Several local governments in California have been using taxpayer funds to lobby the state legislature and agencies, even for issues seemingly unrelated to their areas.
The small city of Farmersville, with a limited South Asian population, lobbied on a caste discrimination bill, while San Mateo County focused on student meals and Rosemead lobbied on a youth tackle football bill.
Overall, local governments, water districts, and transit agencies have spent nearly $24 million on lobbying this year, constituting about 10% of the total lobbying expenditure of over $233 million.
Transparency and Influence in Lobbying
While some cities lobby to influence policies related to crime, land use, housing, and water, they also seek more funding from the state budget for various programs.
Research indicates that lobbying can result in cities receiving 7% to 9% more state funding per capita compared to those that do not lobby. However, the lobbying process lacks full transparency, with no requirements for disclosure of the reasons behind lobbying efforts or public input on the matter.
Paying for a Voice
California has one of the highest city lobbying rates in the US due to the complexity of issues handled by the state Legislature. Despite already having elected officials representing them, cities continue to lobby to communicate their needs effectively.
Some cities hire lobbying firms to track bills and amplify their voices in a super-majority state Legislature. However, there’s a debate over whether taxpayer funds should be spent on lobbying.
Lack of Transparency and Reporting Errors
The lobbying process isn’t without flaws. The reporting of lobbying efforts often lacks clarity, and some cities report lobbying on bills that don’t exist or are unrelated to their priorities. The lack of audits for lobbying reports and the absence of statewide rules on public disclosure and collecting public comments further raise concerns.
Public Input and Civic Engagement
While some cities receive limited public input on state bills, others hold public meetings and discussions to involve their communities in the lobbying process. Public engagement and transparency are considered crucial aspects of responsible lobbying, ensuring taxpayers’ voices are heard and taxpayer funds are used judiciously.
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