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March 7, 2017 > Wieckowski bill would protect political speech in stateÕs homeowner associations

Wieckowski bill would protect political speech in stateÕs homeowner associations

Submitted By Jeff Barbosa

Millions of Californians who live in homeowner associations (HOA) will no longer have their political free speech rights silenced by over-reaching HOA boards, if a bill introduced this month by Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) is approved.

SB 407 would prohibit homeowner associations from suppressing freedom of speech or freedom of association when it concerns public candidates, elections, legislation or rule-makings. About a quarter of California residents live in an HOA.

ÒPeople living in homeowner associations should not be forced to sign away their right to political free speech,Ó said Wieckowski, a member of the SenateÕs Judiciary Committee. ÒYet, too many times, boards have applied overly broad rules and policies to squelch the civic participation of their members. Signs, canvassing or guest appearances by candidates invited by members are often prohibited and residents are fined and told to cancel events.Ó

The Center for California Homeowner Association Law supports the bill.

ÒSome of CaliforniaÕs 52,000 homeowner associations believe that they can enact rules prohibiting owners from discussing candidates, legislation, or even the rules themselves within the association precincts,Ó said Marjorie Murray, president of the Center for California Homeowner Association Law. ÒWe believe such rules infringe on the right to political free speech that is protected by both state and federal constitutions. SB 407 makes plain that homeowners within the association have the same constitutional right to political free expression as persons outside its boundaries. Homeowners do not Ôcheck their constitutional rightsÕ at the door.Ó

ResidentsÕ rights are frequently denied through broad interpretations of Ònon-solicitationÓ policies meant to deter commercial door-to-door solicitation. Discussions about association voting rights, local community issues and candidate forums are often prohibited on the associationÕs property.

Senator Wieckowski represents the 10th District, which includes southern Alameda County and northeast Santa Clara County.

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