A judge earlier this week rejected yet another effort by a group of California cities (via restraining order) to cling to the millions they used to receive from the state's corrupt redevelopment agency program and keep from returning it to the state's corrupt education system in order to help close the state's budget deficit.
But while cities publicly rend their garments and wail about the destruction of their favorite slush funds, the state's legislature is quietly trying to recreate the system with changes to its existing infrastructure financing district (IFD) program.
We first wrote about these little-known programs in May as Democratic San Diego Assemblyman Ben Hueso proposed expanding them to allow cities to issue bonds to fund renewable energy projects. His bill got final approval by the Assembly yesterday and now sits in the State Senate. There it joins legislation by Speaker of the Assembly John Perez (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) that would drastically increase the types of projects IFDs can fund, making it more closely mimic the defunct redevelopment agencies (even changing the name of them to Infrastructure and Revitalization Financing Districts):
The bill would expand the projects that a district may fund to include watershed land used for the collection and treatment of water for urban uses, flood management, levees, bypasses, open space, habitat restoration, brownfields restoration, environmental mitigation, purchase of land and property for development purposes, including commercial property, hazardous cleanup, former military bases, and specified transportation purposes.
Emphasis added as a reminder of RDA's frequent eminent domain abuses to direct land to private developers for pet projects.
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) voted against both bills in a near-perfect party line split (those Republicans who didn't vote against them didn't vote at all). He said in a phone interview Thursday that while he had supported the idea of RDAs as job creators when Gov. Jerry Brown was pushing to end them, he now feels as though the government shouldn't be involved in picking winners and losers in the private sector.
"[When] an industry requires a subsidy, it becomes a government program, not an industry," he said. "The entire green agenda is one that doesn't make any sense. … I just think 50 years from now we will look back that this fixation on the green dream will be one of the most misguided, costly and destructive efforts ever to have occurred in the state of California and it will be difficult to undo the mistake."
These bills are also getting very little media attention, not even showing up in The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert blog, typically a good source for keeping track of the latest legislative votes. It may be because IFDs are a lot more restrictive than RDAs. They redirect taxes that would go to other districts just like RDAs do, but school districts are immune from the takings. IFDs also require a 2/3 public approval to be created and another 2/3 public approval to actually issue bonds. In addition, the affected special districts also need to agree to the takings. It's currently tough to force an IFD on a community that doesn't want it.
But of course, restrictions can be loosened. AB 2144 would reduce the public approval requirements to 55 percent. AB 2551 would completely eliminate the need for a public vote to create an IFD for energy projects, but would still require the vote to issue bonds. With nobody paying much attention to what's going on with IFDs as everybody screams over the ending of the redevelopment agencies, many of the restrictions could quietly be removed.
Donnelly, however, predicts Brown will veto the bills if they make it through the State Senate. A spokesman for Brown's office said Friday the governor does not normally discuss pending legislation.