Assemblyman Mayes Authors Legislation To Keep Measure K’s Salary & Term Limit Reforms From Being Applied

In an effort widely viewed as making good on a political chit he issued over a decade ago, Assemblyman Chad Mayes has authored legislation aimed at preventing Measure K, the county government reform initiative approved by more than two thirds of San Bernardino County’s voters in November 2020, from going into effect.
In one fell swoop, Mayes with Assembly Bill 428 is aiming at preventing both prongs of Measure K – the imposition of a one term limit on San Bernardino County supervisors and putting a cap on their pay commensurate with the mean income level of county residents – from being implemented.
Mayes began his political career as a fiscal conservative and anti-big government advocate at the age of 25 when he was elected town councilman in Yucca Valley in 2002. He remained on the council until 2011, twice serving terms as appointed mayor during that time. In 2010, he was given a major boost in his political/governmental career, when Janice Rutherford, newly elected as San Bernardino County Second District supervisor, hired him to serve as her chief of staff. Mayes’s position on the fifth floor of the county administrative building put him at the center of confluence between the county’s most powerful elected officials and staff employees and major financial interests in the county, including deep-pocketed donors to political campaigns. In 2014, Mayes was able to use the contacts he had made and the favors he had done to various entities to gather the wherewithal to seek election to the California Assembly.
Mayes is the son of the Reverend Roger Mayes, the pastor of Grace Community Church and a politician himself as an elected board member of the Hi-Desert Water District. Young Mayes attended and graduated from an evangelical Christian college in Lynchberg, Virginia, Liberty University, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in government while interning for then-Missouri Senator John Ashcroft.
From the outset of his time in political office, Chad Mayes established his reputation as a social and fiscal conservative devoted to Republican politics and reducing the size and scope of government. Indeed, in 2004, a decade before he made the transition to Sacramento, he voted against a proposed 42-percent pay increase for the Town of Yucca Valley’s elected officials. As both councilman and mayor, Mayes worked assiduously at holding spending in check. In his final year as mayor of Yucca Valley he pushed for a reduction of the town’s spending from what had been proposed by city staff, paring the city’s general fund to $8.7 million, below what had been the spending allotment the previous year, and ensuring the town had $5 million salted away in reserves.
That was then. More recently, after six years in Sacramento, he has abandoned the principle of keeping the size and expense of government in check.
Upon his election to the Assembly, Mayes, who was yet adhering to his conservative roots, made an impressive rise up the Republican Party totem pole. Shortly after his swearing in and being assigned to six committees, he was made vice chairman of the Assembly Human Services Committee. His GOP colleagues bestowed on him the position of Chief Republican Whip less than a month after his arrival at the statehouse.
In his first year in office, he took up two issues of central concern to conservatives and the Republican Party, reducing or streamlining governmental regulation of the private sector and reducing or eliminating double or redundant taxation. He introduced Assembly Bill 1286, which created a subcommittee to reform California’s regulatory environment and practices. He then authored Assembly Bill 1202, aimed at substantially reducing the California State Fire Prevention Fee for residents who were already subject to fire prevention or fire service taxes at the local level.
On September 1, 2015, less than ten months after he was sworn in to the Assembly, Mayes was selected by his colleagues to serve as Assembly Republican Leader, succeeding Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen effective January 4, 2016.
In 2017, disaffection between Mayes and the Republican Party set in when he and six other Assembly Republicans joined with the overwhelming Democratic majority in the state’s lower legislative house to support the perpetuation of a long-established system in the Golden State by which manufacturing companies which generate hydrocarbons or exhaust as a consequence of their industrial activities are required to obtain through previously established “smokestack rights” air pollution credits that can be bought and sold under a regime controlled by the state’s various air quality management districts, a system known as “Cap and Trade.” This program is and was considered to be an abomination by conservative Republicans in California. As a consequence, in August 2017 Mayes was deposed as Republican leader in the Assembly.
In the time since then, Mayes has distanced himself from the conservative Republican principles he formerly championed. On December 6, 2019, Mayes left the Republican Party and re-registered as an independent.
The 42nd Assembly District in which Mayes serves is one in which the Republicans hold a distinct registration advantage over Democrats. Despite that and the consideration that Mayes, running as an independent, was opposed by a Republican, Andrew Kotyuk, Mayes’s name recognition and heftier political war chest allowed him to overcome Kotyuk by a 10,359 votes or 55.6 percent-to-96,172 votes or 44.4 percent margin in the 2020 election.
During a signature gathering drive that began in 2019 and ended in 2020, the Red Brennan Group, an affiliation of activists devoted to government accountability, succeeded in gathering 75,132 signatures of county voters to put a county government reform initiative on the November 2020 ballot in San Bernardino County. Ultimately dubbed Measure K by the Registrar of Voters Office, it called for setting the total compensation for an elected supervisor in San Bernardino County at $60,000 per year – including both salary and benefits – and imposed a single four-year term on supervisors. The board of supervisors rushed to place its own initiative on the ballot, which was given the place before Measure K on the voting guide and the ballot as Measure J. Measure J essentially left the supervisors’ total compensation at around $260,000-to-$280,000 annually by giving each of them a salary equal to 90 percent of that provided to a Superior Court judge and a benefit package equal to that provided to the county government’s department heads. It further left intact the current term limit restriction of three four-year terms for the supervisors. Going head-to-head with Measure J as a competing government reform initiative in November, Measure K found far greater support by the county’s electorate. While Measure J garnered passage, with 378,964 votes or 50.72 percent of the 747,188 votes cast supporting it and 368,224 or 49.28 percent opposed, it was soundly outdistanced by Measure K, which passed with 516,184 or 66.84 percent of the 772,282 voters participating supporting it, and 256,098 voters or 33.16 percent opposed.
Because they dealt with the same issues of salary and term limits, under California law Measure K was to go into effect rather than Measure J because it was passed by more votes.
In short order, the board of supervisors sued the supervisors’ own employee, San Bernardino County Clerk of the Board Lynna Monell, to prevent her from implementing Measure K. The legal action, a petition for a writ of mandate, alleges that Measure K is fatally flawed because it “violates California Constitution Article XI, Section l(b) by seeking to set supervisor compensation via citizen initiative… [and] it exceeds the initiative power of the electorate by intruding on matters that are exclusively delegated to the governing body, in this case the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors… [and its] term limit provision for members of the county board of supervisors violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution [by] impermissibly infring[ing] on voters’ and incumbents’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.” Additionally, the writ of mandate maintains Measure K violates “the single subject rule” pertaining to voter initiatives and that “Measure K must not be implemented because it does not embrace a single subject.”
The suit put the enforcement of Measure K on hold while the matter is adjudicated in the court.
It has been pointed out that the grounds cited in the supervisors’ lawsuit for invalidating Measure K would equally apply to Measure J, and there is some concern among the supervisors and their supporters that the lawsuit will fail and eventually Measure K and its salary and term limitations will go into effect.
Accordingly, Supervisor Janice Rutherford, who played a role in advancing Mayes’ political career by hiring him as her chief of staff in 2010, importuned him to author legislation that will keep Measure K from achieving the ends the Red Brennan Group designed it for.
Mayes indulged Rutherford by drafting Assembly Bill 428 which, with regard to the number of terms a supervisor may serve, states, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the board of supervisors of any general law or charter county may adopt or the residents of the county may propose, by initiative, a proposal to limit to no fewer than two terms or repeal a limit on the number of terms a member of the board of supervisors may serve on the board of supervisors.”
With regard to the pay county supervisors are to receive, Assembly Bill 428 explicitly calls for preventing the citizenry at large from setting the pay grade for members of a board of supervisors, stating, “The board of supervisors shall prescribe the compensation of all county officers, including the board of supervisors, and shall provide for the number, compensation, tenure, appointment and conditions of employment of county employees.”
On April 7, Scott Kaufman, the legislative director for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, sent a letter to Mayes. The letter reads, “This is to inform you that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association must oppose AB 428. AB 428 seeks to undo the overwhelming approval of Measure K in San Bernardino County that amended the county charter to impose a term limit of one term and reduced the total compensation for each member of the board of supervisors to $5,000 per month.”
Kaufman continued, “Now, other counties are concerned about the potential for similar measures. If Measure K is a problem, it is no worse than stripping voters of the ability to designate their preferred length of terms and set pay of the county supervisors because we dislike the outcome of an election.”
Kaufman thereafter concluded his letter with a reference to Proposition 218, passed by the state’s voters in 1992, and which requires that any general tax the government is going to impose on its citizens must be passed by a majority vote of those upon whom the tax is to be levied and that any “special tax” to be used for a specified purpose by local or state government must be passed by a vote of two-thirds of those upon whom the tax is to be levied. “Elected officials frequently complain when seeking to undermine Prop. 218 that getting two-thirds of voters to agree is almost an impossible feat,” Kaufman noted. “Yet Measure K was approved by a two-thirds majority (66.84%) of voters and AB 428 still seeks to undo it. The people have spoken.”
Mayes did not respond to inquiries by the Sentinel.
-Mark Gutglueck

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