This weekend California Governor Jerry Brown signed 33 bills into law and vetoed 15 bills, included among the signed bills is the controversial Assembly Bill 438. As I wrote in a September Orange County Register op-ed, AB 438 will prevent cities from making choices about what is best for their own libraries. The bill imposes a litany of regulations that will make it more difficult for cities to find ways to reduce operating expenses and keep libraries open by partnering with the private sector.
Gov. Brown’s decision to sign this bill comes as a surprise since the chorus of opposition to AB 438 grew louder over the past few weeks. Noteworthy opponents include the League of California Cities, Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean, State Senator Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), The Oakland Tribune editorial board, and others.
This decision reveals a bizarre dichotomy in Gov. Brown’s treatment of local governments. Earlier this year the governor responded to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Plata decision by signing AB 109 into law, which enables tens of thousands of inmates kept in state facilities to be transferred to county facilities. Local governments are being forced to care for inmates that Sacramento can’t handle, but in the same breath those same state lawmakers declare that local governments can’t apply a form of privatization to their own local libraries?
Thanks to AB 438, counties and cities are now more likely to close libraries than keep them open by partnering with the private sector. Instead, they will be pouring resources into caring for inmates that are incarcerated under misguided state criminal sentencing law.