Lawmakers want to pass yet another costly, unfunded mandate

Jul 19, 2023

The League of California Cities’ biggest transportation fight this session is not over physical infrastructure — it's digital infrastructure. Asm. Jacqui Irwin earlier this year introduced a bill that would force cities to acquire and transition all websites and email addresses to a .gov domain.

Cal Cities opposed AB 1637 since it was introduced due to its significant costs. One official from a mid-sized city told Cal Cities a similar effort cost their community approximately $600,000.

The author based the bill on a grant program recommendation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The recommendation also urges states to provide funding to fill capability gaps and conduct an evaluation of best practices.

Despite Cal Cities’ repeated advocacy, the bill fails to take either of those critical first steps. Cal Cities secured amendments that push the bill’s implementation date to 2029 instead of 2025 as originally proposed. However, this does little to address Cal Cities’ central argument.

At a time when cities are doing more with less, most cannot afford to divert critical resources to an unfunded mandate with no benefits. AB 1637 would not provide any cybersecurity benefits or protections for local jurisdictions as it only seeks to prevent duplicate sites on privately held domains.

While .gov domains are seen as secure, multiple .gov websites have been compromised. Even some federal agencies rely on domains, including the Department of Defense and the Postal Service.

By law, the state must pay local governments for the cost of mandated programs and services. In practice, those payments are rarely made. The state owes local governments approximately $1 billion for existing unfunded mandates, despite being flush with cash for several years.

Cities are urged to contact their elected officials and voice their opposition to this costly and unnecessary measure.

Has your city recently migrated its online services to a different domain? Tell Legislative Affairs Lobbyist Damon Conklin about your costs and challenges. Your experiences could help stop this bill from becoming law!