Gino DiCaro

It's a Wrap!

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, Sept. 3, 2004 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

The 2003-04 legislative session was both the launch of Arnold Schwarzenegger's new career as Governor and the final year for several veteran lawmakers forced out by term limits. Senators John Burton (D-San Francisco), John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), Jim Brulte (R-Rancho Cucamonga) and Byron Sher (D-Palo Alto) were among the most experienced and influential members of the Legislature. Key pieces of legislation passed in this legislative cycle to fulfill the desire of these members to leave a legacy, included Burton's mandated health insurance bill (SB 2, 2003) and Sher's electronic waste bill (SB 20, 2003).

This year the state's budget deficit caused many bills that would have increased the size of government to fail in fiscal committees, but CMTA is pleased that the myriad of "tax and fee" bills opposed in 2003 were not reintroduced. The Governor fulfilled his pledge not to raise taxes, instead borrowing to balance the budget. However, the Department of Finance projects a multi-billion dollar operating deficit for the next few years which will continue the debate between increasing taxes or reducing the size of government.

While many bad bills were defeated, some bills that could hurt California manufacturers and their employees are sitting on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature or veto. The Governor has until the end of September to act upon what has been sent to him.

Among the bills CMTA is asking the Governor to veto:

» AB 2006 (Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles) would allow investor owned utilities to build power plants without conducting a competitive bid process under conditions that would ensure the best value for ratepayers.

» AB 2832 (Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View) would increase the minimum wage from $6.75 to $7.25 as of January 1, 2005 and $7.75 by January 1, 2006.

» SB 1841 (Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey) would prohibit employers from electronically monitoring their employees' use of company computers and other equipment unless they are first provided with special notice. Failure to comply with this new administrative burden would subject employers to potential civil lawsuits and labor code violations.

» AB 1825 (Sarah Reyes, D-Fresno) would mandate a yearly two-hour training session on sexual harassment in the workplace even though employers are already mandated to provide this training in orientation sessions. The added costs would not be offset by increased protection to the employer from liability for claims of sexual harassment.

» SB 888 (Joseph Dunn, D-Santa Ana) would prohibit the offshore performance of any work involving information that is essential to homeland security, only vaguely and broadly defined. This bill would drive up costs to businesses and could have a negative impact on trade and job growth. CMTA will request vetoes for several other bills that would prohibit "outsourcing" of labor to other countries.

» AB 1957 (Dario Frommer, D-Los Angeles) would sanction the importation of price-controlled Canadian pharmaceuticals into California. This bill (and SB 1144 Burton; SB 1149 Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento; and SB 1333 Don Perata, D-Oakland) would make biotech investments less attractive, undercutting the ability of biotech firms to develop new drugs and expand R&D efforts in California and elsewhere.

On a brighter note, CMTA and the business community successfully limited the potential damaging impact of SB 796 (Dunn, 2003), a bill that allowed a private right of action for employees under the California Labor Code. As originally passed, it allowed employees to sue their boss for even minute code infractions – such as not posting the proper workers’ compensation sign in the right place in the lunchroom. SB 1809 (Dunn), already signed into law, gives the employer 30 days to cure the violation if an employee complains of an infraction.

Another significant victory for the business community was the workers’ compensation reform package (SB 899, Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno) adopted in April. A hard fought compromise with labor and attorneys resulted in a package that addresses the main cost drivers in the system. The reforms have already delivered some immediate savings and CMTA is confident that the package will continue to drive down costs to employers, while providing the highest quality of care to California's injured worker.

CMTA appreciates the support and participation of member companies in our legislative advocacy efforts. Please continue to give us your suggestions, opinions and feedback as we develop our legislative agenda for the 2005- 06 legislative session.
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