County government contracting bill reduces local control, say opponents

Aug 29, 2017

Opposition is growing against a bill in the California Legislature that would add strict new requirements before any counties can contract out for government services.

Matt Cate, who heads the California State Association of Counties, said the union-supported legislation could prevent counties from continuing to hire nonprofit groups that offer cost-effective health and social services.

“It’s cost prohibitive to hire full-time staff to do part-time work,” Cate said. “So, if you don’t a specific need 24/7 then you might contract out because it’s a more efficient way of doing the job.”

Each year, Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties routinely sign contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars with outside providers for an array of services. The bill would not affect city governments.

Santa Barbara County Deputy CEO Dennis Bozanich said the county opposes the bill as well. Bozanich said it will drive up costs and reduce the number of services the county can provide - particularly at county health clinics, and that the community-based organizations the county contracts with are much more accessible to clients than if those services were provided by county staff.

“It really does reduce our local control to deliver services,” Bozanich said, pointing out that AB 1250 was originally written to include city governments. “If it was bad enough for cities to get exempted [from the bill]...there seems to be an issue with consistency and fairness.”

Supporters reject the idea that it will lead to the end of contracting, as some opponents have claimed. They say the bill is about ensuring transparency and performance standards for contractors.

The bill passed the Assembly in June. It awaits a key vote in a Senate committee on Friday.

KCBX's Greta Mart contributed to this report.