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Area cities wary of pending legislation in Sacramento
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Never trustful of what takes place in Sacramento, cities like Ceres are keeping an eye on legislation being crafted this year.

Stephen Qualls, of Hughson, the regional Public Affairs Manager for the League of California Cities, gave a brief digest of forthcoming legislation that focusses on transportation funding, affordable housing, and marijuana use.

He explained that Democrats hold a narrow two-thirds majority in both the state Assembly and state Senate.

In 2015 Gov. Jerry Brown established the Transportation Conference Committee to come up with a bill or ballot measure to increase transportation funding. But the efforts have stalled, said Qualls, because of differences over where the money was to come from and administrative changes.

"Republicans mainly wanted the cap-and-trade funds and seek relief. The Democrats wanted an increase in the gas, diesel taxes as well as registration fees. And since they needed a two-thirds vote to place this on the ballot, they were not able to reach agreement."

Regarding affordable housing, the governor proposed to limit public input and discretionary powers such as conditional use permits. He said the proposal made for "some very strange bedfellows. It's not very often you see the League of California Cities, labor and environmental groups all opposing the very same bill." The proposal was killed.

He gave a rundown of key bills:

SB 1000 would require local jurisdictions to plan for food access, housing, transportation, and health to be addressed in General Plans.

AB 2734 would dedicate a portion of state savings resulting from the elimination of redevelopment agencies to address local affordable housing needs. Specifically, the state would dedicate $1 billion or 50 percent, whichever is greater, of any savings for these purposes.

Gov. Brown signed SB 1069 which erodes local control on second units known as granny flats). The bill, which renames these accessory dwelling units (ADUs), requires that these units be approved ministerially under certain conditions. The second units cannot be charged sewer and water connection fees.

ACA 8 would lower the threshold for fees for wastewater and storm water. ACA 4 would have done the same thing for transportation measures.

AB 45 would require curbside residential hazardous waste collection.

AB 1978 would require janitorial contractors to register with the Department of Labor Relations. The Property Services Worker Protection Act enacts reforms in a low-road property services industry that leaves janitors uniquely vulnerable to rape and sexual harassment on the job.

AB 1934 requires cities to offer density bonuses on mixed-use projects.

AB 2835 requires mandatory public employee orientation. The bill is dead, but Qualls said "it will be back."

SB 876 would ban local cities from citing people for sleeping in their cars or any other public place. The bill was suspended.

The League of California Cities will continue to oppose bills that take away local control.

Drones were also the focus of much discussion last year with one bill, SB 807 protects public safety employees from liability when it comes to destroying drones entering restricted areas.

In 2017 the League will be looking at transportation, affordable housing and homelessness.

Introduced on Jan. 1 were AB 1 and SB 1 which both raise $6 billion for transportation, with $2.2 billion to cities and counties. The bills call for a 20-cent increase in the gasoline tax, a $38 increase in the vehicle registration fee, a $300 million in cap-and-trade funds, a registration fee for zero-emission cars (SB 1 proposes $165 and AB 1 proposed $100).

There are no specific bills yet for affordable housing, Qualls said. The state Housing and Community Development Department is pointing its finger at lack of affordable housing at cities "because of your planning and zoning."

One proposal is to create a new housing enforcement unit under the attorney general and a state appeal court at HCD.

"I'm telling you now, be prepared to fight," Qualls told the Ceres City Council.

The council bases its stand on legislation by three principals: supporting local control and local funding and opposing unfunded mandates.