Gov. Brown signs Wieckowski bill to make it easier to dissolve non-performing special districts

September 27, 2017

Sacramento – Today Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 448, a bill by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) that will increase transparency on special districts and make it easier to eliminate districts that are no longer performing the services for which they were established.

Special districts often serve narrow and technical purposes, which helps to render them largely opaque and often unaccountable.  SB 448 will improve oversight of California’s special districts.

“While many of these districts perform important services for our communities, it turns out some of them are not so special,” said Wieckowski, a member of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.  “Twenty-nine districts have not reported revenues to the state Controller’s Office since 2003 yet they still exist.  SB 448 creates a streamlined process for Local Agency Formation Commissions (LAFCOs) to dissolve districts whose audits show they are no longer performing.”

Apart from self-reported audits and a municipal review from a LAFCO every five years, there is little oversight of these districts. Their services vary from fire protection and highway lighting to pest abatement and water service.  California has no single, comprehensive list of how many special districts exist.

SB 448 requires the state Controller’s Office to create a comprehensive list of special districts by July 1, 2019 and to update it annually.  Inactive districts will be dissolved by their local LAFCO within 90 days of notification from the Controller’s Office.

The state’s Little Hoover Commission supports SB 448 and had urged the Governor to sign the bill.

“After a year-long study on special districts, the commission found numerous barriers that make it difficult for LAFCOs to initiate dissolutions or consolidations of special districts when deemed necessary and appropriate,” said Carole D’Elia, the commission’s executive director.  “SB 448 gives LAFCOs the authority to efficiently eliminate inactive special districts and the commission is pleased that this important bill was signed today.”

Currently, LAFCOs have the authority to dissolve special districts, but costly report requirements and small budgets prevent them from eliminating even districts that no longer perform.

SB 448 was supported by the California Association of Realtors,  CALAFCO, health care districts, water agencies, and counties.

Senator Wieckowski’s 10th District, includes southern Alameda County and parts of Santa Clara County.