A mixed record for business in this year’s legislative session got a bit of a boost when the governor signed a slew of bills intended to help business. While the latest flurry of bill signings is good news, big issues still concern the business community.
The ballyhooed effort at the beginning of the legislative session to improve the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) ended in a whimper. What CEQA reform was achieved came about because politicians in Sacramento wanted to make it easier to build a basketball arena in downtown Sacramento. Broader CEQA reforms were benched.
Minimum wage was increased against business opposition as businesses, especially small businesses, struggle to recover from the recession. Business is still battling the burdens of heavy taxes and regulations, which has prompted some businesses to consider relocating outside the state.
But there were some steps forward.
Among the bills signed by the governor was AB 227 that would allow businesses in violation of Proposition 65 anti-toxic regulations to have a couple of weeks to fix any problems. This bill will reduce the threats of bounty-hunter lawsuits and give businesses a fair chance to correct honest mistakes.
Some regulations were swept away for California’s high-tech companies. New laws will make it easier for digital retailers to deal with smart phone payments.
Importantly, investors who received notices following a court decision that they must pay a total of millions in back taxes got relief from the legislature who passed a bill to overturn the decision. The governor signed the bill.
During the session, the legislature moved to drastically reduce the time to approve business filings at the Secretary of State’s office. The issue highlighted California’s slow paper filing system to get businesses up and running. The average waiting time was 43 days. The legislature demanded the time be trimmed to five days and quickly passed AB 113, signed by the governor.
The California of Chamber of Commerce also had a successful session in opposing its list of Job Killer bills. Of the 38 bills the Chamber tagged as Job Killers, 37 did not become law.
The governor also signed SB 12 by Senator Ellen Corbett, which will enhance the state’s marketing effort with a newly created “Made in California” label to highlight the state’s reputation for creating innovative products.
Last April I commented on the “Made in California” label here supporting the idea. I wrote: “Anyone promoting business in this state should be proud of a California label. But the legislature could do a lot more to encourage business.”
Looking over the record of bills passed and signed by the governor and those bills detrimental to business that were stopped, I think it’s fair to say that the legislature did take some positive steps.
But given the heavy burdens California businesses work under, the legislature and governor can do a lot more with regulation, health care and tax reform.