To understand the functions and operations of the Local Agency Formation Commission, one must first understand a series of state laws that govern this Commission. From time to time, any number of state laws must be considered by the Commission (For example, the Commission would need to be familiar with water district law in reviewing a proposal to form a water district.). In general terms, however, the following state laws are almost always relevant to the work of this Commission:
- The Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000. This is the LAFCO "parent act" and it begins at Section 56000 of the California Government Code. The Law sets forth the Commission’s powers and duties, procedures for establishing and changing governmental boundaries, and a variety of statewide policies that LAFCO must consider in making its determinations.
- The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The law begins at Section 21000 of the California Public Resources Code. Prior to making virtually any decision to approve a proposal, the Commission is required to determine whether the approval might have a significant effect on the environment. If so, then an environmental impact report would need to be prepared prior to consideration of a proposal. If it is determined that the proposal could not have an adverse impact, then a "negative declaration" would need to be submitted for public review prior to action on a proposal. Certain classes of proposals are exempt from CEQA, but some form of an environmental determination (including exemptions) must be a part of the public record of the Commission’s proceedings.
- California Revenue and Taxation Code. The Commission must take into account the revenue and taxation implications of every proposal. More specifically, however, the LAFCO office is required by Section 99 of the Revenue and Taxation Code to initiate the property tax negotiation process among agencies affected by a proposal.
- The Ralph M. Brown Act. This law is found at Section 54950 of the California Government Code, and it is commonly known as the "Open Meeting Law." This law sets forth a variety of requirements and restrictions governing meetings of the Commission to assure that the public has an adequate opportunity to participate in the public hearing process.