SACRAMENTO – California Democrats adopted resolutions on Sunday affirming many of their biggest political goals, including changing California’s landmark property tax limitation law, Proposition 13, supporting more gun control legislation and imposing a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for oil.
Delegates to the party’s annual convention also urged President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada and affirmed their support for California’s environmental quality law, known as CEQA. Gov. Jerry Brown, a fellow Democrat, and the state’s legislative leaders have said they want to make changes to the four decade-old law this year.
The Democratic resolution on CEQA said “there have been recent attacks on the integrity of this law that would compromise, dilute and diminish its effectiveness.”
Critics say the law intended to protect habitat and reduce air pollution is being used well beyond its intended purpose and instead is employed by unions, activist groups and even rival developers to delay or stop projects they don’t like, often at great legal expense to developers. The law has been amended virtually every year since it was signed in 1970.
Brown has called reforming CEQA “the Lord’s work.” He is on a trade mission in China and did not attend the convention or record a message to the more than 2,000 delegates who met to plan the party’s agenda for the coming year.
On the landmark tax limitation law, Proposition 13, Democrats approved a resolution saying the still popular 1978 voter-adopted law is unfair because it “allows commercial property owners to avoid paying their fair share and has shifted the tax burden to residential property and away from business.”
Democratic activists want to change the property tax law, which limits property taxes based on the value of a property to the rate in place at the time of purchase, to allow regular re-evaluations of the value for business properties. The resolution called for maintaining the current exemption for homeowners.
“Proposition 13 has forced the state to rely on more volatile revenue sources than the property tax, like income taxes and sales taxes paid by working families that move in tandem with economic cycles, causing deficits and requiring cuts to vital services that grow our economy and thereby worsening economic downturns,” the resolution said.
But polls show voter support for Proposition 13 remains strong, and Democratic legislative leaders have said they do not intend to pursue major tax changes in 2013. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said last week that he does not support making any changes to Proposition 13 this year, and would prefer to concentrate on reforming CEQA, gun control, higher education and other issues.
The party faithful on Sunday also affirmed their support for immigration reform and overturning California’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, which is before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The delegates also approved motions condemning “Republican efforts to promote and pass voter ID laws,” supporting the U.S. Postal Service and a measure backed by teachers’ unions denouncing the efforts of so-called school reform groups such as the one founded by former Washington, D.C., schools superintendent Michelle Rhee that would diminish the power of teachers’ unions.
By JULIET WILLIAMS