When a bill came across Governor Jerry Brown’s desk, just 18 months ago, that would have required yet another reporting and review period before any large retail store could be built in California, the Governor rightly vetoed it. “Plenty of laws are already on the books that enable and in some cases require cities and counties to carefully assess whether these projects are in a community’s best interests,” he wrote. “This bill would add yet another layer of review to an already cumbersome process.”
So how does the Legislature respond? By proposing the exact same law again, which will add layers of government bureaucracy and make it more difficult to create jobs. This time it’s Assembly Bill 667 by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D – West Covina).
Reintroducing a bill that has already been rejected is not just bad politics, it’s bad policy.
California is still in desperate need of jobs. News reports say the unemployment rate in the state has “improved,” but in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, unemployment remains at 10.5 percent. Throughout the Central Valley it’s over 15 percent, and in many rural parts of the state one out of every five people looking for a job can’t find one. Now’s not the time to make it harder to put people to work, but that’s exactly what AB 667 would do.
The bill would require proposed superstores to jump through an additional hurdle — another round of economic impact and community impact reports — before they are approved. That’s on top of all the permitting, reporting, environmental analysis, and extensive public input that’s already required to open a large retail or grocery store. An additional layer of bureaucracy will make it more difficult, costly, and time-consuming to open new businesses and create new jobs.
It’s also unfair to cities, which already have the ability to determine for themselves what types of stores fit their character and needs. California is a diverse state. What doesn’t work for one community may be desirable to another. When the state dictates what kinds of stores are better than others, it undermines local authority. Local consumers — not state politicians — should be allowed to make their own decisions about the kinds of stores that want to shop in.
AB 667 also forces cash-strapped local governments to administer this new layer of review and red tape. An extended process and added delays mean cities will expend more of their already-scarce resources.
Worse still, the bill would harm the communities throughout the state that need economic opportunity the most. It specifically targets enterprise zones and manufacturing zones. Those are designations the state created to encourage business expansion and job creation in economically challenged neighborhoods, but AB 667 counteracts that goal.
These are also some of California’s most underserved neighborhoods. They lack access to healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. They often have no nearby pharmacy. They also have fewer job opportunities than neighboring communities. In short, they’re in need of exactly those things that superstores provide.
Our economy may look as if it’s rebounding, but we are not far enough out of the recession for our state elected officials to be delaying and preventing job creation. The construction jobs and permanent positions that come with the opening of a superstore will inject needed activity into our economy that’s still struggling.
Legislators in Sacramento should be working to create new jobs for hard-working Californians, not recycling old vetoed laws that kill opportunity in the Golden State.