By From page A6 | August 30, 2013

Gut and amend. Those are the three most feared words among the general public when the California Legislature is nearing the end of its session.

It’s a way to sneak stuff through that wouldn’t ordinarily see the light of day. It’s a way to trick the public, to pull a fast one on local government advocates that are trying to be on the lookout for such underhanded dealing.

Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, took a bill about vocational education, which had already passed the Senate and moved to the Assembly, and “repurposed it.”

The gutted and amended bill, SB 594, now bars nonprofit organizations from spending money received from a local government agency to advocate about any ballot measure or candidate. Currently, as written, it exempts school districts from this ban.

For the El Dorado Irrigation District, in particular, this would be stifling. EID belongs to regional and statewide agencies whose job is to represent water agencies across the state or region on matters that affect them. Recent examples of issues of statewide concern include water bonds, a recent ballot measure that outlawed state raids on local governments’ property taxes and other revenue.

Naturally, despite its arrogant flouting by the Pioneer Fire Protection District board, “Existing law prohibits local government agencies from expending public resources to advocate for or against ballot measures or candidates,” EID General Counsel Tom Cumpston wrote in a memo to his board.

Cumpston also wrote that SB 594 is “reportedly advanced by union interests.”

This is more unnecessary government control of election campaigns, and it apparently is to the benefit of one side and not the other.

This bill would prohibit nonprofit organizations from advocating on their membership’s behalf on statewide ballot measures unless the nonprofit is 100 percent privately funded. It would add onerous record keeping and auditing rules and allow $1,000-per-day fines by a city attorney, district attorney or attorney general, with the winner pocketing the fine money for his or her general fund.

This is just another attack on free speech.

As Cumpston wrote, “… member organizations … are funded in whole or part by public agency member contributions, and such organizations are allowed to and frequently do advocate in their members’ interests on statewide ballot measures. In staff’s opinion, this existing arrangement is appropriate and fair.”

What’s not fair is this sneak attack on local government being able to stick up for its interests through statewide and regional nonprofit organizations.

Mountain Democrat

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