FBA is the lead plaintiff in a major court case designed to ensure that our members’ free speech rights and ability to support good government in their communities is protected.
The suit seeks to overturn SB 1439, a bill passed with little debate last year that has major implications. Under SB 1439, receiving a $251 campaign contribution would disqualify a local elected official from voting on any issue relating to whomever they received the contribution from - be it an individual or company. This would even apply to newly hired individuals that did not previously work for, or have any affiliation with, the company at the time of their individual contribution.
Making and receiving campaign contributions is an exercise of a constitutional right of free speech.
This law will also have a direct effect on many of our members’ ability to operate and expand their businesses. For example, if a business wants to expand its operations, they often seek zoning changes or conditional use permits that must be approved by the city council or the board of supervisors. Many restaurants operate under conditional use permits. And farmers and ranchers almost always require special use permits for activities such as agricultural processing facilities. These can be controversial even though the zoning permits them, so elected officials often have to make the final decision.
Accordingly, it would be risky for any family business owner to ever contribute to candidates for local office because it’s always possible that six or eight months down the road an issue will come up that would require elected officials to be involved.
It would also have a chilling effect on many family businesses that you wouldn’t think would be affected. Businesses that do engineering, accounting, legal and other work in the development sector may find themselves cut off from future work if they make contributions to local elected officials. Because their contributions, no matter how small, would be considered part of a prime contractor’s aggregated contributions, the contractor might have to bar them from future work simply because they exercised their constitutional rights.
FBA has joined with several influential business associations to seek to overturn this poorly thought-out law. You can read our joint memo to the Legislature here.