Sacramento Report

August / September 2015
-- Volume 60 Number 3

We kill... bad bills

It’s that time again for the bad bill list. These are the bills that we opposed because they would have been harmful to workers in one of our core jurisdictions or they were just bad for workers in general. We traditionally kill these bills early in the legislative process, but this year it has been much harder because we are finding more and more Democrats introducing really awful bills. Despite that sad fact, we pretty much killed or stalled every bill we opposed. Here is a list of some of the really bad ones.

ASBESTOS

AB 597 by Assembly Member Ken Cooley (D-Sacramento) would have altered the procedure for making asbestos injury claims by inserting so many hurdles that victims would have died before they ever had their day in court. The idea was to substantially limit liability for cancer caused by asbestos in the workplace because dead victims get much smaller awards. This very cynical bill was sponsored by the Civil Justice Association of California which is a tort reform group funded by billionaires like the Koch brothers. We managed to bottle this up in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The author decided to make it a two-year bill when he realized he didn’t have the votes.

DAILY OVERTIME

AB 1038 by Assembly Member Brian Jones (R-Santee) would have ended daily overtime as we know it by allowing individually-negotiated “flexible” scheduling. This would allow an employer to circumvent the 8-hour day as long as an individual employee “voluntarily” agrees to work more than 8 hours without overtime pay. We know how this would go in workplaces where workers are routinely exploited...everybody would be forced to work extra hours and nobody would be paid overtime. We stopped this bill in Assembly Labor Committee.

HIGH SPEED RAIL

AB 1138 by Assembly Member Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) would have made it nearly impossible for the High Speed Rail Authority to acquire property needed to build the system through the eminent domain process. Big infrastructure projects often require the use of eminent domain because some property is just hard to acquire through the normal sale process for a variety of reasons. Given that this is the biggest infrastructure project in our history, barring the use of eminent domain would have tubed the whole project, and that was the intent. We opposed and the bill was held up in the Assembly Transportation Committee.

WORKERS’ COMP INSURANCE

AB 1170 by Assembly Member Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) would have exempted agricultural employers from the workers’ compensation insurance system. The bill would have instead required agricultural employers to pay into a fund where farmworkers could go to get healthcare, whether for an on-the-job injury or not. This bill raised a whole host of problems, most notably, how farmworkers would get adequately compensated for work injuries. We opposed the bill and the author decided not to move forward.

ALCOHOL SALES

AB 1233 by Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) would have created a loophole in the three-tiered system for the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcohol. This system prevents an entity from doing more than one of those three things. This, for example, prevents a large alcohol manufacturer from acquiring distribution or retail businesses because, if that was permitted, the large manufacturer might be able to exert enough market power to force smaller players out of business. This system protects our members in the industry. AB 1233 would have given so called “craft distillers” an exemption from the three-tiered system by allowing them to sell directly to the consumer. Such a move would put the jobs of our members on the distribution side in jeopardy. We vigorously opposed this bill and it was killed in the Assembly Governmental Relations Committee. The author has vowed to bring it back though.

OVERTIME FOR HIGH WAGE WORKERS

AB 1470 by Assembly Member Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) would have eliminated overtime for any worker earning over $100,000. In an era where the wage disparity between the wealthy and the middle class is at its highest ever, it defies logic why someone would introduce this bill. I guess the idea is to eliminate the few good paying jobs we have left. We opposed the bill and the author dropped it, for now.

SODA: WARNING LABELS

SB 203 by Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) would have required a warning label on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages. The concern is that this type of scare tactic on a product, and on an industry where we have many members employed, could drive down consumption and put jobs in jeopardy. We also opposed a similar bill in the Assembly, AB 1357 by Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), which would have imposed a special tax on these drinks. While there is no disputing that there can be negative health impacts from drinking too much soda, there is no reason to set it apart from other sugary foods. We killed both bills but the issue is certainly not dead.

These were just a few of the many bills we opposed this year, but they are good examples why we need to remain vigilant.