Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Change to Prop. 13 property tax limits back on the table

Proposition 13 proponent Paul Gann celebrates victory in 1978.
Proposition 13 proponent Paul Gann celebrates victory in 1978. The Sacramento Bee file

Amending the property tax limits of California’s watershed Proposition 13 is a perennial topic at the Capitol – but it’s rare you hear the conversation initiated by a Republican.

Addressing criticism that businesses are able to avoid reassessment of their commercial properties by creatively structuring changes in ownership, state Sen. Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, is pursuing a bill this session she says would close that loophole. The measure would trigger review when more than 90 percent of ownership interests are sold or transferred to related parties over the course of three years. Senate Bill 259 will be heard in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, 9:30 a.m. in Room 112.

The proposal is similar to a 2014 compromise between the liberal groups that want a more comprehensive overhaul of Proposition 13 and the business interests that are its staunchest defenders. That deal fell apart when the liberal groups backed out, and they are already lining up against SB 259. (The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California Chamber of Commerce are among its supporters.)

Lenny Goldberg of the union-backed California Tax Reform Association, who has been advocating on this issue in Sacramento for decades, sent a letter of opposition to the committee last week, objecting to the 90 percent threshold, the three-year timeline and an exemption for stock transactions. Those and other elements of the bill, he argued, would simply allow for new loopholes. He told The Bee that it was a “bogus” effort by the business community to forestall an initiative that might eliminate Proposition 13’s commercial property protections without making any real fixes to the law.

BILLS, BILLS, BILLS: As the Friday deadline for holdover bills from last session to advance out of policy committee in their house of origin draws nearer, the schedule is heavy with hearings. Among the notable legislation to be considered today:

▪  Senate Bill 47, which would require schools and cities to consider alternatives to “crumb rubber” synthetic playing fields made from recycled tires, 9 a.m. in the Senate Education Committee in Room 4203. Health and environmental groups have called into question the safety of crumb rubber, which has been shown to contain known carcinogens and toxic chemicals. An earlier version of SB 47, which would have stopped subsidies for the material while California studied the health effects, stalled amid intense industry lobbying. Last fall, the state announced that it would conduct a study anyway.

▪  Assembly Bill 1494, which would allow voters to post pictures of their marked ballots online, 9 a.m. in the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee in Room 444. In 2014, New Hampshire made the practice illegal, inspiring a court battle over free speech.

▪  Senate Bill 215 and Senate Bill 512, which would make changes to the California Public Utilities Commission’s ratesetting procedure and rules on private communications, 9:30 a.m. in the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee in Room 3191. Despite unanimous legislative support, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed six bills last session that aimed to address unfolding scandals at the agency.

▪  Assembly Bill 21, which would give local governments more time to come up with land use policies for medical marijuana cultivation, 9:30 a.m. in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee in Room 112. Lawmakers finally agreed last fall on a framework to regulate medical marijuana, 19 years after it was legalized by voters.

NEW CAUCUS ON THE BLOCK: Recent fights over regulating emerging companies like Uber and Airbnb have entrenched at the Capitol another powerful interest: Silicon Valley. For lawmakers, it is, of course, an opportunity. Enter the Legislative Technology and Innovation Caucus, a new bipartisan group of 23 lawmakers committed to “strengthening California’s innovation economy.” The caucus will hold its first press conference to introduce its members and discuss its policy priorities, 9 a.m. in Room 317 of the Capitol. Could a fundraiser be far behind?

SOLAR MATES: Concerned that its customers may soon lose the ability to sell excess electricity back to the grid, the rooftop solar industry has been working to gin up public support. Its latest stunt involves race car driver Leilani Münter touring the state in an electric vehicle equipped with a rooftop projector. She’ll arrive in Sacramento this evening, where she’ll project messages about solar energy onto local landmarks like the Capitol and the Tower Bridge, starting around 6 p.m.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff