Scope and Content
Related Collections at the California State Archives
Oral Histories of Committee Staff
Title: California State Assembly Local Government Committee records,
Date (inclusive): 1940-2008
Collection Numbers: See series descriptions for LP numbers.
Assembly Local Government Committee
Assembly Municipal and County Government Committee
129 cubic feet
California State Archives
Abstract: This collection contains the records of the California State Assembly Local Government Committee and its predecessor, the
Municipal and County Government Committee. They reflect the activity of the committees in overseeing legislation and other
matters affecting California's local governments, including counties, cities, local agency formation committee, water districts,
and other special districts. The records cover the years, 1940-2008, with the bulk from 1969-2008. They are comprised of bill
files, hearing files, subject files, correspondence files, legislative counsel opinions and court opinions.
While the majority of the records are open for research, any access restrictions are noted in the record series descriptions.
For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the California State Archives. Permission for reproduction or publication
is given on behalf of the California State Archives as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility
for possible infringement which may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives
[Identification of item], [Name of Committee] Records, LP[number]:[folder number], California State Archives, Office of the
Secretary of State, Sacramento, California
Acquisition and Custodial History
The State Archives received these records in accordance with California Government Code 9080(b) which requires legislative
committees to transfer their records to the State Archives when they are no longer needed by the committee.
Since the California legislature was first organized, there has been an Assembly committee concerned with the affairs of local
governments. The earliest committee, the Assembly Counties and County Boundaries, focused the boundaries and divisions of
counties and the salaries of county officials. By the 1880s, the Assembly added the Assembly County and Township Committee
and the Municipal Corporations Committee. The Counties and County Boundaries and the County and Township Government Committees
ceased operation after 1911. Apparently to replace both, the Assembly created the County Government Committee in 1913. In
the same year, a Committee on Libraries to review matters concerning local libraries was established. The Municipal Corporations
Committee, the County Government Committee and the Libraries Committee continued to operate until 1943 when the Assembly formed
the Municipal and County Government Committee in their places. It was "assigned the subject matter in the Government Code
relating to the government of cities, counties, cities and counties, districts, and other political subdivisions of the state,
uncodified laws relating there to, and other matters relating to municipal and county government" (HR438, July 11, 1968, Assembly
Journal, p. 5709).
In 1969, the committee was renamed the Assembly Local Government Committee but kept its original scope of addressing all matters
"relating to local government" (HR 414, August 4, 1969, Assembly Journal, p. 7394). They were specifically excluded from addressing
the boundaries of school districts.
As both the Municipal and County Government and later as the Local Government Committee, the committee had some distinctive
characteristics in comparison to other standing committees in the Assembly. In the opinion of its members and its staff,
the committee was seen as less important than other committees. John Knox, chair of the committee from 1963 to 1975, called
the committee the "worst in the house" for a member to be appointed. Thomas Willoughby, principal staff analyst from 1961-
1977, observed, "it wasn't that the committee was unimportant, it was just that the issues it deal with didn't have a lot
of political sex appeal" (Willoughby Oral History, p. 6; see related collections). Another unique quality was the continuity
and effectiveness of its staff. Thomas Willoughby (fifteen years) and his successor Julie Castelli Nauman (eleven years) provided
the committee with expert assistance in evaluating measures. In addition, John Knox was the first chair in the Assembly to
ask his staff to prepare bill analyses that were distributed to all members of the committee. This practice eventually spread
to all committees in the legislature (Willoughby Oral History, p. 6).
Most notably, the committee was different because the committee's scope meant that it did not have a single major state agency
with which it worked closely. Instead, its main advisors were officials in local government, as well as the professional associations
and lobbyists that represented them. Close relationships were common between committee members and staff and such groups
as the League of California Cities, the California Association of Local Agency Formation, and the County Supervisors Association
of California. Often, the committee arranged to hold hearings at the same time as annual meetings of such groups.
Though the official scope of the committee has stayed consistent since the creation of the Municipal and Country Government
Committee in 1943, certain measures and social changes have resulted in new areas of investigations. As a result of recommendations
from Governor Pat Brown's Commission on Metropolitan Area Problems, the Knox-Nisbet Act (AB1662 and SB861) was passed and
chaptered in 1963 (Thomas Willoughby to Editor, CALAFCO Newsletter, September 18, 1975, Assembly Local Government Records,
LP327:431). The broad goal of the bill was the "discouragement of urban sprawl" and "the orderly formation" of local government;
its main mechanism was the creation of Local Agency Formation Committees (known as LAFCos) in every county "to regulate the
expansion, reorganization, creation, dissolution of cities and special districts." However, because these were new local governmental
organizations with some power to regulate the actions of other local government, in the wake of their creation, committee
constantly evaluated subsequent bills seeking to clarify distinct responsibilities for each form of local government. At the
same time, the committee increasingly returned to the issues of development, growth, and sprawl that had originally inspired
the Knox-Nisbet Act. In the 1970s, this concern was at times made more difficult because of the overlap in responsibilities
between the Local Government Committee and the Assembly Planning, Land Use and Energy Committee. By the early 1980s, the Local
Government Committee had secured primary review authority over local planning issues (John T. Knox to Leo T. McCarthy, July
15, 1974, Assembly Local Government Records, LP327:430; Robert C. Frazee to Willie L. Brown, January 27, 1981, Assembly Local
Government Records, LP327:448).
The committee also played an important role in creating the guidelines for the original California Environmental Quality Act
of 1970 (AB2045). After the California Supreme Court ruled that its measures applied to private as well as public projects,
the committee helped developed provisions to apply this widen scope and to reconcile the measure with federal requirements
for similar environmental impact statements.
No political shift had more impact on the committee than the series of efforts to control property taxes in California. The
ratification by the voters of the Property Tax Initiative (Proposition 13) in 1978 resulted in new concerns for the committee.
In its wake, many measures considered by the committee focused on how local governments could finance projects under the new
fiscal constraints imposed by the measure. The following year the passage of the Gann Initiative (Proposition 4) further limited
the ability of local governments to increase their budgets through new forms of assessments. In the wake of both measures,
the Committee considered various measures to make up for these strict budget limitations. The Mello-Roos Community Facility
Act of 1982 (AB3564 and SB2001) was one such measure that allowed local governments to impose fees on developers of new subdivisions
to pay for community facilities in the areas. With fiscal constraints on local government, the issue of state mandates for
local government without adequate state funding became a constant source of discussion and legislation. Because the committee
dealt with a variety of local governments, it often found itself considering measures that resulted in face-offs between counties,
school districts, special districts, and cities, all competing for parts of limited revenues. Such debates, alongside the
perennial questions of local vs. state governmental scope, the integrity of local governments, and the need for special legislation
for specific areas, will continue to keep the Assembly Local Government Committee busy in the 21st century.
For a complete list of committee chairs, please see Appendix A in Additional Information.
Scope and Content
The Assembly Local Government Committee Records consist of 129 cubic feet of textual and audiovisual records reflecting the
activity of the committee in overseeing legislation and other matters affecting California's local governments, including
counties, cities, local agency formation committee, water districts, and other special districts. The records cover the years,
1940-2008, with the bulk from 1969-2008. They are comprised of bill files, hearing files, subject files, correspondence files,
legislative counsel opinions and court opinions. Although the Municipal and County Government Committee began in 1943, records
from the first eight years are entirely lacking in the Archives holdings and there are no bill files for the committee. It
is anticipated that the Archives will receive further records from the Assembly Local Government Committee. Researchers should
check for recently received, unprocessed records of the committee.
All of the series in the collection provide insight into the many relationships between the state of California and the many
local governments within its boundaries. Bill files cover such diverse topics as requirements for the sterilization of stray
animals (AB302), the creation of regional planning agencies, the application of the Brown Act requiring open meetings to various
local government, the appropriate jurisdiction in cases of shopping cart theft, the regulation of subdivision of land in multi-unit
residential area, and the conversion of military bases to civilian uses in the 1990s. The issue of how best to regulate growth
in California reoccurs repeatedly, often in connection with legislation about the scope of Local Agency Formation Committees.
In bill, hearing, and subject files, the appropriate application of the California Environmental Quality Act is reviewed from
its incarnation in the 1970s to the controversies in the 1990s. Researchers interested in the practical adjustments made
by the state, county, and local governments in the wake of the "tax revolt" of the 1970s and the passage of Proposition 13
in 1978 will find many perspectives.
Regular correspondents about legislation and committee matters as well as speakers at hearings included representatives from
the Association of California Water Agencies, California State Association of Counties, California Special Districts Association,
California Taxpayers Association, City Clerks Association of California, County Supervisors Association of California, Howard
Jarvis Taxpayers Association, League of California Cities, and from individual cities and counties.
For researchers interested in the workings of the California State Legislature, the correspondence and subject files provides
insight into the varied duties provided by committee members and staff, the allocation of their time, and their perception
of the role of the committee for the Assembly.
Further accruals are expected.
Related Collections at the California State Archives
Eugene Chappie Papers
Dominic L. Cortese Papers
William Craven Papers
Sam Farr Papers
Robert Frazee Papers
Mike Gotch Papers
John Knox Papers
Richard Rainey Papers
Michael Sweeney Papers
Senate Local Government Committee Records
Oral Histories of Committee Staff
Thomas H. Willoughby, oral history interview conducted by Anne Lage, 1988, Regional Oral History Office, University of California,
Berkeley for the State Government Oral History Program, California State Archives.
The following terms have been associated with these materials in the Archives' automated public access system (currently in
development, September 2003).
Knox, John T. (John Theryll), 1924-
Willoughby, Thomas H., 1935-
California. Legislature. Assembly. Local Government Committee.
Environmental law - California.
Proposition 13 (California property tax initiative), 1978.
California. California Environmental Quality Act.