Monday, 22 April 2024

Sen. Dodd proposes donation limits in school, special district elections

SACRAMENTO — Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, announced legislation on Wednesday that would place limits on the amount of money that can be donated to candidates for school boards and special district offices, ensuring fairness in local elections.

“Too often, we’re seeing eye-popping amounts donated to candidates for smaller community offices,” Sen. Dodd said. “These well-financed campaigns favor the wealthy at the exclusion of grassroots candidates and people of color. Putting a cap on the money in these races will help ensure fairness in local elections while encouraging a more diverse field that is more reflective of the population.”

California has thousands of publicly elected governing boards managing an assortment of agencies including schools, community colleges and special districts.

Elections often receive little media coverage and even less scrutiny of campaign donations, which are not limited by state law and can exceed money given to candidates for higher office.

Currently the default is to allow unlimited contributions, and only three special districts statewide have adopted voluntary limits.

In response, Sen. Dodd introduced Senate Bill 328, which sets an individual donation limit of $5,500 by a person, business or committee to a candidate for school board, community college board or special district board. The contribution limits are equal to those set for the state Legislature.

The bill would allow local governments to vote to adjust the limits, but the default would no longer be unlimited.

The bill uses the framework of then-Assemblymember Kevin Mullin’s Assembly Bill 571 that set the same limits for city and county offices in 2019.

“No candidate for local office needs contributions larger than those for a Senate or Assembly district,” added Sen. Dodd.

SB 328 was introduced Tuesday. It is expected to be heard in committee next month.

“Promoting transparency and accountability in our political campaigns and our elections has always been a top priority for me,” said U.S. Rep. Mullin, who was elected to Congress last year. “This is a good governance measure that will help maintain the public trust in our local elections. I appreciate Sen. Dodd carrying on that legacy and I’m proud to support this important reform.”

Dodd represents the Third Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Solano, Yolo, Sonoma, Contra Costa and Sacramento counties.

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