BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 2389


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          Date of Hearing:  May 4, 2016


                       ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT


                           Susan Talamantes Eggman, Chair


          AB 2389  
          (Ridley-Thomas) - As Amended April 5, 2016


          SUBJECT:  Special districts:  district-based elections:   
          reapportionment.


          SUMMARY:  Authorizes special districts to change the method of  
          electing governing board members from at-large to a by-district  
          method of election without receiving voter approval.   
          Specifically, this bill:   


          1)Authorizes a governing body of a special district,  
            notwithstanding any other law, to adopt a resolution that  
            requires members of its governing body to be elected using  
            district-based elections without being required to submit the  
            resolution to the voters for approval.  


          2)Requires the resolution to include a declaration that the  
            change in the method of electing members of the governing body  
            is in furtherance of the purposes of the California Voting  
            Rights Act of 2001.  


          3)Defines "special district" to mean "any agency of the state  
            formed pursuant to general law or special act for the local  
            performance of governmental or proprietary functions within  








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            limited boundaries, except a city, county, city and county,  
            school or community college district, or special assessment  
            district."  


          EXISTING LAW:   


          1)Establishes the Uniform District Elections Law which provides  
            that the principal act shall govern whether directors are  
            elected by divisions or by the district at-large.  


          2)Provides definitions for the following term which govern the  
            election process for most local governments' legislative  
            bodies:


             a)   An "at-large" election allows a voter residing anywhere  
               within the local government's boundaries to vote for any  
               candidate for the governing board;  


             b)   A "by districts" election allows a voter to vote only  
               for a candidate who runs and resides in the same  
               geographical district in which the voter resides; and,  


             c)   A "from district" election allows a voter residing  
               anywhere within a local government's boundaries to vote for  
               any candidate for a local government's governing board, but  
               each candidate must run in the geographical district where  
               he or she resides.  


          3)Prohibits, pursuant to the California Voting Rights Act of  
            2001 (CVRA), an at-large method of election from being imposed  
            or applied in a political subdivision (including a special  
            district) in a manner that impairs the ability of a protected  








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            class of voters to elect the candidate of its choice or its  
            ability to influence the outcome of an election, as a result  
            of the dilution or the abridgement of the rights of voters who  
            are members of a protected class.  



          4)Provides that a violation of the CVRA may be established if it  
            is shown that racially polarized voting occurs in elections  
            for members of the governing body of the political subdivision  
            or in elections incorporating other electoral choices by the  
            voters of the political subdivision.  


          5)Requires a court, upon finding a violation of the CVRA, to  
            implement appropriate remedies, including the imposition of  
            district-based elections, which are tailored to remedy the  
            violation.  


          6)Permits any voter who is a member of a protected class and who  
            resides in a political subdivision where a violation of the  
            CVRA is alleged to file an action in the superior court of the  
            county in which the political subdivision is located.  


          FISCAL EFFECT:  None


          COMMENTS:   


          1)Bill Summary. This bill authorizes a governing body of a  
            special district to adopt a resolution that requires members  
            of its governing body to be elected using district-based  
            elections without being required to submit the resolution to  
            the voters for approval.  The resolution to convert the  
            district's method of electing members of the governing board  
            must include a declaration that the change is being made in  








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            furtherance of the purposes of the California Voting Rights  
            Act of 2001.  This bill, notwithstanding any other law,  
            applies to all special districts formed pursuant to general  
            law or special act, except a city, county, city and county,  
            school or community college district, or special assessment  
            district.  This bill is sponsored by the Mexican American  
            Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).  



          2)Author's Statement.  According to the author, "Current law  
            provides for different forms 
          of government for special districts in California.  Depending on  
            the type of district, a special district can be organized so  
            that members of the governing board are elected at-large or  
            are elected using districts.  The CVRA is designed to protect  
            against at-large election systems that dilute minority voting  
            rights.  As a result of the CVRA, local governments throughout  
            the state have been transitioning from at-large to  
            district-based elections.



            "If a special district wishes to move from at-large elections  
            to a district-based method of election to address concerns  
            under the CVRA, existing law provides no uniform process for  
            accomplishing that conversion.  This voter approval  
            requirement, however, can make it difficult and costly for  
            jurisdictions to proactively transition to district-based  
            elections in order to address potential liability under the  
            CVRA.  AB 2389 allows a special district that is concerned  
            about liability under the CVRA to voluntarily convert from  
            at-large to district-based elections without the expense of a  
            ballot initiative.  This bill mirrors a similar process that  
            is already in place for general law cities with populations of  
            fewer than 100,000 people."  











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          3)Background.  Under existing law, a special district can be  
            organized so that its governing board members are elected  
            at-large or elected using districts.  Jurisdictions that are  
            organized using district-based methods are usually organized  
            as "by-district" or "from-district."  A "by-district"  
            jurisdiction allows only the registered voters in a district  
            to vote in the election to choose the governing board member  
            from that area.  A "from-district" jurisdiction permits  
            registered voters in the entire jurisdiction to vote for  
            governing board members from each of the districts.  In either  
            case, a candidate for the governing board must reside in the  
            district in which he or she is running.



            There is no uniform process for a special district to convert  
            from at-large elections to a district-based method of  
            election.  Current law provides that the principal act of a  
            special district shall govern whether the governing board  
            members are elected by districts or by the district at-large.   
            Moreover, depending on the kind of district and its size,  
            existing law may specify which method of election it is  
            required to use to elect its governing board members, as well  
            as the process for conversion.  



          4)Related Legislation.  SB 927 (Anderson), pending in the  
            Assembly, authorizes directors of any public utility district  
            that is wholly or partially within San Diego County to be  
            elected at large, by subdistrict, or from subdistricts, as  
            defined.  



          5)Policy Considerations.  The Committee may wish to consider the  
            following logistics :








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             a)   Landowner Voter Districts.  This bill requires a special  
               district to include a declaration in the resolution to  
               change the method of electing members of the governing body  
               to be done in furtherance of the purposes of the California  
               Voting Right Act of 2001.  The principal acts for some  
               types of special districts, California Water Districts,  
               Levee Districts, and specified irrigation districts, limit  
               voting to landowners in the District.  The Committee may  
               wish to note adopting that declaration may pose a challenge  
               for landowner voter districts.  



             b)   Resolution, then what?  Under existing law, some  
               principal acts contain a conversion process from at-large  
               elections to district elections, and establish requirements  
               on how a governing board draws the divisions and prohibits  
               the change from happening within so many days before an  
               election.  The Committee may wish to consider that this  
               bill provides the process for the board to adopt a  
               resolution to change the method of voting, but does not  
               contain any further parameters for special districts in the  
               conversion process.  



          6)Committee Amendments.  The Committee may wish to ask the  
            author to accept the following amendments:



             a)   Special Act Special Districts.  The bill authorizes any  
               special district, whether created by general or special  
               law, to change the method of electing directors.  The  
               Legislature has created a number of special act special  
               districts in circumstances where a principal act could not  








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               be used.  Many special acts establish a specific governance  
               structure which may require an appointed board, a hybrid  
               appointed-elected board, or that certain board members must  
               be from designated cities or counties.  The Committee may  
               wish to amend this bill to only apply to special districts  
               whose governing boards are elected and not appointed.  
            


             b)   Uniform District Elections Law.  The principal acts for  
               many types of special districts include cross references to  
               the Uniform District Elections Law to govern election  
               procedures.  Additionally, the Uniform District Elections  
               Law provides that principal acts shall govern whether a  
               director is elected by division or at large.  The Committee  
               may wish to ask the author to include a cross reference to  
               the authority granted by this bill in the Uniform District  
               Elections Law which many special districts look to govern  
               election procedures.  



          7)Arguments in Support.  MALDEF argues, "AB 2389 would give the  
            boards of all special districts in California the authority to  
            convert from at-large to by-district elections by board  
            ordinance, in the same way that last session's SB 493  
            (Cannella) conferred that authority on general law cities  
            under 100,000 in population and provide uniformity.  AB 2389  
            would thus provide to special districts the flexibility to end  
            minority vote dilution caused by at-large electoral systems  
            without enduring costly litigation.  For example, in 2015,  
            MALDEF filed a voting rights lawsuit against Fallbrook's  
            Public Utility District under CVRA.  Fallbrook recently  
            entered into a court-approved settlement agreement, and has  
            now converted to district elections.  This legislation would  
            have given the Fallbrook Board of Directors the option of  
            avoid litigation entirely, with the same result."  










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          8)Arguments in Opposition.  None on file.  
           


           9)Double-Referral.  This bill was heard by the Elections and  
            Redistricting Committee on March 30, 2016, where it passed  
            with a 5-2 vote.  
          


          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:




          Support


          Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund [SPONSOR]


          Association of California Water Agencies


          Association of Healthcare Districts 


          California Association of Recreation and Park Districts


          California Special Districts Association


          Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights


          League of Women Voters of California









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          Opposition


          None on file







          Analysis Prepared by:Misa Lennox / L. GOV. / (916) 319-3958