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Sen. Toni Atkins’ bill to fund construction of affordable housing, one of her signature efforts as a state legislator, cleared a big hurdle this week when it passed the state Senate on Thursday.

SB 2 would impose a $75 fee on certain real estate documents.

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Because the bill imposes a new fee, it had a high bar to clear: a two-thirds vote. It got there.

On top of funding housing subsidies, the bill “would also allow the money to be used for community plan updates or fiscal incentives for local governments to approve new low-income housing,” Maya Srikrishnan reported earlier this year.

More than 100 housing bills were introduced in the Legislature this session – many of them targeting localities that don’t do enough to greenlight and actually build new housing.

SB 2 is a key piece of the puzzle because it actually provides a funding source for new construction.

Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican who represents portions of Orange County, urged his colleagues to vote against the measure, and suggested that if they didn’t, they could face a recall effort similar to the one facing Assemblyman Josh Newman over his vote in support of a new gas tax.

“This is a vote, colleagues, that your constituents will hold you accountable to. And they will help you recall this vote,” Moorlach said (emphasis mine).

San Diego Sen. Ben Hueso had a response for that. On top of heaping praise on Atkins, Hueso challenged the idea that constituents would revolt over the measure.

“This is going to make an enormous difference for the people of California. And while yes, nobody likes fees, nobody likes taxes, I know how that works,” Hueso said. “But when you see results with the dollars that you pay into services, when you can pay into something that changes our state, that improves the quality of people’s lives, that contributes to the economy, I’m telling you – people are adults in this state. They will welcome these investments in their community, and they will be thankful for our efforts to provide more affordable housing.”

The bill now heads to the state Assembly.

Bill Would Make Government Outsourcing Harder

Unions and county officials across California are keeping a close eye on a bill that would make it harder to outsource government jobs.

The bill, AB 1250, changes the calculation counties must use before they hire people to work on behalf of the county that are not government employees. Often private companies and nonprofits are paid by the government to provide public services.

If the bill passed it would be harder for San Diego County to outsource its Animal Services Department, for instance.

One intent of the bill, written by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer and backed by Service Employees International Union, is to ensure that public workers aren’t displaced by lower-paid private-sector workers. Unions remain strong in the public sector but have lost ground in the private sector.

The bill would undercut some of the very reasons governments contract with third parties. The bill says those contracts should not be approved simply because they lower costs, if the savings come as a result of paying workers less and giving them fewer benefits.

The bill is co-written by San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, a labor ally. She has fought privatization efforts since Republican leaders in the city of San Diego started pushing a decade ago to have the private sector compete to provide city services.

“Once you outsource something, you’re losing an ability to bring it back,” Gonzalez Fletcher said. “Once you make a mistake it’s a fatal mistake: You lose personnel, sometimes equipment.”

However, city employees ended up winning many of the bidding wars with the private sector and the city, led by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, has largely backed off the push.

The bill has a lot of opposition from county governments, including San Diego’s. They call it a de facto ban on contracting that could hurt services for low-income Californians that are often performed by contractors, including health care. They also argue they can only effectively obtain some specialized services through contracts, though many types of jobs have already been exempted from the bill.

During a floor speech opposing the bill, Assemblyman Travis Allen, a Republican from Huntington Beach, said the bill is about putting more work into the hands of California unions.

“Look, our first duty is not to the workers of California, it’s not to the unions of California – our first duty, as legislators, is to the people of California,” Allen said. “We owe it to them to make sure that whoever will do the very best work for the very best rate gets the job. This bill will stand in the way of that.”

The bill cleared the Assembly and is expected to be next heard on July 12 in the Senate’s Governance and Finance Committee. So far, it’s been amended a half dozen times and likely will be again. Originally, the bill was meant to apply to cities, not just counties, but that was dropped to avoid stiffer opposition.

Ry Rivard

SANDAG Floats Its Own Measure to Counter State Reform Bill

The SANDAG board of directors already voted to oppose AB 805, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher’s bill that would reform the SANDAG board and bring in an independent auditor.

But now it’s going a step further and wants to put a measure before San Diego voters that would ask them to weigh in on potential reforms, Andrew Keatts reported this week.

“It’s hard to tell if SANDAG’s hypothetical measure would ask voters to approve or disapprove of [AB 805] – which by that point would either already have been killed or signed by the governor – or would represent a competing reform proposal,” Keatts wrote.

The SANDAG board is scheduled to discuss the issue at a July 28 board meeting, and officials have said the ballot measure could include further reforms.

AB 805 has passed the Assembly, and was approved by a state Senate committee this week.

Golden State News

 The California-Texas feud is heating back up. (Politico)

 A non-Faulconer Republican is running for governor. (New York Times)

 Los Angeles is still a frontrunner for the 2024 Olympics. (Associated Press)

• The latest entry in this excellent series on sea-level rise questions whether California is doing enough to get ready. (CALMatters)

• A bill in the Legislature would encourage school districts and developers to build housing for teachers, and notes that some new teachers in San Diego County “move to cities in southwest Riverside County to find housing that matches their budget.” (Press-Enterprise)

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the SANDAG board’s position on AB 805. The board voted to oppose the bill.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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