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By Jorge Casuso

April 21, 2021 -- The City's lobbying efforts at the State and Federal levels could focus on two new priorities this year -- reforming police practices and ending systemic racism.

The two issues the Council is expected to add to Santa Monica's legislative agenda on Tuesday were spotlighted over the past year by nationwide demonstrations protesting the killing of Black citizens by White police officers.

Santa Monica's Federal and State lobbyists -– The Ferguson Group and Shaw Yoder Antwih Schmelzer & Lange -- will work with City staff "to communicate the City’s position" on legislation.

The lobbyists and staff will "prepare letters to bill authors, co-sponsors, and members of relevant committees," staff said in its report to the Council.

The City's State and Federal legislative agendas reflect the Council's positions on major issues and the annual priorities it established in March.

This year's priorities were narrowed down to three -- addressing homelessness, keeping public spaces clean and safe and cultivating an "equitable and inclusive economic opportunity and recovery" ("Council Narrows Focus on Top Priorities," March 15, 2021).

Added to the agendas of previous years would be "several emerging policy priorities, including support for reforming policing practices and improving accountability and transparency among law enforcement agencies," staff wrote.

This includes lobbying for legislation that changes hiring and training practices for law enforcement, staff said.

The "ultimate goal" is "ending racial profiling, preventing use of excessive force, and dismantling systemic racism within the criminal justice system."

The lobbyists also would back reforms that ensure "every citizen is treated with the utmost respect, and in a fair and equal manner, independent of a person’s race, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity," staff said.

"This goes beyond the criminal justice system, as the Council seeks to support legislation that would end systemic racism in employment practices, procurement, and housing and land use practices."

Since 2016, the City has taken broad legislative positions on key issues, a strategy that has clear advantages over voting up or down on specific legislation, said City Councilmember Kevin McKeown.

"Voting on principles, not bill numbers, lets our lobbyists follow issues even when they appear in multiple bills that are part of a package of interlocking legislation," McKeown said.

"Where the City disagrees with some or even most of a proposed bill, taking an ‘oppose as written’ or ‘oppose unless amended’ position, rather than simply ‘oppose,' keeps us in the negotiation process to make legislation better even if we can’t stop it,” he said.

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