California Election Results: More Bike-Friendly Legislators and Local Transportation Taxes; Special Session Update

by / November 17, 2016

Locally around California, the news was almost uniformly good. Next year’s Legislature will look a little different and will probably be more amenable to our proposals, especially the transportation funding package in negotiations at this time. Thirteen of our sixteen endorsed candidates won election, including some key races that may tip the balance in the state transportation debate. Congratulations to Nancy Skinner (SD 9), Henry Stern (SD 27), Steven Bradford (SD 35), Toni Atkins (SD 39), Monique Limon (AD 37), Laura Friedman (AD 43), Eloise Gomez Reyes (AD 47), Sharon Quirk Silva (AD 65), Al Muratsuchi (AD 66), Todd Gloria (AD 78), Richard Bloom (AD 50), Phil Ting (AD 19), and David Chiu (AD 17).

Al Muratsuchi and Sharon Quirk Silva won rematches of previous races, winning two of the three seats the Democrats took from Republicans in the Assembly, to win a supermajority of 55 of the 80 seats. Eloise Gomez Reyes won an important race against a fellow Democrat who was not going to be nearly as bike-friendly.

In the Senate, Henry Stern (D) defeated Steve Fazio (R) to replace Senator Fran Pavley. Stern is an ardent environmentalist and active transportation advocate. Josh Newman (D) defeated Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) in a very close race to clinch a supermajority for the Democrats in the Senate, with 27 of 40 seats.

Several local measures and ballots that proposed local sales taxes for transportation passed with significant support, garnering in millions of dollars for years to come. Big victories for Los Angeles County on Measure M, winning and astounding $97.5 million/year for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

Not all local measures proposed and supported by our local partners were passed, and the  disappointments included Contra Costa County’s Measure X which would have provided 6.6% of its ½ percent sales tax, or $6 million/year, for bike/pedestrian projects, Ventura County’s measure which would have provided $3.3 million/year, and Sacramento County’s Measure B. 

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story reported the Democrats winning 26 of 40 Senate seats, a simple majority, instead of 27, a supermajority. 

Legislative Special Session on Transportation Funding

By far, the biggest decision pending in the California legislature is a potential package of taxes to generate revenue for transportation infrastructure. Normally adjourned in the fall, this year the Legislature is still meeting in an “Extraordinary Session” to debate the draft proposal—a massive $7.4 billion plan that provides a measly 1% for biking and walking, and provides no guarantee that the roads rebuilt with the funds will comply with the Complete Streets requirement to consider biking and walking or be directed to the communities that need them the most. A road-builder’s dream, the draft proposal will not help lift Californians out of poverty, nor will it will address historical inequities; it will mean an increase in greenhouse gas emissions rather than the decrease we all need, and that California has identified as a goal.

Over the last year and a half CalBike has been tracking and providing you regular updates on the Legislative Special Session on Transportation Funding.  The Special Session has been a venue for the Legislature to propose a suite of options for raising billions of dollars in new transportation revenue, including raising gas tax, diesel tax, vehicle registration fees, and others.

Unfortunately, the conversation between the legislators leading this effort and the lobbyists pushing it forward has been only about fixing roads. CalBike and our coalition knows that we can no longer just focus transportation investment on roads. We need to invest in a transportation system to move people, and reinvesting only to maintain an overbuilt and inefficient road system won’t do that. We need to prioritize people that can’t afford to drive, people that are most at risk on our roads, people of all ages and abilities that rely on walking, bicycling, and transit to get around.

In an attempt to shift the conversation, CalBike along with nearly 50 other diverse organizations from around the state submitted a letter to the Legislature last week in opposition to the current proposal. Our opposition letter calls for a number of key reforms including changes to how transportation funding is prioritized and how funding decisions are made, in order to ensure that future investment makes our transportation system safer, more equitable, and more affordable for the people with the greatest needs first. CalBike’s Policy Team and partners have been circulating the letter in the Capitol over the last week and working with our champions to push for our priorities to be included in the next iteration of the funding proposal.

CalBike is in a strong position to influence the current debate about transportation funding, assuming we prevail in pushing for major revisions to the current draft budget. We can win commitments from key swing votes in both parties to support our bike agenda as part of their support for the whole package.

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  • Jeanie Ward-Waller

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