By DeAnn Baker.

How do you define “success?” Here at CSAC, 2017 has been a very successful year for some obvious reasons — and some that may be less so. Perhaps the most important and hardest to quantify is the incredible success we achieved this year while fostering relationships with legislators, the Administration and our stakeholders on all sides of the tough issues. We had four big accomplishments that need to be recognized as the major 2017 legislative “wins”  for CSAC: In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), transportation funding (Senate Bill 1), maintaining county authority for service delivery (Assembly Bill 1250) and preserving local control (Senate Bill 649). These were successes not only for the outcomes but also because of how we made it to that final outcome.

When the Governor proposed his 2017-18 Budget in January, it included shifting more than $600 million in costs to counties for In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS). That would have been untenable in every county in the state. IHSS is a federal entitlement Medicaid program so that also meant the cost shift would have required deep cuts to other county programs. We worked closely with the Governor and his staff to make sure they understood the nature of the problem and to identify other potential resources that could be applied to this issue. Over the course of several months, and with the active participation of a working group of County Administrators, we reached an agreement that includes a new Maintenance of Effort, State General Fund contributions, and other revenues to offset this cost shift as much as possible.

We will have to revisit this issue, soon, but counties should be able to manage the cost shift for two years. That alone is a major “win” but we were able to do it while still maintaining our solid working relationships with the Governor and his staff. We did it by relying on the facts and by being reasonable. We significantly mitigated the fiscal impact to counties compared to the January budget and kept — perhaps improved — our strong relationships in the Capitol.

We also had a significant success with SB 1 this year — the transportation funding bill. I personally have been working on this issue for more than 20 years, and it was incredibly gratifying to see how our coordinated effort led to success this past spring. Soon, an additional $5.2 billion per year will be available to fix our aging transportation infrastructure. More than $750 million annually will be allocated to our 58 counties.

We achieved this partially because of the strong relationships CSAC has and our ability to lead a coalition from throughout the state that secured support letters, witnesses for hearings, impressive attendance at news conferences and well-placed opinion pieces for the newspapers. Again, our relationships – both with our members and with the Legislature and Governor — were important contributors to this success.

The same can be said of our efforts for AB 1250 and SB 649 — both bills we opposed. Through our leadership and coalition-building, we were able to stop AB 1250 in the Legislature. The bill would have virtually ended county contracting for services. It would have created a huge financial burden for counties, and it represented a significant loss of local authority.

CSAC served as a trusted source of information and credible partner in the Capitol, which ensured access to key legislators and a reputation that carried to more recently elected members as well. We also relied on our strong relationships with a broad array of organizations to build a coalition of nearly 500 that clearly painted the picture of just how harmful AB 1250 would be to the millions of Californians that rely on county services.

We did much the same with SB 649, the so-called Small-Cell Bill sponsored by the telecommunication industry. The bill would have allowed nearly unfettered access to publicly owned infrastructure such as street lights, traffic signal poles and even some public buildings to install large and unsightly cellular phone antennas and other gear. This would have usurped local authority over these siting decisions and put an arbitrary cap on the revenue local governments could charge for the use of public property.

Governor Brown listened to input from CSAC and other organizations and vetoed the bill. His veto message indicated the need for the telecom industry to be more “balanced” in its approach to this issue. Once again our relationships and solid reputation helped overcome claims from the opposition and ensure our position was heard.

This year we can be proud of our accomplishments and measure our success on the four solid “wins” on budget and policy priorities. We also measure it on the relationships we and our members have, and continue to build with the Legislature and Administration. When CSAC speaks on an issue with one voice on behalf of all 58 counties we are formidable.

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Originally posted at the California State Association of Counties.