In a win for cities, ACA 13 moves to the Senate

Sep 6, 2023

The California State Assembly today passed ACA 13 (Ward) with 56 aye votes. The Senate now has until Sept. 14 to pass the measure. But first, ACA 13 needs to clear the Senate Elections Committee, which could happen as soon as tomorrow.

The constitutional amendment would require future ballot measures that increase voter approval requirements to also pass by the same margin. Asm. Chris Ward introduced the measure, in part because an initiative to amend the state Constitution to significantly undermine local control, strip voters’ rights and decimate tens of billions of dollars of local government tax and fee revenues qualified for the November 2024 ballot.

The League of California Cities threw its weight behind ACA 13, working closely with sponsors Asm. Ward and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas to get it to the Senate. Over the past few days, city officials from throughout the state showed their support for the measure by calling their assembly members. They were joined by a coalition of local government, teachers, labor, and nonprofit organizations.

“ACA 13 is a common-sense proposal that protects local decision-making and our cities’ ability to deliver critical services to residents,” said Carolyn Coleman, Executive Director and CEO of the League of California Cities. “No city leader wants to make tough decisions like cutting fire services, and this legislation is an important tool to help us protect the necessary revenue to fund such services.”

Earlier this year, a group of the state’s biggest corporations — under the umbrella of the California Business Roundtable (CBRT) — placed the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act on the November 2024 ballot. The initiative would undermine local control over resources needed to provide essential services. It would even retroactively cancel some measures approved by the voters.

Multiple groups have tried to raise voter thresholds in the past. However, the CBRT initiative is in the extreme. It would put billions of dollars in revenue at risk, open the door for new lawsuits and bureaucracy, limit the voices of voters, and upend how cities administer fees. It would also cancel many measures already passed by the voters and impact state taxes.

In other words: The CBRT initiative could result in funding cuts to fire and emergency response, law enforcement, programs to address homelessness, and supportive service programs.

ACA 13 would ensure voters — not wealthy corporations or special interests — decide which taxes and services are right for their communities. It would only apply to future measures. Proposition 13, which limits property taxes, would not be affected. Nor would ACA 13 impact the current two-thirds vote requirement for special taxes. 

“If a measure wants to lock in a two-thirds supermajority vote threshold, it should also have the support of two-thirds of voters,” said Asm. Chris Ward, ACA 13’s author. “What’s fair is fair.”

For more information about ACA 13 or the CBRT initiative, please contact Legislative Affairs Lobbyist Ben Triffo