Why AB 805 Should Be Vetoed
How should regional government work in California? Should it be a top-down mechanism of state delegation? Or a bottoms-up forum driven by local agency consensus? That is the question that is presented to the Governor in AB 805.
The provision in AB 805 that is of most concern to us is a provision that unilaterally dictates how the San Diego Association of Governments must count its Board’s votes. Currently, a motion must be approved simultaneously by both a tally vote (one agency, one vote) and a population weighted vote—kind of like having a Senate and House of Representatives in a single vote. But AB 805 makes a subtle change: it would allow the weighted (population) vote to trump the tally—like if the House of Representatives could always overrule the Senate.
The problem is state interference getting in the way of good regional consensus. Proponents have argued that since the structure of SANDAG’s board has been codified in state statute, it is a matter of state concern. But this claim fails to account for why the language was inserted in the first place. The original language largely codified the existing voting structure of the Board as part of a process that consolidated several new functions under SANDAG. The language was included with the support of SANDAG’s entire membership.
Sometimes codification like this can be used as an assurance tool to create more certainty around governance. But this is not an invitation for state interference.
Simply put, the state Legislature is not the forum to craft regional governance structures. That should be accomplished through local negotiation. We only need to look to the Bay Area for a good example. For years, one Legislator or another introduced bills to “reform” the regional relationship between the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. And finally the Legislature stopped. But the regional conversation continued. And in the Legislature’s absence, regional collaboration blossomed into a staff merger. And the conversation continues.
We are not saying that there may be some real issues that needs to be addressed by the SANDAG board. Given the support and opposition of AB 805 of different public agencies in the San Diego region, it would seem that some serious conversations and negotiations are needed. But those conversations should happen in San Diego County, not Sacramento.