City voices ring loud and clear in the Capitol, helping to protect critical local transportation projects

Jun 29, 2022

The League of California Cities notched two legislative victories last week after an outpouring of opposition from city leaders to bills that would have restricted the use of funding sources for local transportation initiatives.

AB 2237 (Friedman), which would have prohibited using local sales tax measures for certain local transportation projects, was held in the Senate and will not advance this year. Cal Cities also removed its opposition to AB 2438 (Friedman). As originally drafted, the bill would have given the state unprecedented levels of control over the funding and decision-making of new local transportation projects.

Cal Cities adopted a neutral position after AB 2438’s author removed those provisions and aligned the bill with existing state goals and funding formulas.

Both bills ran counter to the 2022 Cal Cities State Action Agenda, which advocates for policies that strengthen the conditions of local streets, highways, bridges, public transit, and broadband to improve workforce and economic development.

What would AB 2237 have done?

AB 2237 proposed an overly prescriptive approach to the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set by SB 375 (Steinberg, 2008). This would have impacted local transportation projects that may increase vehicle miles traveled. It also would have come at the expense of critical safety and maintenance projects, many of which align with the state’s climate goals.

Crucially, the bill would have prohibited the use of local transportation tax measures on projects not included in a city’s Sustainable Communities Strategy or Alternative Planning Strategy, even if the community voted for them. In many cases, this prohibition would have applied retroactively. 

The bill would have also required the California Air Resources Board to review every local transportation project to determine its consistency with the local Sustainable Communities Strategy and the state’s climate goals.

AB 2237 created unnecessary complexity without any clear environmental benefit. The bill ignored existing federal and state environmental protections and air quality goals that transportation projects must adhere to.

After the bill passed out of the Assembly and into the Senate Transportation Committee, Cal Cities issued an action alert to city officials throughout the state. Within 24 hours, the committee announced that it was holding the bill, citing strong opposition from city leaders and committee members.

What could AB 2438 do?

Cal Cities was able to successfully negotiate a compromise with Assembly Member Friedman on her other bill, AB 2438. As originally drafted, the measure would have disrupted existing funding by retroactively imposing new, unprecedented requirements to SB 1 (Beall, 2017) funding.

SB 1 funding is mostly used to maintain and rehabilitate local streets and roads, bicycle and pedestrian pathways, bridges, and state highways for climate change and safety purposes.

AB 2438 would have given the state unprecedented levels of control in setting priorities that apply to a broad array of state and local transportation funding programs — both competitive and formula-based.

Cal Cities broadly supports the state’s efforts to increase multimodal transportation options, like walking or biking. However, the original bill subverted local decision-makers. Moreover, some of the bill’s requirements were unclear and potentially at odds with the state’s own funding programs.

Following city leaders’ advocacy, the bill’s author removed the provisions that imposed additional restrictions on funding for certain local streets and roads projects and made changes that realigned AB 2438 with existing state goals and funding formulas.

Thanks to effective, quick city leader and Cal Cities engagement, AB 2438 now supports state transportation investments that align with California climate standards. If passed, state funding guidelines would be updated to align with the California Transportation Plan, the Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure, and the state’s clean air and climate standards.

Following these changes, Cal Cities moved neutral position for AB 2438.