.
    •   f.  From the 2004-5 Budget year, the governor can declare a fiscal emergency; 
      • If the legislature does not send bills to the governor to fix the problem within 45 days, the legislature is prohibited from passing any further legislation.
      • If the legislature sends the governor a fix within the 45 days, the bill becomes effective immediately if signed.
      • If the legislature does nothing within 45 days, the Governor, by Executive Order (Obama’s Favorite) can cut any general fund item that is not protected otherwise in the Constitution, up to the amount of the deficit.  The legislature can override the executive order by a 2/3s roll call vote.  They have 30 days to do so.
  • Section 6:
    •   a.  From the text of the Proposition;  “Within the first 10 days of each odd-numberedcalendar year, the Governor shall submit to the Legislature, with an explanatory message, a budget for the ensuing two fiscal yearyears, containing itemized statements for recommended state expenditures and estimated total state revenuesresources available to meet those expenditures.”  This starts the two-year budget cycle.
    •   b.  Boilerplate language on what has to be in the budget.
    •   c.  Governor has to present a budget that does not have a built-in deficit.  He has to recommend offsetting reductions in expenditures.
    •   d.  Reiterates the $25,000,000 limitations in Section 4.
    •   e.  Boilerplate language requiring state offices to assist the Governor in creating a budget.  DUH!
    •   f.  Lays out the time-table for the 2 year budgets and any supplemental budgets and when the legislature has to act on them.  Freezes any other legislation until the legislature passes the budget.
    •   g.  Other than the budget, a supplemental budget, or appropriations for public schools, no bill can be multi-purpose and only require single purpose appropriations.
    •   h.  Requires a roll call vote on the budget or any appropriations bills.
    •   i.  The Legislature has the responsibility to “control the submission, approval, and enforcement of budgets and the filing of claims for all state agencies”. 
    •   j.  Modifies the 2004-5 budget constitutional provisions to provide for a 2 year budget.
    •   k.  If the budget is not passed by the legislature by June 15th, the legislature cannot submit for payments of their salaries or expenditures until the budget bill is presented to the governor.  It does not state that it has to be a good budget bill…

Section 7 on discusses the creation and execution of COMMUNITY STRATEGIC ACTION PLANS that are at the heart of a lot of the contention around this Proposition.  The following is a recap of the provisions and their impact on local agencies.

  • Section 7:
    • Section 1:  Bureaucratic language of what local entities must include in their budgets and notices to the public and public participation requirements.  Not a lot new here as cities and counties already have to go through a similar process.
    • Section 2 and 3: 
      • The County has to initiate a petition to create a COMMUNITY STRATEGIC ACTION PLAN and invite its Cities to participate.  Cities may or may not opt in to participate.  THEY ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PARTICIPATE.
      • Each City participating must create their own plans.
      • The plans have to be approved by the County, the participating Cities and the majority of people in the County.
      • Following adoption, the County and the Cities can execute appropriate contracts to execute the services, etc.
      • The plans can include agreements for Cities or Counties to designate some of their funds due back from the State to be paid to cover the service costs in the agreement.  For example, City 1 contracts with the County for police protection.  City 1 could designate a percentage of is sales tax revenue to go directly to the Country to cover the cost of the law enforcement agreement. 
      • Any authority granted under the approved plans EXPIRE after 4 years unless extended as adopted.
    • Section 4:  “The Performance and Accountability Trust Fund”
      • This is a bucket to hold the funds set up in the County Plans to be disbursed by the State according to the terms of those plans.  The appropriation of these funds does not appear to be any worse than what Cities and Counties go through today to get their money back from the state.  There is an old saying in Cities that you send a dollar to the State then friction rubs of 25 cents and you get 3/4s of what you sent in, if you are lucky! 
    • Section 5:  Requires a 4 year review by each of the participating Counties of their plans.
    • Section 6:  Requires Counties to review whether they can “help” their cities be more effective in executing or managing their plans…These are always interesting meetings!
    • Section 7:  “Nothing in this article is intended to abrogate or supersede any existing authority enjoyed by local government entities” nor does it discourage participation in COGs or even region COGS.
  • Section 8: 
    • Allows for inter-agency revenue sharing agreements and services agreements.
  • Section 9: 
    • For participating entities, the State must deposit .035% of sales taxes in to the entity’s Performance and Accountability Trust Fund,
    • Sets up timing for reimbursements. 
    • Sets up per capita allocation within the County for participating entities for revenue allocations if included in the local plans.
  • Section 10:  If a school district is part of a plan and receives funds they are not to be included in the calculation limiting the revenue of the district.
  • Section 11:  Adds to the State code definitions and limitations required to execute this proposition.
  • Section 12:  Requires the governor to provide direction and execution to put this proposition in effect in 2015-16
  • Section 13:  Directs the Director of Finance to perform certain tasks to execute/manage this proposition
  • Section 14:  Requires a 2/3s roll call vote by the legislature to change this proposition.

That is it.  Many of the detractors urging a no vote are saying that the proposition does the following:

  1. Reduces local autonomy:  Only if agreed to by the local Cities and Counties and their residents.  They can enter into county or regional agreements today that can “limit” their autonomy.  This Proposition does not appear to add any additional burden unless agreed to by the residents of the County.
  2. “Cities won’t be able to prioritize the money it spends”:  They don’t lose the ability to control their own finances unless they agree to pool a portion pf their funds with other Cities or its County to contract services.  As far as getting back their share of taxes from the State, this Proposition does not seem to make that process any better or worse.  Finally, cities have very little autonomy in how it spends money.  Between Fire, Police and Public Works, there is nothing left.  Counties are even worse off as they have to deal with Welfare and Medi-Cal.
  3. Forces Cities and Counties to participate in Re-Distribution:  I see no evidence in the text of this proposition that this is factual.  The cities can opt in or out and there is no coercion in the language to force participation that I can tell.
  4. “Once California’s municipalities have been swallowed up by de facto regional super-governments, citizens will come under the thumb of officials unelected by the public they control.”  Cities and Counties today participate in Regional anc County Wide agreements that help local government to avoid a lot of duplication of effort in providing services.  None of these agreements, nor this Proposition, takes away any power of the local government to control their plan or their agreements.

     Stanley Kurtz article, California’s Prop. 31: The Revolution Will Not Be Publicized, makes a lot of allegations of local government coercion and forced redistribution but does not cite any specific paragraph in the Proposition..  If there are such clauses, authors should take the time to document these allegations rather than talk in sound bites.  California is being governed by a had left governor with a legislature that would not know reality if it fell in them.  We need to make informed decisions on these propositions and we deserve a factual analysis. 

So far, I have not read anything that would change my recommendation.  Vote yes on Proposition 31.

  • Forces a two year budget discipline on the state.
  • Forces offsets for an $25,000,000 addition to expeditures.
  • Forces Governor to submit a balanced budget of sorts.  (remember we are still in California)
  • Expand the ability of Cities and Counties to enter into revenue and cost sharing agreements if they deem it beneficial to their entities.
  • Forces single puprose legislation for bills requirung appropriations.

RD Pierini



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