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130814_HA_LEGISLATORS1392.jpgAn unusual alliance of unions, Common Cause and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association lined up Tuesday behind late-blooming legislation that would crack down on use of public resources to promote ballot measures.

The legislation, Senate Bill 594, is clearly aimed at local government umbrella groups such as the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties that frequently turn to the ballot to pursue their political causes. And the chief promoters of the legislation are the unions that represent city and county employees.

While the use of taxpayer funds for political purposes is banned by law now, critics say governments have skirted the law by using non-profit subsidiary organizations to campaign for ballot measures. The legislation would impose tighter restrictions on non-profit groups' use of funds and other resources paid by taxpayers for campaigning.

However, city and county representatives complained to the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee that the bill singles them out to limit their ability to use the ballot while exempting school districts and other public agencies from the measure's new restrictions. Later, the bill's new author, Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, agreed to extend the measure's provisions to school districts, and it won committee approval on a 5-0 vote.

SB 594 originally went through the Senate with entirely different language and dealing with an entirely different subject, but last week, through a "gut and amend" maneuver, it was changed to a new purpose and Hill became its author.

"This is a very strange set of bedfellows," Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Two Peaks, said of those lined up behind the bill.

PHOTO: Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, talks with Senator Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua



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