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A Guide for Public Hospital Districts LOCAL ELECTIONS: Attorney Presented by Joe Levan Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington July 2012 Laird.

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Presentation on theme: "A Guide for Public Hospital Districts LOCAL ELECTIONS: Attorney Presented by Joe Levan Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington July 2012 Laird."— Presentation transcript:

1 A Guide for Public Hospital Districts LOCAL ELECTIONS: Attorney Presented by Joe Levan Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington July 2012 Laird Harris Founder and Association of Washington Public Health Districts Harris & Smith Public Affairs

2 2 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) WELCOME TO THE WEBCAST BEN LINDEKUGEL AWPHD Director of Member Services (206)

3 3 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) During the presentation, one-way phone connection (we cannot hear you) To submit a question or comment – During the presentation, click the “type here to chat” button on the right of your screen; type your message and click “send” A copy of the presentation slides will be available on the AWPHD website tomorrow: Quick Technical Notes

4 4 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Harris & Smith Public Affairs provides public affairs and strategic communication consulting services to clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to small, local non-profit agencies. Harris & Smith helps clients understand how communication initiatives and public affairs activities can help achieve organizational goals – and their limitations and risks. Founder LAIRD HARRIS (206)

5 5 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Attorney JOE LEVAN Municipal Research & Services Center of Washington (206) MRSC provides legal and policy assistance to local governments, including public hospital districts Call on Joe and MRSC consultants with questions related to governance laws and for assistance with sample policies and other research

6 6 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Introduction Phase I: Needs Assessments Phase II: Decision For Levy Phase III: The Election Additional Resources OVERVIEW

7 7 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Introduction 1 What we will - and won’t - focus on today Why this topic matters How planning ahead is a key to election success

8 8 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Sometimes, hospital districts must seek voter and community support Focus of Presentation Introduction 1. Bond issues to build a facility or purchase equipment 2. Property tax levies 3. Votes related to district boundaries Our focus today

9 9 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) As a hospital district commissioner or CEO, what are key considerations in determining whether and how to pursue a ballot proposition requiring voter approval? Steps necessary to assess needs for seeking voter approval to ensure success Key legal principles and guidelines Recommendations for preparing for a ballot proposition and activities during an election campaign. Focus of Presentation Introduction

10 10 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Our focus here is on need-to-know information related to: 1.Is a ballot proposition for a bond measure or tax levy needed? 2.If so, what policy concerns must be addressed? 3.What are some key legal issues related to supporting ballot measures? We will not delve into the minutia of tax levies and bond issues - we’ll leave those topics for another day Less is More Introduction [Joe]

11 11 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Our discussion here is about activities related to ballot propositions The rules related to ballot propositions are similar to but not the same as the rules that apply to election campaigns for individual candidates Also, the rules that apply to lobbying are different than what is at issue here Know the Difference Introduction

12 12 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Hospital districts face demands and needs Key issues: (1)How to assess those needs, and (2)Once the needs are identified, how best to meet them to best serve your community. Why does this Matter? Introduction

13 13 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Tax issues are difficult Renewals of levies are easier to pass New levies are new taxes and are more difficult to pass Election Realities Introduction 20 of 23 school levies in King and Snohomish Counties passed in February The three that failed were all bond levies.

14 14 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Public needs to understand and accept need The solution must fit the need More is not better Solution Must Fit the Need Introduction

15 15 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Success in achieving voter approval requires careful planning before and during elections State law generally prohibits use of public facilities and resources to support or oppose a ballot proposition, however … There are a wide variety of legally permissible activities public officials and public entities can engage in related to ballot propositions Plan, Educate, Execute Introduction

16 16 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Plans needed for THREE phases Needs analysis and assessment Preparation for Board action Activities during campaign Plan Ahead Introduction

17 17 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Phase I: Needs Assessment What are the benefits of needs assessment? What does needs assessment include? What roles can Commissioners and staff legally play in gathering information and garnering support prior to elections?

18 18 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Needs analysis and assessment Generally not considered a campaign activity, but can implicate campaign related restrictions An opportunity to involve and educate the public A chance to identify leadership support that may be activated for the campaign Opportunity to gauge public reactions Educate, Involve, Learn Phase I: Needs Assessment

19 19 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Community advisory committees can increase understanding of need and give valuable feedback Must consider information about need and alternative solutions Opportunity to involve community leaders in a meaningful way Community Advisory Committees Phase I: Needs Assessment

20 20 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Presentations to civic organizations needs and alternatives Leadership events at hospital Formal needs assessment questionnaire Website postings with opportunity for comment News stories Public Information Phase I: Needs Assessment

21 21 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Community leadership can be identified Feedback can help with key decisions about possible levy campaign Opportunity to communicate when not in election mode Community Input Benefits Phase I: Needs Assessment

22 22 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Phase I: Needs Assessment

23 23 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Phase I: Needs Assessment [Joe]

24 24 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Our state’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has jurisdiction over local election and campaign matters The PDC assists local governments in understanding the statutory provisions and implementing regulations that govern activities related to ballot propositions The PDC also investigates complaints regarding election and campaign matters As a result, the PDC is an important resource in knowing what issues have tripped up other local governments If in doubt, contact the PDC – before you act Working with the PDC Phase I: Needs Assessment

25 25 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) The key RCW and WAC provisions related to election campaigns are provided for you in the “Additional Resources” section at the end of this webcast. Key Statutory Provisions and Administrative Sources Phase I: Needs Assessment

26 26 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) As a matter of fairness and to prevent misuse of public resources To prevent local government elected officials and staff from using public resources – – For their private benefit (e.g., promoting their own campaign) – To advance their own cause using taxpayer resources (e.g., supporting a ballot proposition the public may not support and using public resources to do so) Why the Restrictions? Phase I: Needs Assessment

27 27 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) In enacting the restrictions, the legislature also stated its intent to affirm and clarify our state’s longstanding policy of promoting informed public discussion and understanding of ballot propositions How? – By allowing elected boards, councils, and commissions of special purpose districts to adopt resolutions supporting or opposing ballot propositions – And by, more generally, crafting the law to respect free speech rights in the political process Free Speech – Informed Citizenry Phase I: Needs Assessment

28 28 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) An individual commissioner or official can express his or her own personal views concerning, supporting, or opposing any ballot proposition or candidate if … Such expression does not involve use of the facilities of a public office or agency What You Can Do As An Individual Phase I: Needs Assessment Keep in Mind A commissioner or employee on their own time and not using district facilities or resources is not limited by chapter 42.17A RCW in what they can do – they can support or oppose a ballot proposition, give money for the cause, and/or be involved in campaigns42.17A

29 29 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) As a public agency, a public hospital district can: (a) Make its facilities available on a nondiscriminatory, equal access basis for political uses, and/or (b) Make an objective and fair presentation of facts relevant to a ballot proposition, if … Such action is part of the normal and regular conduct of the district What You Can Do Phase I: Needs Assessment “Facilities” in this context include: local government agency equipment, buildings, supplies, employee work time, and agency publications “Normal and Regular Conduct” includes conduct which is: 1) Lawful, i.e., specifically authorized, either expressly or by necessary implication, in an appropriate enactment (such as a policy adopted by the board of commissioners), and 2) Usual, i.e., not effected or authorized in or by some extraordinary means or manner

30 30 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) The PDC indicates it will review the timing, tone, and tenor of activities in relation to ballot measure elections Recognizing that across-the-board rules applicable to all situations are difficult to establish Normal and Regular Conduct, Such As … Phase I: Needs Assessment

31 31 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Use public facilities to support or oppose a ballot proposition or candidate Subject its employees to coercion, pressure, or undue influence to participate in political activity or to take a particular position – District officials and employees should make it clear that any participation is personal rather than officially sponsored If the purpose is to influence the outcome of an election, the district cannot spend district funds for the preparation and distribution of information about the election What the District Cannot Do Phase I: Needs Assessment

32 32 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Phase I: Needs Assessment

33 33 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Phase I: Needs Assessment

34 34 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) The district can: Conduct surveys, including demographic questions, to determine the community’s priorities, public perception of performance, and/or to inform the community about agency programs and policies Conduct community research (including use of questionnaires, surveys, workshops, focus groups, and forums) to determine the community’s priorities for both programs and/or facilities and their associated total costs and projected dollars per thousand assessment Needs Assessment – Community Research and Surveys Phase I: Needs Assessment

35 35 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Surveys and/or other community research can be conducted before or after the governing body has approved a resolution to place a ballot measure on the ballot However, research conducted after the adoption of the resolution may be subject to greater scrutiny by the PDC Survey Results: – Agencies may publish survey results if it is consistent with the normal and regular conduct of the agency Timing of Community Research and Surveys Phase I: Needs Assessment

36 36 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) The district cannot: – Conduct surveys to determine what taxation level the public would support – Conduct surveys designed to shore up support or opposition for a ballot measure – Target registered voters or other specific subgroups of the jurisdiction in conducting election-related surveys – Use survey results in a manner designed to support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure Polls and Survey Restrictions Phase I: Needs Assessment

37 37 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) We encourage your district to submit your proposed poll or survey to the PDC for review Don’t use surveys to test possible ballot language Don’t ask for public support for a ballot issue – even where none has been created Don’t send out additional mailers or newsletters in anticipation of an election, unless you can demonstrate to the PDC that doing so is part of the your district’s normal and regular conduct Additional Thoughts Re: Assessment Phase Phase I: Needs Assessment

38 38 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Phase II: Decision For Levy What are key decision points related to levy? How can our Board prepare to take action?

39 39 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Resolution to place on ballot Will fix levy amount Determine election date Set ballot language Done in open public meeting Kicks off formal campaign period Decisions Related To Levy Phase I I: Decision for Levy

40 40 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Board work sessions to consider alternatives Consider possible conflicts with other local levy campaigns Selective consultations with community leaders on provisions Preparation For Board Action Phase I I: Decision for Levy Legal Note The district can conduct community research (including focus groups) to determine the community’s priorities for both programs and/or facilities, but cannot do so to shore up support for a ballot measure

41 41 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Phase III: The Election What are appropriate roles for Commissioners and staff in an election? What are successful strategies for getting information out to voters? What are the legal guidelines for ways to present that information? How best to work with a campaign committee?

42 42 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Hospital district commissioners, as elected officials, are free to campaign in support (or opposition) of a ballot measure as long as they: – Don’t make use of district facilities, time, or resources; – Don’t either pressure or condone district employees’ use of district facilities, time, or resources Staff are free to campaign on their own time and with their own resources Commissioners and staff may participate on support committees (e.g., “Yes on Hospitals” committee) May provide objective and fair information about a ballot measure Election Considerations Phase III: The Election

43 43 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) District may publish and distribute one mailer that describes the needs to be met by the levy or bond measure Information may be posted on the district’s website Commissioners may adopt a support resolution in a properly noticed open public meeting that makes the case for the levy or measure – Opponents of the levy or measure must be given an equal opportunity to express their views Presentations may be made at civic clubs and other local gatherings by commissioners, officials, and staff More To Do Phase III: The Election

44 44 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) The PDC indicates that generally one jurisdiction-wide objective and fair presentation of the facts per ballot measure is appropriate But note … if an agency has also customarily distributed this information through means other than a jurisdiction-wide mailing (e.g. regularly scheduled newsletter, website, bilingual documents, or other format), the PDC generally allows such conduct so long as the activity has been normal and regular for that agency Election Related Publications Phase III: The Election

45 45 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) How can the district show to the PDC that this conduct is normal and regular for that district? – By demonstrating that for other major policy issues facing the district, the district has customarily communicated with its residents in a manner similar to that undertaken for the ballot measure Distribution of Fair and Objective Facts Phase III: The Election Key Point The PDC emphasizes that in no case will it view a marketing or sales effort related to a campaign or election as normal and regular conduct

46 46 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) PDC staff recommend a three step process for preparing the district’s fact sheet: Just the Facts … Phase III: The Election 1. Determine the set of objective facts related to the ballot proposition *Recommendation: Submit your proposed fact sheet to PDC staff for review. 2. Determine what the district usually does in distributing informational materials as part of its normal and regular conduct 3. Make sure the material is not promotional – that it does not support or oppose a ballot proposition

47 47 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Develop standard presentations to be used in public presentations Review against PDC guidelines PowerPoint or video can keep presenter on message Commissioners should not ask staff to prepare advocacy presentations Recruit non-employees to make presentations Review PDC Interpretation (the Local Guidelines) – lists a variety of permissible activitiesPDC Interpretation Public Communications Phase III: The Election

48 48 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Supervisors may share objective and fair communications with staff Supervisors may not pressure their subordinates to support a ballot issue Supervisors and staff may display bumper stickers on cars that are parked in employee lots Supervisors and staff may wear campaign buttons if the district’s policy generally permits employees to wear political buttons PDC Interpretation (the Local Guidelines) lists a variety of permissible activities PDC Interpretation Internal Communications Phase III: The Election

49 49 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Commissioners, managers, and staff may participate on committee on their own time using their own resources Committee raises money for advertisements, yard signs, brochures, etc. Committee is responsible for content of campaign materials May not coordinate messaging or other activities between the hospital district’s official activities and the ballot proposition campaign Campaign Committee Phase III: The Election

50 50 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Understand what constitutes using district resources to support or oppose a ballot proposition Remember the reason for the rules – To prevent misuse of taxpayer funded resources – To maintain the public trust There are many ways to help without coming anywhere near breaking the rules Ask for guidance Common Sense Phase III: The Election

51 51 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Additional Resources

52 52 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) MRSC Website – Municipal Elections Municipal Elections – Levy Lid Lift Levy Lid Lift Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) Public Disclosure Commission Additional Resources

53 53 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Chapter RCW was recodified to chapter 42.17A RCW – effective January 1, A Key provision regarding the use of public office or agency facilities in campaigns – RCW – was recodified to RCW 42.17A A.555 Key Statutory Provisions Related to Election Campaigns Additional Resources

54 54 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Title 390 WAC (governing the PDC)390 Particularly chapter WAC Even more specifically, WAC (general applications of RCW 42.17A.555) and WAC (definition of normal and regular conduct ) A A very useful resource prepared by and relied on by the PDC is PDC Interpretation (revised in 2012) – aka “the Local Guidelines”PDC Interpretation Key Administrative Sources Additional Resources

55 55 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) Contact Info JOE LEVAN MRSC Attorney (206) BEN LINDEKUGEL AWPHD Director of Member Services (206) Additional Resources LAIRD HARRIS Founder, Harris and Smith Public Affairs (206)

56 56 AWPHD (206) MRSC (206) LOCAL ELECTIONS: A Guide for Public Hospital Districts


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