The Board of Supervisors tomorrow will vote to establish Riverside County’s foremost state and federal legislative priorities of 2018, addressing issues such as marijuana use, homelessness, regulatory reform, low-income housing and providing county residents with expanded educational opportunities.
The proposed legislative platform will be among the top items on the board’s policy agenda, in the supervisors’ first meeting of the year.
The platform lays out an advocacy agenda for the county’s state and federal lobbyists to follow over the ensuing 12 months and also helps guide and unify the board’s decision-making.
One key priority is ensuring that Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, does not collapse under the weight of excess taxation.
According to the proposed platform, as of Jan. 1, cumulative state-mandated taxes on legal marijuana cultivation and procurement stand at 25 percent. The figure does not reflect the local fees that can be applied, potentially driving the overall tax rate on legal cannabis up to 50 percent.
“Higher tax rates will push some businesses into the black market and will generate less revenue to the state and local jurisdictions,” according to the platform narrative.
County officials support the Legislature capping rates to keep legitimate businesses from losing out to underground ones, thus heightening risks to public safety.
The platform only mentions the need for a lawsuit one time, specifically concerning Assembly Bill 8 realignment funding.
According to the county, the formulas for determining how much money each county receives from the state in support of mandated social services haven’t been adjusted since 1991, despite significant population growth. The result is funding deficiencies that now total $60 million a year, officials said.
Under the proposed legislative platform, the board could vote to initiate legal claims against the state to address the deficit.
The advocacy agenda also seeks a shake-up at the executive level of the California Public Employees Retirement System. County staff decried the behemoth retirement fund’s abysmal returns over the last decade, which saw the equities market leap into record-breaking territory — while CalPERS’ returns averaged barely 4 percent annually, leaving it unable to recover from steep losses incurred during the 2008 market meltdown.
Unfunded pension liabilities now total nearly $150 billion, and the county’s share of that is close to $3 billion and growing.
Staff recommended requiring that CalPERS’ “investment decisions be performed by professional investment firms with the sole purpose of maximizing returns,” instead of leaving choices to individuals bent on a “strategy that emphasizes social or environmental goals.”
The platform underscores the importance of increasing access to public college educational opportunities, and it calls for the formation of a California State University campus somewhere within Riverside County.
As with previous platforms, the current one takes aim at the California Environmental Quality Act, backing any moves to make CEQA less of an impediment to real estate development. According to the platform, the only time potential barriers are removed from the CEQA process are when a sports franchise threatens to leave a city because a stadium can’t be built under areasonable timeline, such as happened with the Sacramento Kings basketball team in 2013.
The platform states all CEQA-related litigation should be resolved in nine months, by law.
According to the proposed platform, the federal government should institute a “housing choice voucher program” for chronically homeless people.
The program could be modeled after the U.S. Housing & Urban Development’s Section 8 voucher program for veterans, county officials said, pointing out that up to 85,000 people are living on the streets or in otherwise marginal conditions throughout the nation daily. Many end up in jail, psychiatric hospitals, detox centers and other facilities that require taxpayer support.
Housing vouchers might lessen the burdens on these public resources, according to the county.
Officials further stressed the need for preservation of HUD’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, which provides federal subsidies to developers for construction of affordable housing complexes. Credit rates should be permanently set to incentivize building, according to the platform.
The proposal backs more federal projects to improve and replace infrastructure, and additionally supports increased state funds for public safety, public health cannabis education.