Although there are many legislators celebrating what has widely been regarded as a ‘very successful year for progressive legislative priorities,’ small business owners have little to celebrate as the 2015-2016 legislative session officially comes to a close. And while small business may not have been invited to the negotiation table on minimum wage, family leave, agricultural overtime, or many other issues, NFIB now urges Governor Brown, on behalf of our 22,000 small business members, to hear and consider the concerns of small business as he signs or vetoes over 500 remaining bills on his desk.
There is a serious problem in this state and with our legislative process when the voice and concerns of our job creators are wholly shut out and ignored when considering sweeping public policy that will have a direct negative impact on the ability of small businesses to thrive. For far too long, small businesses have been viewed as a punching bag rather than a partner by legislators in Sacramento. And while there are many problems we can collectively agree need fixing in this state, it is troubling when the ‘knee jerk’ legislative fix almost always falls on the backs of small businesses.
Looking back at earlier this year, no example stands out quite as glaringly as the $15 minimum wage which was rammed through the legislature with zero public input or thorough legislative analysis. Senate Bill 3 (Leno) was brought back to life over Easter Weekend, gutted-and-amended, then signed by the Governor all in under a week. Although this example proves that Sacramento can truly get things done quickly when it really wants to—at the same time, in this rushed process, not a single small business owner was invited to the table to express how a 50% hike in the minimum wage would hurt their ability to expand or even maintain their operations.
Just yesterday, Governor Brown signed AB 1066 (Gonzalez), which expands the already existing mandated overtime for agricultural workers. This bill originally died on the Assembly floor, but was revived and sailed to Governor Brown’s desk all while completely ignoring the devastating impacts it will have on small, independent farmers. This mandate would result in an estimated loss of 78,000 jobs and a $5.4 billion loss in California’s agricultural production, with increased importation of cheaper agricultural products from competitors.
Looking forward, there are still multiple opportunities for the Governor to weigh the concerns of small business in the coming days. NFIB strongly urges Governor Brown to take the following actions on these remaining bills which would have the most significant impact on small businesses in California.
Assembly Bill 1643 (Gonzalez): Workers’ Compensation: Permanent Disability Apportionment – VETO
AB 1643 would undermine objectivity in workers’ compensation permanent disability ratings and require employers to pay monetary awards to injured workers for disabilities or disease that did not result from a workplace injury. Essentially, AB 1643 is a significant departure from the consensus-driven reforms negotiated by labor and employers in SB 863 (de León, 2012).
Senate Bill 654 (Jackson): Expanded Protected Family Leave Mandate – VETO
SB 654 targets small employers with only 20 or more aggregate employees and requires those employers to provide yet another 6 weeks of leave, in addition to the numerous other leaves of absence California already imposes. This mandate will overwhelm small businesses by establishing cumulative protected leave of absence of almost six months; imposing a mandatory leave with no discretion to the employer; and exposing small businesses to costly litigation – with lawsuits averaging $125,000.
Senate Bill 1167 (Leyva): Indoor Heat Liabilities – VETO
SB 1167 directs Cal/OSHA to adopt a standard to protect the health and safety of indoor workers from heat-related illness and injury. This bill is unnecessary. According to the California Code of Regulations, Title 8, section 3203, the Illness and Injury Prevention Program requires employers to have written procedures, to conduct worksite evaluations, to identify and correct worksite hazards, and train employees. If in fact indoor heat illness prevention presents a hazard which is not being adequately addressed, Cal/OSHA has other methods with which to effect compliance with current regulations.
Senate Bill 1383 (Lara): Short-Lived Greenhouse Gas Reduction – VETO
SB 1383 requires a reduction in various quickly dissipating greenhouse gasses, including methane, to 40-50% below 2013 levels by 2030. California is already a leader in climate policies and is working diligently to achieve the goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). SB 1383 will lead to duplicative regulations and increased costs for operations within the state, all the while sacrificing legislative oversight and harming California businesses, like dairies. This bill was amended twice in the last 24 hours with no time to react.
Senate Bill 443 (Mitchell): Asset Forfeiture – SIGN
SB 443 would require a conviction before California law enforcement agencies can share in the proceeds of an asset seizure for alleged drug crimes in joint federal-state task force cases, and requires the California Department of Justice to provide pertinent data in their annual report on California drug asset forfeiture. Small business owners can suffer serious economic harm if their assets are seized due to a law enforcement action without a formal conviction, particularly if an employee is arrested for actions that they did not control.
Senate Bill 1349 (Hertzberg): Campaign Transparency – SIGN
SB 1349 would modernize our campaign finance transparency by reforming Cal-Access, the state-run website. This legislation would give the Secretary of State the direction and resources necessary to bring Cal-Access into the 21st century. Voters deserve access to campaign finance information, and a modern Cal-Access will help voters to make informed choices about state ballot measures and candidates.
Tom Scott is the State Executive Director for NFIB California, which represents 22,000 dues-paying small business members across the state.