Major legislation moving

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Sept. 6, 2013 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Last week was the deadline to move bills from committees and onto the floors of the legislature. Bills must pass by September 13 and be acted on by the Governor by October 13. Many bills have already been deemed “two-year” bills and will not be heard again until 2014, the second year of this two year session.

Bills that matter most to manufacturers include:

AB 327 (Henry Perea, D-Fresno) is a multi-faceted energy bill that would solve some problems but create a new one. CMTA is opposed to the provision that would allow the California Public Utilities Commission to order utilities to purchase renewable energy beyond the 33 percent by 2020 required in current law. The bill also changes

some residential rate design features that were first instituted to protect residential customers from the brunt of high prices during the energy crisis in 2001-2003. Other provisions adjust the tariffs for payment for energy generated from customer systems, and adopt utility planning requirements for distributed generation. 

SB 605 (Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens) would spend up to $125 million of cap and trade revenues this year for environmental justice purposes. This year $500 million of such revenues have been transferred to the general fund to bolster the rainy day fund. The bill would also limit the use of “offsets” in the cap and trade program. Environmental justice groups do not like the idea that compliance can be satisfied by payment for reductions that are not onsite, nor in the capped sectors. An effort to limit the availability of such offsets will put upward pressure on prices in the cap and trade program, therefore CMTA is opposed to this bill.

SB 54 (Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley) would require oil refineries to use only contractors whose employees meet specific apprentice training standards and pay prevailing wages for that work. This would set a major new precedent for California businesses by imposing prevailing wage hiring requirements on the private sector and privately financed construction projects. CMTA is opposed to this bill.

SB 691 (Hancock) would increase air violation nuisance penalty fines for Title V permit holders tenfold from $10,000 for the first day of a major event to $100,000. Nuisance violations require essentially no proof by the air district. Parameters must be established identifying when this provision would kick in. The sponsors, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, however, have refused to take amendments that would limit the fines to exceedances of CERCLA (The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act – federal air emission standards). As the bill currently stands, you could be within your permit emission limits and still be fined.  Unless the bill is amended to include reasonable emission limits, CMTA will oppose this bill.

AB 10 (Luis Alejo, D-Salinas) would incrementally increase the minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour over a five-year period, beginning in 2014, which represents a 25 percent increase over the next five years.  CMTA opposes this bill because the proposed increase far exceeds any reasonably expected rate of inflation and fails to consider the additional costs and economic impacts California employers will face in the near future.  An increase in the minimum wage not only raises the pay for hourly employees, it also increases salaried employees’ compensation.  In order for employees to qualify as “exempt” under any of the six exemptions in California, they must meet the salary-basis test, which is two times the monthly minimum wage. 

SB 655 (Rod Wright, D-Inglewood) would provide a windfall in damages to employees and expose employers to significant litigation by undermining the unanimous Supreme Court decision in Harris v. City of Santa Monica, 56 Cal.4th 203 (2013).  According to Harris, if the employer proves that the primary reason for their adverse employment action was not discriminatory, the employee’s recovery is limited to declaratory relief and attorney’s fees, but not damages.  SB 655 would undermine that ruling and allow employees in these “mixed-motive” cases to collect non-economic damages, even when it has been proven that the primary reason for the adverse employment action was lawful, and impose a $15,000 statutory penalty against the employer.  As a result, this bill would incentivize attorneys to file frivolous lawsuits for discrimination even when it is clear that the employee’s poor performance at work justified the termination.  CMTA and other business groups are opposed.

AB 1165 (Nancy Skinner,D-Berkeley) would create a double appeals process for serious, repeat serious, willful serious, or failure to abate workplace safety hazard violations and presume the guilt of the employer prior to any official determination. This means that a manufacturer could be required to fix the alleged violation while awaiting their appeal as to whether a violation actually exists.  This bifurcated process denies manufacturers their due process in contesting that a hazard even exists and is unnecessary given the expedited appeal process that was adopted by the Cal-OSHA Appeals Board that became effective July 1, 2013 to create a more rapid hearing process in these types of situations.  CMTA and others are opposed to this measure.

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