In an exclusive interview on SCVTV’s “Newsmaker of the Week” show, Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger criticized a proposal that’s working its way through the Legislature to expand the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.
“I’ve got two issues,” Barger said on the program. “I really do resent, as a voter in L.A. County, beyond being a supervisor, (state politicians) circumventing the will of the L.A. County voters to go on a statewide election. To me, that’s chicken. No. 2, it is not organic. This is not coming from the ground up. This is coming from the state.”
Senate Constitutional Amendment 12 was introduced in April by California Senator Tony Mendoza, D-Los Angeles, with Senator Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, as a principal co-author, along with eight more senators as co-authors. SCA-12 would amend the state constitution’s rules on county governance – and apply only to Los Angeles County – with all state voters having a say.
The proposed amendment would expand the board from five to seven supervisors, add an elected CEO (equivalent to an elected mayor), and establish a formula to add more supervisorial districts as the population grows.
The amendment would also set a supervisor’s term limit to three 4-year terms, which is currently the case in L.A. County, and allow supervisors to overturn the elected CEO’s hiring decisions with a two-thirds supermajority.
If passed, SCA-12 would go into effect in 2022 and establish the number of supervisors based on data from the 2020 census. The resulting county government would resemble the L.A. city government’s mayoral system where the elected CEO oversees all departments.
Barger, whose Fifth District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, noted that similar attempts to alter L.A. County’s supervisor-based governance have failed, and questioned the motives of such a move being attempted on the state level.
“It’s not going to be voted on by the people of L.A. County in part I believe because (county charter amendments have) come before the voters in L.A. County seven times and failed,” Barger said. “So (Sen. Mendoza has) decided he’s going to circumvent the individuals of L.A. County and go to the state of California. He’s going to let the people up in northern California dictate to this county what we’re going to do.”
Barger also took issue with the timing of the proposed amendment, since Sen. Mendoza’s term expires at the end of the current session.
“I’m always questioning especially elected officials that are termed out that want to expand a different form of government truly as the timing in when they’re about to be termed out of office,” she said. “That is not the right reason to do it. I think it’s wrong.”
In a separate off-the-air exchange with “Newsmaker” host Leon Worden, Wilk explained why he backs SCA-12: “L.A. County (has) the same population as Michigan. L.A. County gives just five people executive-legislative power. Michigan has a governor, constitutional officers, 140 legislators and 689 county supervisors. My preference would be to split the county into three, but the laws are written to make it virtually impossible.”
SCA-12 has limited support and formidable opposition. Supporters include the Chinese American Citizens Alliance-Greater San Gabriel Valley Lodge; George Runner, State Board of Equalization, 1st District; the Latino Public Defenders’ Association; the Los Angeles County Chicano Employees Association; and Los Angeles County Hispanic Managers Association.
Opposing SCA-12 are the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs; the California Professional Firefighters; the California State Association of Counties’; the California State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; the Coalition of County Unions, County of Los Angeles; the County Administrative Officers Association of California; the County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California; the County of Los Angeles; the County of Orange; the County of Riverside; the County of Sacramento; the County of San Diego; the International City/County Management Association; the Los Angeles & Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council; the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; Los Angeles County Deputy Probation Officers, AFSCME, Local 685; the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO; Service Employees International Union; Sheila Kuehl, Supervisor, County of Los Angeles; and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association.
SCA-12 cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee 5-2 on Sept. 1. To pass, it would need a two-thirds supermajority in the California Senate as well as the state Assembly before going to the voters of California.
“I think Sen. Mendoza is going to try to bring it up (this) week,” Wilk said. “My expectation is that it doesn’t pass. There’s only a handful of Republicans that are going to support (it). So that issue will probably no longer be germane.”