It is apparent that Gov. Jerry Brown doesn’t always listen to the advice I offer freely through commentaries on this page. With the governor finishing the Herculean task of deciding on over 1000 bills, I looked over past articles I wrote for this site on specific bills to see if my suggestions were followed. Of nine bills, the governor and I were on the same side only three times.
Importantly for small business, Gov. Brown vetoes SB 654 by Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson that would have required 6 weeks of protected employee leave for maternity or paternity leave. It adds to an endless list of mandates for protected leaves of absence. It was another mandate on small business owners as they try to manage staffing situations for their firms. In his veto message, the governor said he was concerned with the impact on small business. However, he indicated that he was open to an amendment to the bill that would allow mediation prior to lawsuits from employees.
Small business also benefited from the governor’s signature on SB 936 by Sen. Bob Hertzberg. The bill expands loan availability through the Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank’s (IBank) California Small Business Loan Guarantee Program (SBLGP). Small businesses with trouble gaining loans are able to establish solid credit ratings when they achieve success through SBLGP loans. The bill creates a loan loss reserve encouraging private lending for small business at less risk, which allows the businesses to grow and create jobs.
The governor vetoed SB 1094 by Sen. Ed Hernandez, requiring five percent of initiative petition signatures to be gathered by volunteers. This was a clear effort by organized labor to gain more power over the state’s political activity by giving them advantages in using the initiative process.
The governor signed some major bills of concern to the business community. SB 32 by Sen. Fran Pavley extends the law lowering the acceptable greenhouse gas level 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. The business community’s protest about further loss of manufacturing might and economic disruption fell on deaf ears as the legislature passed and the governor signed SB 32. AB 1066, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez resets overtime rules for farm workers. The bill lowers the current 10-hour-day threshold for overtime by half an hour each year until it reaches the standard eight-hour day by 2022. It also will phase in a 40-hour standard workweek for the first time. The agricultural industry argued against the bill saying it would damage the economics of the business and hurt workers.
Earlier in the year, to avoid an initiative and give governors a modicum of control in measuring the economic impact of minimum wage increases, the legislature passed Sen. Mark Leno’s SB 3 and Brown signed an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Business opposed this dramatic increase claiming jobs would be lost. When fully implemented, the wage hike will add a $4 billion obligation on to the General Fund.
As I wrote last week, there is concern that taxpayers could be the backstop for SB 1234, the Secure Choice retirement plan for private workers authored by Senate president pro tem Kevin de León. At a minimum, it is more paperwork and attention to non-business details for employers. However, despite assurances that no extra financial burden will hit either the employer or the state, if the retirement program falters, employers and taxpayers are the likely financial backstop.
The governor signed AB 1494 by Assemblyman Marc Levine allowing voters to disclose voluntarily how they voted. It would reverse the protections of a secret ballot, an important tool of democratic elections. The bill’s origins have to do with providing documented proof, using photos on social media, that a voter fulfilled his or her civic responsibility. Like other practices in our social media age that seem to roil civil society, the act of documenting a vote is a bridge too far into the land where coercion is a danger. The bill seems contrary to perhaps the shortest section in the state constitution: Article II, Section 7 reads in total: “Voting shall be secret.”
Sen. Ben Allen’s SB 1107 allows public funding of campaigns, something voters prohibited years ago with Proposition 73 in 1988. Already, Common Cause, a supporter of SB 1107, is sending out fundraising letters to help finance a legal defense of the bill against a lawsuit they expect will come. A lawsuit should be filed. Since voters passed this prohibition it is only voters and not legislators who can change it.