League of California Cities logoThe Cal Cities Board of Directors took positions on four key bills with significant impacts to cities at last week’s board meeting. The meeting was held on the heels of the City Leaders Summit, where more than 400 city officials traveled to Sacramento for three days of advocacy and learning.

Legislative Director Jason Rhine and his team of lobbyists updated the board on progress made in recent months to advance Cal Cities’ 2024 Advocacy Priorities in the areas of fiscal sustainability, climate change resiliency and disaster preparedness, public safety and housing and homelessness.

Representatives from the California Grocers Association, California State Sheriffs’ Association and California District Attorneys Association also gave an update on current negotiations in the Legislature around the nearly three dozen retail theft-related bills.

Following the briefing, the board considered AB 2943 (Zbur and Rivas), the Assembly’s main vehicle for comprehensive retail theft reform. The bill would create a new crime of “serial retail theft,” allow police to arrest shoplifters without witnessing the crime and define how multiple acts of theft with multiple victims can be aggregated into a felony charge of grand theft.

After a lengthy discussion, the board voted to take a support if amended position on AB 2943. These amendments center on prosecutors’ ability to aggregate multiple offenses, police officers’ authority to collect unsworn statements if they demonstrate probable cause and clarification around the successful completion of probation.

The board had a thoughtful discussion on the divestment of public retirement systems from fossil fuels. SB 252 (Gonzalez) would require CalPERS and CalSTRS, the state’s pension funds, to divest from fossil fuels by 2031. The board voted to oppose the bill but directed staff to pursue a policy statement related to climate change.

The board also considered AB 1999 (Irwin), which would repeal the California Public Utility Commission’s (CPUC) authority to develop an income-graduated fixed charge. Over the past year, the CPUC and investor-owned utilities have proposed a slew of plans to place fixed charges on customers’ electricity bills based on their incomes.

AB 1999 would halt that debate by capping the CPUC’s fixed charge rate at $5 a month for low-income customers and $10 a month for all others. In late March, the CPUC proposed an alternative proposal that seeks to strike a balance between the costs of electricity infrastructure and affordability for many ratepayers. After a lengthy discussion about the impacts of escalating energy prices on low-income residents, small businesses and city budgets, the board took a watch position on AB 1999.

Cal Cities will track the bill’s progress as it moves through the Legislature and monitor the CPUC’s proposal as it is considered and finalized in midsummer.

No Cal Cities board meeting is complete without a conversation on housing and land use. The board reviewed AB 2085 (Bauer-Kahan), which seeks to increase access to reproductive health care by requiring cities to allow the construction of community clinics in areas zoned for office, retail, health care, or parking. After a spirited discussion, the board adopted a support if amended position on AB 2085. Cal Cities will seek changes related to distancing requirements, increased approval time and the definition of community clinics.

Homelessness was also front and center in the board’s deliberations. Staff briefed the board on Cal Cities’ new homelessness survey results. The study found that in many cities, the demand for housing and services is outpacing cities’ efforts to connect people to services and safe, affordable housing. The board discussed Cal Cities’ sponsored bill package on recovery housing, which builds on Cal Cities’ longstanding history of advocacy and engagement on recovery housing reform legislation.

The board wrapped up with updates on threats at the ballot box and legal advocacy. The board heard an update on the highly successful Capitol rally with local officials, nurses, teachers, a firefighters to raise the alarm on what they’re calling the Taxpayer Deception Act.

Cal Cities’ advocacy also plays out in the courts. The board reviewed several high-profile cases currently before the state and federal supreme courts that will greatly impact cities, including a recent ruling on development impacts fees and a pending federal ruling on cities’ ability to resolve encampments.

The next Cal Cities board meeting is July 11-12 in Pasadena.

By Kayla Sherwood, Cal Cities senior communications and media manager