Political reform in Elk Grove? City Council to discuss campaign financing, term limits; loopholes to cash donation limits?

At their regular meeting tomorrow night, the Elk Grove City Council will formally discuss limiting the length of time the mayor and council members can serve as well as limiting how much campaign money can be raised by candidates and incumbents in pursuit of one of those seats.

The two discussions will be handled as separate agenda items with city clerk Jason Lindgren delivering the report on term limits and city attorney Jonathan Hobbs addressing campaign financing. 

The term limit discussion is uncomplicated, according to Lindgren's report. The council can decide whether or not to place the item on this November's ballot by May 27.

If the city council pursues a term limit ballot measure, it will have to decide the number of terms or years a council member and the mayor can serve. Since the mayor is a two-year term and councilmembers are four-year terms, should the council consider differing terms but equal lengths of time for each office such as two terms for councilmembers and four for the mayor, it would have to place separate measures on the ballot. 

Although not mentioned in Lindgren's report, Mayor Steve Ly's support of making the mayor's position full-time could complicate the discussion. Ly's colleagues on the city council have resisted this, and other suggestions by Ly and councilmembers Steve Detrick, Pat Hume, and Stephanie Nguyen supported councilmember Darren's Suen's unsuccessful challenge to Ly in the 2018 mayoral contest.

Hobbs' presentation on campaign finance changes will be more detailed, given state and federal laws and judicial rulings. Of significance, Hobbs notes the new campaign legislation enacted by Assembly Bill 571 and signed into law by Gov. Newsom.

That legislation, which will be effective in 2021, limits individual contribution elected officials can receive to $4,700 per election. Elk Grove, unlike other Sacramento County municipalities, has no limits and donors such as vendors for the city of Elk Grove, labor unions, real estate developers, and other individuals and businesses with interests before the city have regularly contributed five-figure cash donations primarily to incumbents. 

In his report to the city council, Hobbs highlighted a loophole in the law (Gov. Code §§ 85301(d); 85702.5.) that could be exploited to evade the limits of AB 571. Hobb reported the legislation conceptually could allow a city to adopt an ordinance exempting themselves from limits if it is approved before the law goes into effect.

Hobbs wrote that guidance from California's Fair Political Practices Commission suggests that a "city could also pass an ordinance or a resolution expressly declaring that there is no limit. This conclusion seems to come from the use of the word 'different' in the statute, when referring to the powers retained by cities in passing local campaign contribution limitations."

Specifically, that section of the law says "A county or city may, by ordinance or resolution, impose a limit on contributions to a candidate for elective county or city office that is different from the limit set forth in subdivision (d) of Section 85301. The limitation may also be imposed by means of a county or city initiative measure."

The report also notes if the city takes no action to adopt lower or higher contribution limits, it will be mandated to follow the new requirements that become effective January 1, 2021.  

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2020. All right reserved.


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Spoons and Forks said...

Oh, I just love how Steve Detrick is trying to look magnanimous now that he has worn out his welcome, especially with the advent of by-district elections.

If he was so concerned with term-limits, why has he waited so long? This Trump-loving Republican is showing nothing but sour grapes. He knows either Maureen Craft or Lynn Wheat will win and would have beat him, and once he finishes his third term, he wants to limit them or whoever wins the seat to two terms. That way, he can always say he was the longest-serving council member for district 3. What a shallow and easy to read man.

Like Trump, Detrick is only concerned with how he looks and to hell with the rest of you. Why else does he always reference is a cue-ball haircut? Steve Detrick has and will always be nothing more than an empty suit.

Randy Bekker said...

Spoons an Forks a little TDS? There is medication for that.... lol
I am buying lots of Kleenex an buckets to catch the tears an melting snowflakes. I think our city has come to a time to have term limits. Since are city is moving to be over 200,000 around 2024/2026 having a cap on serving on the council gives our city a balanced future. We have slowly moved away from the town of Elk Grove as most those residents are in their late 50’s or early 60’s as I am. A cap on years of service will help in future elections to ensure someone doesn’t stay to long an it will also give more opportunity for the council to be more diverse to mirror our population. I would also like to see 2 more Districts added to give better city district representation which would also make the council more diverse.
As far as campaign finance reform. What the state of California is proposed to do by caping donations is fine. If you want to make it lower it will only create problems as it will only draw more PAC money or create the reasons PAC money is used. Since SCOTUS has ruled on PAC money it only gives contributors a place to hide their donations an their names. Keeping it the way it is everyone has to disclose the person/ persons an the amount they receive.
Lastly I am not in favor of any Mayor being full time paid. In fact I think our Mayor is more beholding to his political buddies than representing our city. Our city being diverse it also has a larger population of moderate Democrats an Republicans. Our Mayor is more aligned with the Progressive Democrats which would give them more of a voice being the political minority if Ly was a full time Mayor.

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

With Mr. Detrick's recent maneuver to undercut Mayor Ly, it is not unreasonable to view this request by the District 3 representative through that lens.

Given the Mayor has no allies on the city council, this is one possible scenario. The four city council members will argue that both the mayor and city council members should be limited to three terms and will ask to put it on the ballot.

Now, if this happens and the voters pass such a measure, Mr. Ly would be forced out of office by 2022 because the mayor has a two-year term, and that would be the end of his third term. Mr. Detrick and Mr. Hume are both short-timers, so it will not affect them, and depending on the wording, Ms. Nguyen and Mr. Suen could have one or maybe two terms available to them.

Far out scheme, you say? Admittedly a lot would need to happen for this to play out this way. As we have seen, though, this scenario or others like it could effectively remove Mr. Ly from office. Mr. Suen and Mr. Spease before him were unable to defeat Mr. Ly, who has shown political resiliency, so the next best solution to their Ly problem is to legislate him out of existence just as Ms. Scherman was in 2012 during the redistricting from four to five districts.

The vitriol the four council members have for the mayor is such they are willing to hatch this or any other schemes via term limits for their political purposes. And here is the crucial point, especially for Mr. Suen's stated future political ambition to become a California Assemblymember, removing Mr. Ly from office by any means necessary is the key.

White Hat said...

Spoons and Forks, are you still crying about your boy Andre Ramos losing to Pat? Or are you worried that your gal Lynn Wheat doesn't have a chance against Kevin Spease. I really doubt Maureen has a chance either.

It is time for term limits, and it time for the do nothing mayor to go, after all, what exactly has he done for Elk Grove? Let me answer that for you, NOTHING! We've had four years of him, that's enough!

Sounds like you're a little jealous of Detrick, and as someone else said, sounds like a serious case of TDS. You better get used to Trump, you're going to have four more years of him. I'm sure we can round up a few coloring books for you.

Eye on Elk Grove said...

Spoons and Forks: I stand with you. And to those above who accused you of TDS, their guy just said today if you get COVD=19 that a disinfectant may be the cure.

So how many MAGA supporters, who live and die on his every word, will take the President's advice. Much like: "Drink a cup of Clorox, turn on a UV light inside yourself, and call me in the morning!"

Atticus Finch said...

YES on term limits. Both the mayor and council members should have the same term limits of no more than three (four) year terms. 12 years is plenty sufficient to enact policies that make a difference, for better or for worse. There is efficacy only if this is implemented in conjunction with campaign contribution limits, which Elk Grove has none of course. I expect the council, in all its wisdom, to pass an ordinance or resolution that will supersede AB 571. Just watch. They won't stand for such a low limit. Limiting campaign contributions by large donors, lobbyists, and big business groups is long, long overdue. The only question left to ask is, how much of a limit will the council set?

"AB 571 will fix a big loophole in our campaign finance laws that allow wealthy special interests to give six-figure campaign contributions to city council members," said Rey Lopez-Calderon, Executive Director of California Common Cause. "Contribution limits force candidates to reach out to more of their neighbors to fund their campaigns, which promotes more representative and accountable officeholders. Candidates for local office should not be funded by just a few mega-contributions from the mega-wealthy."

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