New California Bill Would Impose Limits on School Board Campaign Donations

New California Bill Would Impose Limits on School Board Campaign Donations
The California State Capitol building in Sacramento on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Micaela Ricaforte

A California legislator introduced a bill this month that would limit campaign contributions to school and community college board candidates as well as to those for special district offices such as water or electric authority boards.

Senate Bill 328, introduced by state Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), would cap individual contributions at $5,500 for a person, business, or committee—equal to the limits set for state, city, and county offices.

Local governments may adjust the limits under the bill, but the default would no longer be unlimited as it is currently.

Dodd said the bill aims to ensure fairness in local elections related to such boards and encourage more grassroots candidates and minority candidates to run.

“Too often, we’re seeing eye-popping amounts donated to candidates for smaller community offices,” Dodd said in a Feb. 8 statement. “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.”

Dodd also said the bill aims to ensure accountability and transparency in such local elections, which, he said, “often receive little media coverage and even less scrutiny of campaign donations.”

U.S. Rep. Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco)—who introduced a similar bill limiting donations for city and county offices when he served as a state assemblymember in 2019—praised Dodd’s bill.

“This is a good governance measure that will help maintain the public trust in our local elections,” Mullin said in a Feb. 8 statement. “I appreciate [Dodd] carrying on that legacy and I’m proud to support this important reform.”

Gloria Romero, an education reformer and previous state senator, told The Epoch Times Dodd’s bill was a “step in the right direction.”

However, Romero pointed out, the bill would not place limits on independent expenditures, which are campaign communications advocating independently for or against candidates.

In local school board elections, special interest groups—such as teachers’ unions and lobbyists—often form independent expenditures to fund advertising, for example, in large amounts for candidates that would advance their interests.

“The bill is a positive step toward accountability, transparency, and more opportunities for other candidates,” Romero said. “But it really doesn’t solve the problem of special interest groups increasingly trying to control local school board elections ... special interest groups are still in the campaign arena.”

The bill is expected to be heard in committee in March, according to Dodd’s office.

Dodd was not immediately available for comment.

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