BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON GOVERNANCE AND FINANCE
                         Senator Robert M. Hertzberg, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

                              
          
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          |Bill No:  |AB 2389                          |Hearing    |6/29/16  |
          |          |                                 |Date:      |         |
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          |Author:   |Ridley-Thomas                    |Tax Levy:  |No       |
          |----------+---------------------------------+-----------+---------|
          |Version:  |5/9/16                           |Fiscal:    |No       |
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          |Consultant|Weinberger                                            |
          |:         |                                                      |
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            Special districts:  district-based elections:  reapportionment



          Allows a special district's governing board, without having to  
          seek voter approval, to change from an at-large to a by-district  
          method of electing the district's governing board members. 


           Background 

           Unlike counties and cities, which deliver a wide range of public  
          services over large areas, special districts offer focused  
          services, delivering just one or two services to specific  
          geographic areas where the recipients are willing to pay.  

          About 2,100 of the state's special districts are independent  
          districts, which have their own separate governing boards that  
          are comprised of members who are either elected by the  
          districts' own voters or appointed to serve for fixed terms.   
          Most independent special districts have elected boards of  
          directors.  For those that do, state law says that the statutes  
          that provide for the creation of a particular special district  
          or type of special district govern whether directors of a  
          district are elected by divisions or by the district at large.   
          An "at-large" method of election allows a voter residing  
          anywhere within the local government's boundaries to vote for  
          any candidate for the governing board.  A "district-based"  
          method of election - sometimes called a "by district" election -  
          allows a voter to vote only for a candidate who runs and resides  







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          in the same geographical district in which the voter resides.

          The California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) prohibits 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 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 (SB  
          976, Polanco, 2002).  The CVRA was enacted to address racial  
          block voting in at-large elections for local office in  
          California.  In areas where racial block voting occurs, an  
          at-large method of election can dilute the voting rights of a  
          protected class of voters if a majority usually votes for  
          candidates who differ from candidates who are preferred by the  
          protected class of voters.  In such situations, breaking up a  
          jurisdiction into districts can result in districts in which a  
          protected class of voters can elect the candidate of its choice  
          or otherwise have the power to influence the outcome of an  
          election.  If a judge finds that a city's at-large election  
          method violates the CVRA, state law requires the court to  
          implement appropriate remedies, including the imposition of  
          district-based elections.

          The numerous statutes that govern the methods that special  
          districts use to elect their governing boards vary widely.  Some  
          statutes require that special district boards must obtain voter  
          approval to switch from at-large to district-based elections.   
          State law doesn't allow some other types of special districts to  
          use district-based election at all.  Because a growing number of  
          districts are seeking to transition to district-based elections  
          in response to concerns about compliance with the CVRA, some  
          public officials want the Legislature to allow those special  
          districts to adopt district-based elections without having to  
          seek voter approval.


           Proposed Law

           Assembly Bill 2389 allows the governing body of a special  
          district to adopt a resolution, without being required to submit  
          the resolution to the voters for approval, requiring members of  
          its governing body to be elected using district-based elections.  
           The resolution must include a declaration that the change in  








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          the method of electing members of the governing body is in  
          furtherance of the purposes of the CVRA. 

          AB 2389 defines a "special district," for the purposes for these  
          provisions, to mean an agency of the state formed pursuant to  
          general law or special act for the local performance of  
          governmental or proprietary functions within limited boundaries.  
           The bill provides that a "special district" does not include a  
          city, county, city and county, school or community college  
          district, special assessment district, or a district with  
          appointed members on its governing board. 

          The bill makes other conforming changes to state law.


           State Revenue Impact

           No estimate.


           Comments

           1.  Purpose of the bill  .  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.  A voter  
          approval requirement 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 the  
          Legislature enacted for general law cities with populations of  
          fewer than 100,000 people (SB 493, Cannella, 2015).  AB 2389  
          doesn't force any special district to alter its current method  
          of electing board members and doesn't prevent a district from  
          seeking voter approval for switching to a district-based  
          election method if it chooses to do so.  The bill simply  
          provides a tool that can be used by special district officials  
          who wish to avoid unnecessary costs and delays by expediting  
          their districts' conversion to district-based elections to  
          comply with the CVRA.









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          2.   Finding a balance  .  The CVRA was enacted to protect  
          democratic principles of fairness and equal access to  
          representation in government.  Democratic principles also  
          suggest that local voters should be allowed to make fundamental  
          decisions about the methods by which their communities' local  
          officials are elected.  Sometimes, these principles conflict, as  
          is the case when at-large elections for a local governing board  
          are supported by a majority of a community's voters but impair a  
          protected class of voters' ability to influence elections.  AB  
          2389 attempts to strike a balance between making it easier for  
          local governments to modify their elections to comply with the  
          CVRA while still leaving some local discretion over the method  
          by which governing boards are elected.

          3.   Related legislation  .  AB 278 (Hernandez) and AB 2220  
          (Cooper), which both will be heard by the Senate Governance &  
          Finance Committee at its June 29 hearing, would allow all  
          cities, regardless of population size, to change the method of  
          electing council members to a by-district method of election  
          without receiving voter approval.  SB 927 (Anderson), which is  
          pending in the Assembly Local Government Committee, permits  
          directors of any public utility district that is wholly or  
          partially within the County of San Diego to be elected at large  
          or by subdistrict.  The Senate Governance & Finance Committee  
          approved SB 927 at its March 30 hearing on a 7-0 vote.

          4.   Double-referred  .  The Senate Rules Committee has ordered a  
          double-referral of AB 2389, first to the Senate Committee on  
          Elections & Constitutional Amendments, which has jurisdiction  
          over bills relating to local elections and the CVRA, and then to  
          the Senate Governance & Finance Committee, which has  
          jurisdiction over bills relating to special districts' governing  
          boards.  The Senate Elections & Constitutional Amendments  
          Committee passed AB 2398 at its June 8, 2016 hearing on a 5-0  
          vote.


           Assembly Actions

           Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee:  5-2
          Assembly Local Government Committee:  8-0
          Assembly Floor:                    59-16










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           Support and  
          Opposition   (6/23/16)


           Support  : American Civil Liberties Union; Association of  
          California Healthcare Districts; Association of California Water  
          Agencies; California Association of Clerks and Election  
          Officials; California Association of Recreation and Park  
          Districts; California Special Districts Association; Lawyers'  
          Committee for Civil Rights;  League of Women Voters of  
          California; Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

           Opposition  :  Unknown.



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