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Initiative Will Qualify to Limit Voters’ Local Control and Could Wipeout Funding for Flood, Drought, Wildfire, and other Essential Services

By Vanessa Gonzales posted 01-24-2023 08:52 AM

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By February 1, an initiative sponsored by some of the world’s biggest corporations is expected to qualify for the November 2024 statewide ballot and levy the greatest threat to local control in our generation.


Initiative 21-0042A1, officially titled, “Limits the Ability of Voters and State and Local Governments to Raise Revenues for Government Services,” would impose a debilitating race-to-the bottom for communities seeking solutions to California’s flood, drought, wildfire, and other challenges.


The initiative is bankrolled by the California Business Roundtable, a collection of major corporations such as Aera Energy, Kilroy Realty, Pacific Ethanol, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Sempra Energy, State Farm Insurance, and 7-Eleven. They dub their initiative the “Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act,” However a more accurate label would be the “Sue Taxpayers, Give Corporations a Pass, and Lawyers Employment Act.”


This flawed proposal is a veritable kitchen sink of amendments to the California Constitution that benefit the corporations but hurt our communities. It seeks to make it harder for voters and those they elect to invest in flood protection, drought solutions, wildfire mitigation, roads, parks, schools, and other essential services for our communities. For example, under current law, voters in a community could place a local initiative on their ballot to fund a new park in their neighborhood, and it could pass with a simple majority vote. The corporations’ voter limitation initiative would increase that threshold to a two-thirds majority, a notoriously difficult hurdle for even for the most worthy of ideas. That is ironic since the corporations’ initiative itself only requires a simple majority to pass.


That isn’t even the worst of it, however. Under current law, water rates and other fees must be reasonably related to the cost of service. This is fair and appropriate. This corporate initiative would change this balanced approach to a scheme that restricts such fees to the “minimum amount necessary.”


It is fair to ask what’s so bad about changing fees from “reasonable” to the “minimum amount necessary?” The simple answer is that tackling the existential challenges facing our state and our communities requires innovation and long-term investments like water recycling and storage, renewable energy, flood protection, and forest management. At this critical time in California’s history, our communities cannot afford to do even less than the status quo. When we think of the kind of communities we want to leave our children and grandchildren, are we content to settle for the “minimum amount necessary?”


As a final blow, the initiative also tips the scales for lawsuits against service providers by imposing the highest burden possible in civil court on the public agencies our communities own and govern. In short the initiative invites those looking for a windfall to sue public agencies up and down the state, with the taxpayers holding the bag for all of the lawyers’ fees and payouts. Worse, the initiative is retroactive to January 1, 2022.


Effectively, Initiative 21-0042A1 would empower corporate lawyers to invalidate the prior actions of local voters throughout California, undermining local control and voter-approved decisions about investments needed in their communities. This could put billions of dollars currently dedicated to state and local services at risk, and force cuts to public schools, fire and emergency response, law enforcement, public health, parks, libraries, affordable housing, services to support homeless residents, mental healthcare, and more, all to create constitutional loopholes that allow corporations to pay less than their fair share.


Join CSDA, Cal Cities, California State Association of Counties, California Jobs Alliance, California Professional Firefighters, and more than 150 local agencies in taking an “oppose” position on the voter limitation initiative. Download a sample board resolution and learn more at