California Takes Major Step Toward Citizen-Funded Elections

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  • Kathay Feng
Gov. Brown Signs Bill for Local Choice as California Continues to Lead Nation

Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to give citizens a greater voice in California’s democracy. Senate Bill 1107, by Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, gives local governments and the state the choice to enact citizen-funded election programs. California Common Cause sponsored the bill with the California Clean Money Campaign.

“California’s leaders are hearing from voters who are fed up with playing second fiddle to wealthy special interests,” stated Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause. “SB 1107 gives Californians new options to amplify the voices of everyday voters in election campaigns.”

The bill allows local governments or the state to enact citizen-funded elections programs, which give candidates an alternative to relying on wealthy donors. Programs could offer public funding to candidates, as long as any funds are available to all qualified, voluntarily participating candidates for the same office without regard to incumbency or political party preference. Six charter cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have such programs, and Berkeley voters will consider creating a program on Nov. 8 when they vote on Measure X1. However, current state law bans counties, districts, general law cities, and the state from enacting them.

The bill passed with a bipartisan two-thirds vote in the Legislature and was endorsed by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, numerous local governments and elected officials, and more than 30 organizations, including California Common Cause, the ACLU of California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – California, CALPIRG, the California Labor Federation, the California League of Conservation Voters, the Campaign Legal Center, and the League of Women Voters of California.

“Across the country, where these programs exist, Republicans and Democrats alike have found that they take the megaphone from special interests and give it back to the people,” said Gavin Baker, Open Government Program Manager for California Common Cause. “SB 1107 will empower Californians to decide the kind of democracy they want in their cities and their state.”