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City of Roseville gets more involved in legislative process

Advocates, opposes and educates on bills of local importance
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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EDITOR'S NOTE: The city of Roseville has a vested interest in state and federal legislation as they pertain to local impacts, and recently launched a concerted effort to increase its prominence in advocating and educating on bills of critical importance.
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Law and Regulation Committee

When: 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23

Where: Civic Center, 311 Vernon St., Roseville

Info: www.roseville.ca.us

 

Earlier this year, Green Valley Hospice in Roseville was on the verge of closing its doors as the small business waited anxiously to receive its Medicare billing number and begin the process of receiving reimbursements from the federal government.

The newly opened company had waited 14 months to become an official Medicare hospice provider, and the process was still likely to take another year. But Green Valley couldn’t afford to carry all that debt for much longer.

“As a small business owner, I felt helpless and did not know where to turn,” said founder Najmeen Sherazee.

She contacted the city of Roseville, whose public affairs and communications department got right to work. Government Relations Analyst Mark Wolinski reached out to the offices of Rep. Tom McClintock and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and requested assistance from the city’s federal lobbyist.

Through these efforts, Green Valley Hospice was able to acquire its Medicare status and number on a substantially shortened timeline.

“I am very appreciative to Mark and the city of Roseville for what they did for my business to get ahead and continue to provide that quality hospice service for the community,” Sherazee said.

The Roseville City Council recently formed the public affairs and communications department, combining two areas previously under separate umbrellas. The department’s function is to develop strategies and coalitions to be more actively involved in advocating or opposing state and federal legislation of importance to the city and its residents.

“The council has continually made it a primary goal of theirs to be involved in the legislative process,” Wolinski said.

Advocating on bills

In 2012, the City Council formed the Law and Regulation Committee, which meets monthly and is the only standing subcommittee of the council, with Mayor Susan Rohan and Councilwoman Bonnie Gore acting as members.

This committee is the platform through which city departments and the council develop positions on critical legislative issues, using three parameters: The legislation must retain local control, allow for financial flexibility and not include unfunded mandates.

Public Affairs and Communications Director Megan MacPherson said combining communication with residents and public affairs made sense, as it helps the city better educate on just what’s at stake when it comes to the local impact of legislation — especially important for a full-service city such as Roseville.

“It’s a time when communication and advocacy naturally work together, instead of a pause and a question, ‘Should we work together?’” MacPherson said. “It’s become our DNA.”

City staff scans all the bills introduced at the beginning of each legislative cycle to identify which ones to advocate on or watch. They are currently tracking 550 through the process.

“It’s an integrated approach that starts within the city about what’s critical and has the potential to impact not only the city, but the community,” Wolinski said.

The city then reaches out to coalition partners, such as the Roseville Chamber of Commerce, League of California Cities and Sacramento Area Council of Governments, to carry a stronger, unified voice to the state capitol.

Roseville’s government affairs efforts aren’t only about advocating on legislation, but about serving as a resource to educate decision makers about the real-life impacts of bills, Wolinski said.

The city is now viewed as a regional leader on the issue of stormwater permits following its advocacy against a draft issue of the permit by the California State Water Resources Control Board, which is issued every five years. As initially presented, Roseville’s cost would be $2.9 million — up from $800,000 — money that comes out of the general fund.

“Generally speaking, there was a huge amount of anxiety for cities and counties across California, including Roseville,” said Government Relations Analyst Sean Bigley.

The city formed a statewide coalition of 100 cities and counties on the stormwater issue, and when the permit was finalized earlier this year, the cost for Roseville was down to $1.5 million.

“So this is a tangible benefit to the work we’re doing,” Bigley said.

In the pipeline

The city points to its role in changing language in a new policy by the Federal Housing Finance Agency as another success. Under this policy, homes with a conservancy fee on the title would no longer be eligible for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, federal programs that provide financing for potential homebuyers.

This is an issue in the West Roseville Specific Plan, where lots of houses have conservancy fees on their titles, and the city was hearing from real estate agents that just the threat of this new policy made buyers reluctant. City staff traveled to Washington, D.C., to present legislators with information on what was happening on the ground, in the marketplace. The language was eliminated.

Also on the city’s radar is the federal government’s proposal to modify or do away with the federal tax-exempt status for municipal bonds, which provide financing for the construction of public infrastructure. Bonds already sold could be impacted, meaning Roseville would owe a higher debt service on these bonds, affecting the general fund.

Another big issue in the pipeline is the Bay Delta Conservation Plan — an administrative draft is expected to come out in mid-November with a six-month comment period to follow. The city is concerned about the impact of the plan on Folsom Lake Reservoir, which provides drinking water to 500,000 people in the region, including Roseville residents.

The communications and government affairs department developed an official position on Bay Delta issues.

“This is not a win-lose proposition,” Wolinksi said. “It’s being engaged in the process. You have to be at that table … there’s that saying, ‘If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.’”