A bill “bait and switch” reveals a lot about attitudes toward small business in the Legislature.

A pro-small business Assembly Resolution started out authored by Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, authored Assembly Concurrent Resolution 48, which praised small businesses, designated May “Start a Small Business Month” and advanced some easy fixes to government burdens placed on small firms.

Shortly after it’s introduction, Assembly Democrats shelved ACR 48 and introduced a replacement that excised the crucial parts.

‘Start a small business’ month

Introduced April 30, Allen’s bill also highlighted Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s efforts supporting small businesses at the GO-Biz Web site. The resolution made clear the Legislature needs to act immediately to change the business climate by reducing taxes and regulations. That was the kiss of death.

“As a small business owner, I can easily relate to the struggles and accomplishments that small businesses encounter in California,” Allen told me. He also said this to many people, a legislative committee, and on the floor of the Assembly.

“This Resolution was intended to encourage and commemorate the entrepreneurial spirit and promote promising new businesses in our state,”  Allen said.

ACR 48 ironically was deep-sixed the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy. Why?

ACR 48 highlighted the policies that small businesses need, such as low taxes, fewer regulations, and a stable business climate to encourage investment in businesses and employees. California is doing the opposite.

It also outlined policies that hurt and even kill small businesses, such as the constant threat of litigation under the California Environmental Quality Act, the need for more workers’ compensation reform, and California’s high tax burden on businesses.

After passage of Proposition 30 in November, which increased sales and income taxes $7 billion, California now ranks as the state with the highest tax burden in the country. Many small businesses file as individual persons, meaning they will get hit with the tax increases on the “rich” even though they’re far from wealthy. Prop. 30 doesn’t help innovators and entrepreneurs.

There are approximately 3.5 million small businesses in California, which account for 99 percent of the state’s employers, according to to Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. These small businesses employ 52 percent of the workforce.

The hijacking

Allen was walking into the hearing room April 30 to present ACR 48 to the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy. He was informed by the committee it had been pulled from the schedule and would not be heard. Allen said he had not received notice of this decision.

Sources inside the Capitol said the order to shelve Allen’s ACR 48 came from the office of Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles.

Allen subsequently was presented with another bill, House Resolution 17, by Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, and told that he could sign on as a co-author. HR 17, titled “Relative to Small Business Month,” bears little resemblance to Allen’s ACR 48.

HR 17 contains such platitudes as, “California is home to the most innovative and competitive businesses in the world, placing it consistently among the top 10 economies in the world.” And there’s no hint that California’s government is even a little bit of a nuisance to small businesses.

With Allen’s resolution shelved, Medina’s moved forward, and was passed unanimously by the committee.

Last week in the Assembly, Allen made a motion to present ACR 48 to the Assembly. His request was voted down, 20-48.

A “no” vote meant Assembly Democrats did not want to allow Allen to present his “Start A Small Business Month” resolution, nor did they want to even vote on it.

The death blow

Medina’s HR 17 was up for a vote in the full Assembly. Allen offered amendments to Medina’s bill. He said:

“California’s policymakers can act to relieve the uncertainty of doing business in this state by keeping taxes low, fair, stable and predictable, by reducing the regulatory and litigation costs of operating a business, by investing in public and private works that provide the backbone for economic growth, and by ensuring the availability of high-quality skilled employees.” 

But Democrats, led by Majority Floor Leader Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, killed Allen’s amendments in a hostile parliamentary move and vote. Atkins made a motion “to lay the amendments on the table.” This is a Parliamentary procedure which suspends or kills the amendment.

The vote was 48-24 to toss out Allen’s amendments.

Without the amendments, Medina’s HR 17 passed 48-24.