One of the most famous quotes from the American Revolution was uttered
by Sam Adams: "It does not take a majority to prevail … but rather an
irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the
minds of men." As fiscal conservatives in a fiscally irresponsible
state, we at Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association often find ourselves
in the minority when trying to advance pro-taxpayer principles in the
legislature – especially with our current crop of politicians.

While HJTA may be better known for our initiatives and victories in the
courtroom, some might overlook the fact that we also maintain a
fulltime lobbying presence in Sacramento. Our top legislative priority
every year, of course, is stopping the direct attacks on Prop 13.

part of the California Constitution, however, Prop 13 cannot be amended
or repealed by statute – only by a proposed constitutional amendment
emanating from the legislature with a two-thirds vote of each house.
While fiscal conservatives in the Legislature don’t come close to a
majority, they do constitute (barely) more than a third. Because of
that, and because hundreds of thousands of our members sign petitions
to their legislators demanding that Prop 13 be protected, we have
successfully stopped these efforts to weaken or repeal California’s
most popular law.

But in addition to these proposed constitutional amendments are
literally hundreds of bills that affect taxpayers. Some are very
technical and involve complex fiscal or regulatory issues. But HJTA is
frequently the only voice on behalf of ordinary citizens which engages
on these matters.

To illustrate, the following report from HJTA Legislative Director
David Wolfe, is for the final day of the legislative session that just
ended on August 31st.

HJTA Legislative Report for August 31st

Positive outcome on five bills HJTA targeted on the final day of session:

AB 1998 (Brownley): This bill was featured earlier in the year
in another HJTA column. A classic ‘nanny government’ proposal, AB 1998
was the infamous "bag tax" bill which have added nearly a billion
dollars of costs to consumers and killed a thousand jobs. AB 1998 was
defeated 14-21 in the Senate.

AB 2483 (Coto): AB 2483 failed to clarify that fees for
groundwater charges were subject to an election under HJTA’s
Proposition 218. Because this issue is the subject of active HJTA
litigation (North San Joaquin) we asked that the bill be tabled.
Because of numerous drafting errors and other problems, it failed to
receive sufficient votes to get off the Senate Floor.

AB 155 (Mendoza): Would have imposed burdensome state process
prior to a local government declaring bankruptcy. Sponsored by
government employee unions, this bill would have made it nearly
impossible for a local government to renegotiate oppressive union
contracts. In a rare alliance with the League of California Cities and
the California Special Districts Association, we were able to keep the
measure from coming up for a vote before midnight on August 31st.

AB 1718 (Blumenfield): A bill to reestablish the property tax
postponement program as a voluntary program run by the counties. While
HJTA was originally supportive of the bill, an undefined, uncapped
"fee" was inserted in the bill against the interests of homeowners.
Moreover, this bill was jammed through the Legislature with virtually
no transparency. It was completely rewritten in July and received no
committee hearings in the Assembly. HJTA worked hard to draw attention
to the bill and we were thankful for the speeches given by our
legislative allies including members Ted Gaines and Diane Harkey.
Although this measure was ultimately approved, there remains a high
likelihood of a gubernatorial veto.

SB 1398 (DeSaulnier):
This bill transferred over $2 million
from special districts in Contra Costa County to the Oakley
Redevelopment Agency in order to incentivize and site a power plant. As
a property rights organization, HJTA has long been suspicious of
complex redevelopment projects. Here, the Public Utilities Commission
last month denied PG&E’s application to build the power plant,
leading us to question whether the bill was necessary or even whether
the plant would be built in Oakley. Our greatest concern with this bill
was that it reflected an unwarranted exception to carefully crafted
protections enacted into redevelopment law, especially as it relates to
the requirement that a portion of revenues be used for housing.