published on October 19, 2016 - 6:37 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

The California Chamber of Commerce had a big impact in Sacramento during the most recent legislative session, stopping 20 of 24 bills the organization labeled “job killers.”

The Cal Chamber’s advocacy team and its allies working in the statehouse successfully lobbied against a wide range of 2016 bills deemed detrimental to businesses both large and small across the state — everything from measures that would have threatened the long-term affordability of health care coverage to a handful of bills that would have eroded housing affordability across the state.

And in one instance, even though a piece of controversial legislation — SB 654 — labeled a job killer by Cal Chamber officials, made it out of the Assembly, Governor Jerry Brown subsequently vetoed the measure, which would have created a new, additional protected leave of absence for employers with as few as 20 employees.

The state already requires employers with five or more employees to provide up to four months of protected leave for an employee who suffers a medical disability related to pregnancy. SB 654, which was written by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), would have added another six weeks of leave for the same employee, which would have amounted to a total of over five months of protective leave per employee.

CalChamber officials argued SB 654 would have increased costs and burdens on small business employers across the state and would also have exposed those same employers to costly litigation.

In addition to leaves of absence required by federal regulations, CalChamber leaders, in their lobbying efforts, noted that the Golden State also already provides expectant parents paid sick days, school activities leave, kin care, pregnancy disability leave, protections under the California Family Rights Act and the paid family leave program.

Noting that California is already one of the most family-friendly states in terms of employee rights, Gov. Brown wrote in his veto message, “It goes without saying that allowing new parents to bond with a child is very important and the state has a number of paid and unpaid benefit programs to provide for that leave. I am concerned, however, about the impact of this leave particularly on small businesses and the potential liabilities that could result.”

Cal Chamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg agreed with the governor, who he said recognized “that this bill would have hurt small business in California and made it even more difficult for them to manage their workforce.”

In addition to quashing the extended family leave bill, CalChamber efforts also stopped a number of measures related to hazardous waste permitting that would have discouraged investment by private businesses to upgrade and improve waste facilities around the state.

Also defeated were several bills that would have jeopardized the production of California-based fuel at the expense of out-of-state manufacturers.

CalChamber lobbying also halted proposed legislation that would have increased commercial property taxes (SCA 5), lowered the vote requirements for tax increases (ACA 8) and increased taxes aimed at their beverage, retail and restaurant industries.

Chamber analysts are predicting that “businesses of all sizes and industries” will be impacted by the expansion of the state’s greenhouse gas reduction program. “Although the new limit on greenhouse gases affects immediately the industries that emit carbon today, the law’s implementation will expand the consequences far beyond those industries,” a CalChamber analysis determined.

CalChamber officials labeled the new reduced emissions limit a “high concern due to the command-and-control approach that fails to take into consideration population growth, cost, lifestyle and economic impacts.”

And CalChamber warned its members that the stepped up climate change regulations “could have serious implications for the mobility of Californians, goods and services, as well as affordable housing.”

Inclusion in the CalChamber’s annual job killer list can be the kiss of death for most bills. Since 1997, when it began singling out and tracking proposed job killer legislation, the CalChamber has identified over 600 bills that the organization deemed a threat to Golden State businesses and the California economy.

A recent analysis shows that of the 674 pieces of legislation labeled job killers by the CalChamber during the past 20 years, California governors ultimately signed a total of just 50 of those bills into law.

At the conclusion of the 2016 legislative session, CalChamber told its members its monthly Alert newsletter: “The California Chamber of Commerce advocacy team and its allies stopped dozens of harmful bills, won amendments removing the most onerous provisions in other proposals and helped pass many bills that will increase certainty and reduce competitive disadvantages for California businesses.”

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