City council approves campaign ordinance specifying no donation limit

Danville City Council passed a local campaign finance limitation ordinance on Tuesday with a twist. The limit is not a limit.

“It’s a bit unusual to have an order that says you do nothing, but we’ll explain that to you in a minute,” City Attorney Rob Ewing said when presenting the order.

Since 2021, when California Assembly Bill 571 took effect — establishing campaign contribution limits of $4,900 for candidates in local races where local limits were not already in place — cities have defined their own boundaries based on their communities.

Danville has never had local campaign spending limits and was leaning toward preparing to align local elections with new state law, Ewing said. Then a staff member realized that there was a provision in the new state law allowing Danville to avoid the limits by passing an ordinance specifying that there would be no limits.

The absence of limits means less paperwork for candidates and less work for the city clerk. Crafting a new ordinance with actual contribution limits would also turn the city into an oversight role, instead of the Fair Political Practices Commission, which Ewing says isn’t feasible in a smaller jurisdiction. like Danville.

It also means candidates can continue to raise more money, which was not mentioned at Tuesday’s meeting. No one spoke during the public comment portion of the article.

Applicants will still need to file disclosure forms regarding the amount and source of the money with the state and city clerk. Mayor Newell Arnerich reminded everyone that there are still AB 571 rules candidates must follow, such as closing campaign accounts after an election and rules governing what to do with the remaining money.

The ordinance is scheduled for a second reading and will be formally adopted at the February 15 council meeting.

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