Four key measures advance to the 2024 ballot boxes

Sep 15, 2023

Cities and the critical services they provide were front and center at the Capitol this year, including a last-minute push to preserve local control and empower local voters. Legislators approved several measures that would provide or preserve funding for behavioral health, affordable housing, and public infrastructure. Californians will have a chance to vote on the measures in the 2024 elections.  

Lawmakers okay changes to Mental Health Services Act, direct funding for behavioral health care 

With the number of unhoused Californians rising, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature prioritized bills with targeted improvements to the state's behavioral health system. This includes the Governor's two-part legislative proposal: SB 326 (Eggman) and AB 531 (Irwin). These measures would modernize the Mental Health Services Act and place a $6.3 billion bond measure for 10,000 new community behavioral health beds and housing on the March 2024 ballot.  

The goal is to ensure that California can better meet the needs of people experiencing severe behavioral health conditions and homelessness. 

Earlier in the legislative session, Cal Cities took a support position on both measures. However, Asm. Jacqui Irwin adopted several concerning amendments to AB 531 just before the session ended — including by-right approval for some projects. Given the last-minute nature of these changes, Cal Cities is not requesting a signature on AB 531.  

The bond measure is still beneficial for local governments: Asm. Irwin also expanded AB 531 to provide $1.5 billion to cities and counties for behavioral health beds. 

ACA 1 and ACA 13 would empower local voters  

In a resounding victory for cities, both ACA 1 (Aguiar-Curry) and ACA 13 (Ward) passed through the Legislature and are headed to the November 2024 ballot. The measures will make it possible for local governments — the governments closest to the people they serve — to be more responsive to the needs of their communities. Cal Cities is a strong supporter of both measures. 

ACA 1 would lower the 55% voter-approval threshold for public infrastructure and affordable housing special taxes and bonds. This measure will give California voters a chance to do for cities, counties, and special districts what they did for school districts more than 20 years ago. 

ACA 13 would require future ballot measures that increase voter approval requirements to also pass by the same threshold. It would also preserve the right of local governments to place advisory questions on the ballot asking voters their opinions on issues. 

Asm. Ward’s ACA 13 would significantly impact another measure on the November 2024 ballot put forward by the California Business Roundtable (CBRT). The CBRT measure is the wealthy special interest group’s latest attempt to reverse unfavorable court decisions, dodge enforcement, and kneecap efforts to raise the funds cities need to serve their communities. If ACA 13 is approved by voters, the CBRT measure must be approved by a two-thirds majority vote.  

The measures will go on the November 2024 ballot, when voter turnout is traditionally higher. Together, ACA 1 and ACA 13 would protect Californians’ ability to make their voices heard and affect change in their communities.