CA Senate Approves Bill to Bring Back Redevelopment

affordable housingCalifornia has moved one step closer to the return of redevelopment and the controversial power to seize private property through eminent domain.

The state Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would give local governments the power to create new entities, known as community revitalization authorities, to stimulate economically-depressed or crime-ridden areas. Assembly Bill 2 would grant these new government agencies broad powers to issue bonds for the purpose of investing tax funds in infrastructure, affordable housing and economic revitalization projects.

“Redevelopment was a multi-purpose tool that focused over $6 billion per year toward repairing and redeveloping urban cores, and building affordable housing, especially in those areas most economically and physically disadvantaged,” argues the bill’s author, Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, according to a legislative analysis. “Since the dissolution of redevelopment agencies, communities across California are seeking an economic development tool to use.”

However, property rights advocates warn that the bill’s language contains no restrictions on eminent domain and could resurrect the abuses made possible by the Supreme Court’s controversial Kelo decision.

“Today, the state Senate passed a land grab bill that will make it easier for government to seize homes, businesses and places of worship by eminent domain!” the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights, an opponent of the bill, posted on itsFacebook page.

4 GOP Senators Join Democrats to Pass AB2

Republican Senator Anthony Cannella of Ceres, who introduced the bill on the Senate floor, argued that AB2 will provide economic stimulus to disadvantaged communities.

“This will grow jobs, reduce crime, repair deteriorating and inadequate infrastructure, clean up brownfields and promote affordable housing,” he said.

With Cannella’s support, the bill passed on a 29-10 vote — with the support of all but one Democrat and four Republicans, including Sen. Tom Berryhill of Twain Harte, Sen. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar and Sen. Sharon Runner of Antelope Valley.

Under the bill, a Community Revitalization Investment Authority could be created by a city, county or special district if certain conditions are met. The first requirement is that the area have an annual median household income that is less than 80 percent of the statewide median. Additionally, three of the following four conditions must be met:

  • Unemployment that is at least 3 percent higher than the statewide median unemployment rate;
  • A crime rate that is 5 percent higher than the statewide median crime rate;
  • Deteriorated or inadequate infrastructure such as streets, sidewalks, water supply, sewer treatment or processing, and parks;
  • Deteriorated commercial or residential structures.

Private Property Rights Threatened

Only one senator, Republican Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, spoke in opposition to the bill.

“This is the resurrection of the redevelopment agencies – the failed redevelopment agencies,” he said. “They absolutely exploited and will continue to exploit – under the provisions of this bill – the seizure of private property under eminent domain.”

Eminent domain is mentioned in the bill 21 times. The Legislative Counsel’s bill digest explicitly states, “The bill would authorize an authority to acquire interests in real property and exercise the power of eminent domain.”

Although the bill subjects private property to eminent domain, government agencies would receive a special carve-out from the practice.

“Property already devoted to a public use may be acquired by the agency through eminent domain, but property of a public body shall not be acquired without its consent,” the bill states.

Sen. Bob Huff: “We led the charge to save redevelopment”

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. New London that government agencies have the power to seize property for economic development. The decision was widely criticized across the political spectrum and inspired states to pass tougher laws limiting governments’ eminent domain powers. Here in California, the momentum for property rights reached its zenith in 2011, when Gov. Jerry Brown pushed through a plan to end redevelopment as part of his plan to balance the state budget.

Huff, who until recently served as Senate GOP leader, downplayed the “scare stories” of eminent domain abuse by private property advocates and reminded his colleagues of his past work with Sen. Rod Wright to save redevelopment agencies.

“We led the charge to protect redevelopment because it was one of the few economic developments that cities had,” Huff said on the Senate floor in support of AB2. “It was also one of the few ways to generate revenue for our affordable housing.”

With the Senate’s approval, the bill returns to the state Assembly for concurrence, where it is expected to pass with widespread support.

In May, AB2 passed by a 63-13 vote – without a single member – Republican or Democrat – voicing opposition. A dozen Assembly Republican lawmakers, including Assembly GOP leader Kristin Olsen, joined the Democratic majority in backing the bill.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

A Few Good Fits for Desperately Hungry Republicans

PHOTO BY RBERTEIG

The wave that swept Republicans back into power in blue states such as Colorado, Maryland, Maine, and Massachusetts didn’t quite reach California, the state that once produced Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. In fact, every Republican candidate for statewide constitutional office lost. Governor Jerry Brown creamed his Republican opponent—and Brown didn’t even run a campaign. Democrats maintained strong majorities in both legislative houses. So why are California GOP officials so giddy about how the election played out?

Two reasons come to mind. First, Republicans won three critical state senate races and stopped the Democrats from holding a supermajority in that body. Election night results looked good for Republican prospects in the state assembly, too, though the final counts in two races will determine whether the GOP prevents a Democratic supermajority in the lower house. Democrats need at least two-thirds of those seats to meet the state constitution’s threshold for passing tax increases. Republicans, as a rule, oppose every new tax increase in a state that already has the nation’s highest individual income-tax rate.

Second, while it still has no idea how to win a statewide election, the California GOP has figured out how to win in targeted districts—even in some that lean Democratic. In the last legislative session, Democrats lost their supermajority in the state senate after scandal drove three legislators from office. One was convicted of voter fraud and perjury, and two others face federal corruption charges. But Republicans chose not to focus on Democratic foibles. Instead, under the leadership of former state senator Jim Brulte, the party put its resources into a handful of winnable races.

Sacramento-based GOP political consultant Jeff Randle said that the Republicans “had to show incremental progress [Tuesday] night and we did that by winning with really good candidates.” Randle, who helps recruit viable candidates through the Trailblazers program, credited the party’s successes to its newfound emphasis on “finding candidates that match their districts.” The best example may be Senator Andy Vidak, a Spanish-speaking cherry farmer from the San Joaquin Valley. Though Democrats enjoy a 20-point voter-registration edge in Vidak’s heavily Latino district, voters in the politically moderate farm region tend to favor independence. Vidak, a cowboy hat-wearing conservative populist, beat his Democratic rival, Fresno school board trustee Luis Chavez, by 10 points.

Republicans also held a senate seat that many pollsters and professional political operatives predicted they would lose. Anthony Cannella, the former mayor of the San Joaquin Valley city of Ceres and son of former Democratic state assemblyman Sal Cannella, prevailed in part by drawing union support away from his Democratic challenger, Shawn Bagley. And Republicans scored a key win in ethnically diverse and politically competitive central Orange County, where county supervisor Janet Nguyen won a state senate seat in a race in which Republicans effectively tapped Asian support. Asians now represent 12 percent of California voters, and they turn out in higher percentages than many other ethnic groups. So Nguyen was another GOP candidate who matched well with her district.

In the assembly, the Republicans did well in all but one of their targeted races. In the eastern Bay Area, the socially moderate Catherine Baker took a hard line on public-employee unions, strongly opposing the 2013 Bay Area Rapid Transit strike in a district that spans Orinda and Walnut Creek east of the Berkeley Hills to the Tri-Valley—in other words, a district full of voting commuters hard hit by two four-day work stoppages in July and October of last year. Pending a final count of absentee and provisional ballots, Baker leads Democrat and union activist Tim Sbranti in the contest for an open assembly seat. Retired police officer Tom Lackey unseated the Democratic incumbent in the Palmdale area, and Korean-American Young Kim, a former staffer for veteran Republican congressman Ed Royce, ousted incumbent assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, 56 percent to 44 percent, in northern Orange County.

One could argue, however, that the Democrats should never have held some of these seats in the first place. “It’s true Republicans did well, but that’s only because Democrats overreached so far,” said Grant Gillham, a political consultant and former Republican staffer. “You’re living in an alley, eating out of garbage cans and you find half of a Big Mac and you think you’ve hit the jackpot. That’s the situation with Republicans now,” he said, jokingly. He’s got a point, but half a Big Mac is looking pretty good to a desperately hungry party.

This piece was originally published on by City Journal.

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