Proposed bill to boost local investments passes first committee

Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D – Winters, on Thursday presented a bill in the Assembly Local Government Committee, where it passed on a 5-2 party-line vote, that could ultimately boost local investment in infrastructure and affordable housing.

ACA 1, a constitutional amendment, 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. 

It is the same vote threshold that currently applies to all local school construction bond measures. 

Aguiar-Curry said by making this change, ACA 1 would put 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.

“As a former mayor of Winters, and board member of regional water, housing, and transportation agencies, I have seen first-hand the deterioration of our once world-class infrastructure,” Aguiar-Curry said, in a press release. “Now, as the Assembly Local Government Committee chair, I continue to hear about deteriorating buildings, decrepit community facilities, and our extreme lack of affordable housing. However, I also know first-hand that every single neighborhood, community, city, and county in California is different. This is why ACA 1 is targeted to help local communities fund critical projects and increase the supply of affordable and supportive housing.”

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 short of the two-thirds vote threshold. If this amendment had been 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,” she said. “This is an especially difficult burden for small cities and towns like the ones in my 4th Assembly District. A two-thirds vote threshold is discriminatory. At the end of the day, 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.”

ACA 1 will now go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for a discussion about the fiscal components of the proposal. Because the bill would change the California Constitution, the proposal would need to be placed on the November 2020 ballot for approval by the voters, should the Legislature pass it first.