A Sacramento County Superior Court judge recently rejected a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a law prohibiting local elected officials from voting on matters involving the people and companies who contribute to their campaigns. FBA is the lead plaintiff in the case.

In his ruling, Judge Richard K. Sueyoshi determined the law, which went into effect in January, does not violate either the state or federal constitutions. FBA and the other plaintiffs issued the following statement in response to the ruling:

The Coalition of Business Associations and Elected Officials is disappointed by the ruling against its challenge of SB 1439’s constitutionality.

This law will effectively bar small business owners from participating in the local political process. This is an infringement upon the first amendment right to freedom of speech and to petition the government. This right has historically been protected both federally and by the California Supreme Court.

Although Senator Glazer argues that this law will end ‘pay-to-play’ corruption by special interests, the only interests affected by SB 1439 are those of businesses. SB 1439 hypocritically does not apply to labor or union special interests, as they both have been carved out an exemption in the law’s language and therefore will be allowed to donate up to $5,500 without forcing the recusal of a vote from a local elected official.

Also of note is that SB 1439 does not apply to elected officials at the state level. Senator Glazer says he was motivated to author this legislation out of concern that $250 in aggregated contributions from representatives of a company threatens the ability of locally elected leaders to make fair and independent decisions that are in the best interest of their communities. We challenge Senator Glazer and others to lead by example and abide by the campaign contribution limits detailed in SB 1439 to similarly avoid any question or suggestion of ‘pay-to-play’ related to decisions they make which may impact small business or other so-called interest groups. As Senator Glazer said at his press conference today, his advice to local elected officials is simply, ‘Just don’t take the money.’

We remain concerned about the weaponization of this law by NIMBY organizations seeking to block new housing or competing business interests looking to prevent competitor business growth. While we consider future legal options to protect the important constitutional right to freedom of speech, we call upon the FPPC to monitor and report to the public on nefarious abuse of this law.

You can read about the judge’s ruling here.

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