The fundamental purpose for a city or county is to serve its residents. If government is doing its job, then your streets are clean and safe, your public parks and buildings are maintained and the like. Taxpayers should be able to expect that government is spending their hard-earned dollars on critical services that improve their health, safety and quality of life. Assembly bill 1250, authored by Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, would severely limit a city or county from contracting for services with a private entity. The proposal encompasses virtually every service a city or county can contract for — services such as accounting, waste-hauling, park maintenance, street cleaning, wastewater treatment, legal services, drug treatment facilities, IT services, landscaping services and more. If this bill is passed, it will drive up cities’ and counties’ costs and add layers of complexity to contracting for services — so much so that agencies would have limited choices for contracting services, or would be forced to eliminate specific services altogether.

Let’s set aside for a moment the backroom tactics used to move this measure to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which included replacing members on the first policy committee that heard it to ensure its passage. On its face, Mr. Jones-Sawyer’s bill proposes a bureaucratic web of vague, costly and onerous reporting requirements. For example, a potential contractor would be forced to disclose to a city or county the full names and salaries of its workers and subcontractors performing work like that provided under the potential contract, as well as the compensation information for its highest-paid executives. And a contractor would have to provide descriptions of all criminal, civil or local administrative agency charges, claims or complaints filed against the contractor in state and federal court for the past 10 years. Those are just a few items on the laundry list of requirements.

To top it off, the city or county would be forced to post this information on a fully searchable public database, bringing about significant privacy and safety concerns for private-sector contractors. It is unclear how the posting of private citizens’ personal information benefits the public.

Furthermore, AB1250 arbitrarily forces a prospective contractor to pay for a full cost-benefit analysis, including an environmental impact report, as well as an annual performance audit. These ongoing costs can range in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars depending on the scope of work being contracted. Moreover, the measure prohibits private contractors from offering a more competitive rate then their union competitors. The result of these unreasonable new requirements is plain as day: many vendors will be discouraged from bidding on projects. And that leaves agencies with a Hobson’s Choice of selecting from a very limited number of contractors or cutting the services provided to residents.

The Service Employees International Union, the chief sponsor behind this measure, claims AB1250 will provide needed transparency in local agency contracting. But how can true transparency be provided when the cost of contracts are artificially inflated? How can an agency make a fiscally-sound decision when it is prohibited from contracting based on salary and benefit cost-savings?

The truth is the proponents are attempting to leverage a democratic supermajority by hiding behind a veil of transparency to grow the ranks of its membership. Forcing private companies out of the market will only continue to drive up costs for local agencies at a time when they are bracing for a spike in retiree pension obligations. Public-private partnerships such as those under attack provide residents across California with highly-trained professionals who can serve the public without squandering your tax dollars. These partnerships reflect the ingenuity of all California cities and counties.

AB1250 currently resides in the Assembly’s Appropriations committee and can move to the Assembly floor for a full vote as early as May 30. Don’t buy what the proponents are trying to sell. Urge your state lawmaker to stop AB1250 by voting no.

Originally published in the Orange County Register.