While the legislature is in session, the National Federation
of Independent Business/California will be profiling anti-small business bills
and the adverse effect they would have on California’s job creators.  This is the first column of the 2011 series.

If this year is any indication, the
news is not good for small businesses and their employees.  And it’s not because of the troubled economy,
recession or any other external source. 
Well, check that, there is an external source that consistently, year
after year, inflicts pain and hardship on small businesses. 

Cue scary, dramatic music here…The California Legislature.

Some may assert that it is an
overgeneralization to say that the entire legislature has it out for small
businesses in the state.  But, consider
for a moment the results of the NFIB/CA 2010 Voting Record.  When 50 assembly members and over 20 senators
have voting records of 50 percent or less on the issues that matter most to our
members – something just isn’t getting through those Capitol doors. 

Let me pause here for a moment to address those elected
members of the legislature that have stellar voting records with NFIB – by that,
I mean 80 percent or higher (at last count there were 36 in the Assembly and 17
in the Senate).  NFIB sincerely applauds
you for standing with us…and honestly, you are NOT the problem here.  Your hands continue to be tied by the lack of
understanding your colleagues have about small business.

Now back to the current Main Street Menace…

Nowhere is this lack of support more
apparent than in the bills that are allowed to pass and those that are never
see the light of day.  Take for example
the rash of bills that would have reformed the tax system for small business,
or eased wage and hour constraints. 
Most, if not all, of those pieces of legislation are dead on arrival.  Gone. 
Never to be seen again until the next session.  On the flip side, the following bills that
would harm California businesses are making their way through the legislature with
few, if any, bumps in the road:

Senate Bill 129 (Leno) – Prohibits
employers from taking necessary steps to maintain a safe workplace by
precluding them from enforcing a comprehensive drug-free employment policy.  Translation
here – your employees can come to work high and there’s nothing you can do
about it! Puts employees in harm’s way, forces employers to choose between
violating either state or federal drug-free workplace policy, and gives small
businesses one more reason not to do business in California.

Senate Bill 746 (Lieu) – Would ban anyone under 18 from using
an ultraviolet tanning device – though not from tanning under the sun.  What’s
next, a ban on car sunroofs so we don’t accidentally catch some rays? These
tanning facilities are already sufficiently regulated by the Department of
Consumer Affairs. Just another classic example of Nanny Government. It’s going
to be a long summer, folks.

Senate Bill 104 (Steinberg) – Would undermine the process
that now guarantees, through secret-ballot elections, a fair vote and the
expression of agricultural employees’ true sentiments on the selection of a
collective bargaining representative. It
should be noted that unions were started in California and the nation (with
help from Governor Brown and Cesar Chavez) with the secret ballot process as a
sacred cornerstone. Yet, as labor has witnessed their numbers and popularity
decrease in recent years, they are making any attempt to force unionization –
through employee intimidation – in the workplace.

Assembly Bill 400
(Ma) – Mandates that all employers, except those with collective bargaining
agreements, provide any employee who has worked in California for seven days
with paid sick leave, the accrual rate at one hour for every thirty hours
worked.  Yet another new mandate on small employers. NFIB surveys repeatedly
show that 96% of all small employers have already developed a comprehensive
leave program with their employees that is functioning well. Law of unintended
consequences – will actually hurt those it intends to help the most:
entry-level working Californians.

Assembly Bill 10 (Alejo) – Increases the minimum wage from
$8.00 to $8.50 and indexes it to inflation. Like
Paid Sick Leave, another proposal that will have the opposite effect on those
Californians it aims to help: the working class. Where do they expect small
employers to come up with this new and unanticipated expense? There’s nothing
left in the till.

SB 653 (Steinberg) – Gives counties authority to impose new personal
income, car, gas and energy taxes – atop what Californians are already paying
at the state level.

Throws another heaping
pile of new taxes on small businesses and taxpayers already deep in the hole, and
is taxation without representation – forces non-residents to pay new taxes in
counties they do business with without any opportunity to vote on those taxes.

At the end of the day, all small business owners want is to
be able to create jobs, grow their businesses and support their
communities.  They can’t do that when bad
policies are allowed to sail through and common sense policies die a painful
death every time. 

At our annual Day at the Capitol event last month, many
expressed frustration and outrage at our elected leaders.  They demanded an explanation – and they
deserve one.

As one member who owns a single restaurant in Sacramento exclaimed,
"Our government seems to do everything they can to fight developing the tax
base," Small businesses, not government, are the wealth and job creators – and
feed our economy – yet our elected officials portray them as the enemy.

Now is the time for those who claim to support small
businesses to actually do so with the most powerful thing they have – their votes
on legislation that comes before them.  They can begin by rejecting bad bills that
increase the cost of doing business, add more to the regulatory burden and give
the trial lawyer lobby more power to sue vulnerable job creators – and passing
good policy that will help scared, uncertain "mom and pop" owners and their
employees crawl out of the deep hole they’re in. 

NFIB and California’s small business owners are watching to
see what those who profess to support small business will do…and we are ready
to hold those who don’t walk the walk and talk the talk fully accountable.