A bill being pushed through the Legislature will nullify the decisions of local elected officials and even disenfranchise local voters.
Under rules imposed by SB 922, the state would nullify every ban on Project Labor Agreements approved by any municipality. In charter cities, where home rule trumps state intrusion, the state can’t nullify these decisions. Instead, they’ll simply cut off funding to projects in a city where a ban has already been approved.
Put aside your views on labor. Union, non-union, contractors; make them all equal in your minds. In fact, imagine that AB 922 has nothing to do with labor at all. Change the issue to local elections of city council members or administration of municipal finances.
Then apply the rules of SB 922. It’s still an outrage.
The adversarial approach this Legislature has adopted towards the state’s local governments is astounding. They have tried to forcibly disband a legally incorporated charter city. They have attempted to restrict a government’s ability to contract services. They have proposed laws that would create insurmountable barriers to municipal bankruptcy. And the list goes on.
Clearly, the State Capitol is not the model for good governance. Their finances are in shambles, their concept of transparency (especially when it comes to legislative office budgets) is laughable, and the laws they attempt to pass are sometimes asinine. So the fact that they are trying to impose their ‘enlightened’ managerial styles on local governments is insulting.
If there is a higher expression of the will of the people than their local leaders, it is their approval or rejection of a local ballot measure. Direct democracy cannot and should not be undermined by the whimsical desires of a remote representative. In fact, that is the danger of a representative democracy: the expressed will and values of a community like San Diego can be trampled by the strength and agenda of representatives from Los Angeles and Sacramento. The respect of implied and deferred powers is the only protection against a power-thirsty and overbearing majority. When that respect is ignored, local residents, voters, and elected officials are made into victims.
Yet that is precisely what is being attempted with SB 922.
The bill is likely to pass through the Senate and would then head to the governor for his approval or veto. The question then becomes not one of the Legislature’s disrespect of municipal authority and affairs, but how Governor Brown views the varying roles of a representative government.
As someone who has served in every level of California government over the last four decades, perhaps Governor Brown has gained more respect for the intelligence and character of municipal government than his colleagues in the Assembly and Senate have disdain for responsive and effective local governments.