Advocacy News

As the State Legislature and Congress Wrap Up, What’s at Stake for Special Districts?

By Vanessa Gonzales posted 07-20-2020 09:53 PM


With just over a month left in the 2019-2020 California State Legislative Session ending on August 31, 2020 at midnight, many logistical questions about how the Legislature will operate are left unanswered. The Legislature will reconvene on July 27th to act on hundreds of pending bills, many of which impact special districts. Download CSDA’s Mid-Year Legislative Report for an in-depth look on the status of all CSDA-advocated legislation for 2020. 


As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s legislative session for the California State Legislature has been anything but predictable. The Legislature unexpectedly shut down for over a month starting in March, just as bills were beginning to be heard in committees. Hundreds of bills were shelved for the year and the Legislature scrambled to plan for the remainder of the year, pass a budget, and create new hearing protocols and procedures to operate in a new paradigm, leaving much of the necessary actions to keep the State’s operations functioning to Governor Gavin Newsom and his executive orders. Now, as COVID-19 infection rates spike across the state and the nation we again find the Legislature scrambling to determine how to finish out the final six weeks of the Legislative Session. The Legislature was scheduled to return from their brief summer recess on July 13. However, after numerous capitol staff members and two legislators were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 their return was delayed until July 27th. The Senate and Assembly are said to be working on ways to reduce the number of bills they will hear and the number of hearings they will have. As reported in the Sacramento Bee, the Assembly is planning to allow each policy committee just one hearing and the Senate will be holding hearings six days-a-week in order to meet constitutional deadlines in the shortened timeframe. As of the time of this article’s drafting, bill hearing schedules have yet to be released and the universe of bills to receive a hearing is still unknown.


While CSDA will be focused on a number of bills before the State Legislature in the closing weeks of the two-year session, including SB 1383 (Jackson) related to expanding leave allowances for employees of employers with five or more employees, and SB 1159 (Hill, Daly) related to COVID-19 workers’ compensation presumptions, much of CSDA’s efforts will be focused on federal legislation. CSDA worked closely with Congressman John Garamendi to introduce H.R. 7073, the Special Districts Provide Essential Services Act, that, if passed, would provide federal dollars to mitigate the impacts of special districts’ COVID-19 expenditures and financial losses as well as define “special district” in federal law.  Additionally, CSDA has been working with its national partners and a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators to develop a companion bill allowing special districts to push for funding in both houses of congress. CSDA anticipates the Senate bill to be introduced as soon as this week.


Thank you to all of the districts that have already supported CSDA’s efforts to access critical funding by calling their legislators and submitting letters of support for the House legislation. If your district hasn’t yet taken the time to submit a letter, there is still time to do so. A sample letter, along with background information such as fact sheets, talking points, and summaries can be found HERE on CSDA’s Take Action webpage. In addition to submitting a letter of support, it is vitally important that you complete a short, 12-question survey updating CSDA on how COVID-19 has impacted your district. The survey information has been directly requested by congressmembers to inform their position on the federal legislation and it is critical that we can provide them the most up-to-date and accurate information possible.


Thank you for all your efforts and support, CSDA’s legislative success is made possible by the efforts of our membership. CSDA will continue to work diligently on behalf of all special districts throughout the last remaining weeks of the legislative year, which comes to a close on August 31.