The first question to those seeking the governor’s veto of SB
at a news conference was a challenge about the bill’s effect on small
business. Appropriately so. SB 469 is aimed at slowing – some would say stopping
– construction of superstore centers such as Wal-Mart and Target Superstores.
The measure by Senator Juan Vargas sets up state requirements for an economic
impact report before a superstore construction can proceed.

The effect of superstores on local small businesses has been
a concern since the rise of the large retail centers. Certainly, some small
businesses that deal in like products as superstores are at a price
disadvantage to the big store and have been hurt by the superstore’s presence
in the neighborhood. Other small businesses thrive in the shadow of the
superstore as suppliers to the store and its customers.

On another level, SB 469 is not about small versus large
business but smaller government versus larger government. If the bill becomes
law, the state will dictate rules to cities and counties on how they should
view the construction of superstores in their neighborhoods.

Chris McKenzie, executive director of the League of California
Cities, told the news conference that the bill would require a 17 item
checklist detailed by the state for the local stores to pass muster. McKenzie
was joined at the press conference by a number of city officials all opposed to
the law. The large retail centers bring sales tax revenue to local government

Vargas’s bill argues that often in benefiting one city the
superstores cripple neighboring cities whose businesses suffer when they lose
customers to the superstores. 

The superstore issue has been a tricky one for those who
view small business as the engine of the economy but also see the state as a creator
of over regulation and barriers to a business friendly environment.

The job debate about the effects on small business versus
jobs created by the big stores and their suppliers is unsettled. Information,
which the bill seeks, would be an asset in the debate. As Betty Jo Toccoli,
president of the California Small Business Association wrote in support of the
bill, "providing an economic impact analysis is a prudent step toward informing
small business owners and the surrounding community of the potential complex
and dramatic impacts of a supercenter…." 

However, that information does not have to come from a state

Local governments have the power to create a checklist of
desirable traits that superstores have to achieve. In the end, local
jurisdictions live with the decision of bringing in superstores and the local
governments should decide the issues without state interference. They do not
need the state to tell them what to do.

Local voters are in charge as Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez
pointed out at the press event. When his city approved a Wal-Mart a recall
drive was initiated. It failed. The issue was debated and resolved locally.

The governor has the final say on SB 469. Rex Hime of the California
Business Properties Association said if Governor Brown remembers his local
government roots (as Mayor of Oakland) he will veto the bill.