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The city of Palmdale has joined the League of California Cities in applauding the recent signing of a series of new California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) measures that protect cities from predatory lawsuits and in curbing a rash of serial and costly litigation. The new law reportedly may help to streamline cities’ future conversion of district-based elections.

AB350 was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 28 to help provide for swift recovery of attorney’s fees and, consequently, will allow cities like Palmdale—which can sometimes incur high legal costs—to maintain a more healthy balance sheet. Under the legislation, prospective plaintiffs are required to send a written demand letter alleging that the local government has violated provisions of CVRA. Upon receipt of the letter, a local government has an initial 45 days of safe harbor (protection) to assess their needs and make a determination if they wish to contest the alleged violation or convert to districts through the ordinance process. Should the city opt to convert to district elections through the ordinance process, the city is afforded an additional 90 days to comply before a lawsuit can be filed.

In a new article on www.cacities.org, the League of California cities applauded Brown’s support along with assembly members Luis Alejo and Jim Cooper as well as a range of stakeholders who converged to help protect cities from serial litigants whose motive is primarily financial.

“This is an important step in taking away money as an incentive for predatory CRVA lawsuits,” said Palmdale City Manager Jim Purtee. “Palmdale was so seriously impacted by these egregious predatory practices that we were one of the primary examples provided to the state legislature that compelled them to pass AB350.”

Among the key provisions of AB 350 are:

—Legal fees capped. A hard cap of total financial liability will be established at $30,000;

—A city can be proactive and voluntarily switch to district-based elections (without receiving a formal demand letter) and have 90 days of safe harbor protection free from litigation;

—Cities have full local control in that they are not mandated to move to districts. If a city receives a demand letter they are given 45 days of legal protection from litigation to assess their liability and make a determination.

“We join the League of California Cities in thanking the governor, legislature and all who worked to help protect cities, and ultimately taxpayers, from costly unnecessary litigation,” Purtee said.