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The Danville Town Council has agreed to an ordinance that limits financing for local political campaigns, but with a twist — the limit is no limit.
“It’s a little unusual to have an ordinance that says you’re not doing anything, but we’ll explain that in a minute,” said city attorney Rob Ewing while introducing the ordinance at the council’s Feb. 1 meeting.
Since 2021, when California’s Assembly Bill 571 went into effect — establishing $4,900 campaign contribution limits for candidates in local races in which local limits were not already in place — cities have been crafting their own limits to suit their communities.
“It’s a little unusual to have an ordinance that says you’re not doing anything…”Rob Ewing, Danville city attorney
Danville has never had local campaign spending limits and was leaning toward preparing to align local elections with the new state law, Ewing said. Then someone on staff realized there was a provision in the new state law allowing Danville to avoid limits by passing an ordinance specifying there would be no limits.
Having no limits means less paperwork for candidates and less work for the city clerk. Crafting a new ordinance with real contribution limits would also shift the city into an oversight role, instead of the Fair Political Practices Commission, something Ewing said is not feasible in a smaller jurisdiction like Danville.
It also means candidates can keep collecting more money, which wasn’t mentioned during the meeting. No one spoke during the public comment portion of the item.
Candidates will still have to file disclosure forms pertaining to how much and where money comes from with the state and city clerk. Mayor Newell Arnerich reminded everyone there are still AB 571 rules that candidates must follow, such as closing campaign accounts after an election and rules governing what must be done with leftover money.
The ordinance is scheduled for a second reading and will be officially adopted at the council’s Feb. 15 meeting.