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Political Activities of Public Employees

The Legislature finds that political activities of public employees are of significant statewide concern

By Chris Micheli, January 31, 2020 6:39 am

In California’s Government Code, Title 1, Division 4, Chapter 9.5, there are sections of law prohibiting specified political activities of public employees.

Government Code Section 3201 specifies that the Legislature finds that political activities of public employees are of significant statewide concern. The provisions of this section of law supersede all provisions on this subject in the general law of this state or any city, county, or city and county charter.

Section 3202 specifies that this section of law applies to all officers and employees of a state or local agency. This section defines the terms “local agency” and “state agency.” Section 3203 notes that, except as otherwise provided, or as necessary to meet requirements of federal law as it pertains to a particular employee or employees, no restriction is to be placed on the political activities of any officer or employee of a state or local agency.

Section 3204 provides that no one who holds, or who is seeking election or appointment to, any office or employment in a state or local agency is permitted, directly or indirectly, use, promise, threaten or attempt to use, any office, authority, or influence, whether then possessed or merely anticipated, to confer upon or secure for any individual person, or to aid or obstruct any individual person in securing, or to prevent any individual person from securing, any position, nomination, confirmation, promotion, or change in compensation or position, within the state or local agency, upon consideration or condition that the vote or political influence or action of such person or another may be given or used in behalf of, or withheld from, any candidate, officer, or party, or upon any other corrupt condition or consideration.

Section 3205 prohibits an officer or employee of a local agency from soliciting, directly or indirectly, a political contribution from an officer or employee of that agency, or from a person on an employment list of that agency, with knowledge that the person from whom the contribution is solicited is an officer or employee of that agency. This same prohibition applies to candidates for elective office of a local agency. Violation of this section is punishable as a misdemeanor.

Section 3205.5 prohibits anyone who holds, or who is seeking election or appointment to, any office from offering or arranging, directly or indirectly, for any increase in compensation or salary for an employee of a state or local agency in exchange for, or a promise of, a contribution or loan to any committee controlled directly or indirectly by the person who holds, or who is seeking election or appointment to, an office. Violation of this section is punishable by imprisonment or a fine.

Section 3206 specifies that no officer or employee of a local agency may participate in political activities of any kind while in uniform. Section 3207 provides that any city, county, or city and county may prohibit or otherwise restrict officers and employees engaging in political activity during working hours, or political activities on the premises of the local agency. Section 3208 states that the limitations set forth in this chapter of law is the only restrictions on the political activities of state employees.

Section 3209 specifies that an officer or employee of a state or local agency is not prohibited from soliciting or receiving political funds or contributions to promote the passage or defeat of a ballot measure which would affect the rate of pay, hours of work, retirement, civil service, or other working conditions of officers or employees of such state or local agency, except that a state or local agency may prohibit or limit such activities by its employees during their working hours and may prohibit or limit entry into governmental offices for such purposes during their working hours.

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