SBCTC Bill to Reform Charter City Elections Approved by State Senate

May 6, 2013 - Senate Bill 311 - Building Trades sponsored legislation designed to increase local voter participation in elections to convert general law cities to charter cities, by requiring that the charter measure be placed on the ballot in a statewide general election, won approval from the state Senate today. Senate Bill 311, authored by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, was approved by a 25-9 vote.

The bill is one prong in the State Building Trades’ broad effort to protect the prevailing wage for workers on public works projects. Anti-union lobbying groups such as the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) urge general law cities to convert to charter city status in order to exempt themselves from state law requiring that they pay prevailing wage on their municipal projects. To maximize their chances of victory, they often arrange for the conversion measures to be decided in elections with low turnouts, increasing the likelihood that a very small number of organized anti-worker votes can prevail.

Under this bill, if they seek to convert a general law city to a charter city to avoid prevailing wage, they’ll need to do it in an election when the greatest number of people vote, and when it is more costly and difficult for a special interest to pass a self-serving ballot measure that will harm workers. Measures that claim to promote local control should require maximum voter awareness and participation, which SB 311 would ensure.

Significantly, one Republican – Senator Jean Fuller of Bakersfield – joined 24 Democrats in support. All votes against the measure came from Republicans. The State Building Trades commends Senator Padilla for his continued support of the Building Trades and for steering this bill through the Senate. The bill now moves to the Assembly.

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