from Damon R. Conklin, Director of Government Affairs, Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange
Today marks the mid-point of the shortest, weirdest, and most chaotic Legislative Session of modern times. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic everything in the state stopped in March. Legislators went home to their districts, and our government went into emergency-mode under the Governor’s direction.
In May, the Legislature reconvened for a truncated session which lasts through August 31. Legislators were asked to narrow the scope of their bill package to focus on pandemic related measures. Some legislators have done just that, while others have used the crisis to push longstanding policy goals.
The idiom, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” has oft been repeated as bill after bill has been tweaked to mention the word COVID-19, while retaining language from before all this started.
However, Legislative Leadership in both the Assembly and Senate have made notable attempts to “herd cats” and keep the body focused on bills that are needed to address policy issues related to the pandemic. Leadership has also been visibly more active in the committee process attempting to filter bills that are a distraction. It is a tough job with 120 legislators that have their own political and policy goals, but we commend them for the effort.
Today, is the “First House Deadline,” meaning all Assembly bills need to be voted over to the Senate, and visa versa, or they are dead. This is a big important deadline as it will somewhat re-set the template for the last half of session and give us a better idea of what measures have legs and which are stalled for the year.
After today the Legislature will take a two-week break, then come back Monday, July 13th and all of August. In that time, all bills that are still alive will need to move through the second house policy committee, second house fiscal committee, and the Senate or Assembly Floors – some bills will need to clear both Floors.
Budget Deal Still Being Worked On
If you thought the budget was passed on June 15, you were right. Kinda. The “framework” was passed – the bill that let the Legislature tick the box that they had met the Constitutional deadline to pass a budget, but most of the details were still being worked out.
We expect both houses of the Legislature will take up many of those details today and vote on a spending plan for fiscal year 2020-21 that deals with the estimated $54 BILLION budget hole that COVID-19 has punched into our state’s finances.
Lots of details will follow on this deal, but you can expect debt, a reliance on federal funds, and a restriction on some of the tax incentives many businesses rely upon to keep their workforce in place.
New Job Killer – 12 weeks of Leave…Plus Lawsuits
Our friends at the CalChamber are ringing the alarm on a bill requiring that all employers provide 12 weeks of protected family leave that also includes a private right of action has been labeled a job killer by the California Chamber of Commerce.
The bill, SB 1383 (Jackson; D-Santa Barbara) significantly expands the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which currently only applies to larger employers, to any employer with only one employee and requires these small employers to provide each eligible employee with 12 weeks of protected leave from work.
The 12 weeks of leave mandated under SB 1383 is enforced through a private right of action that includes compensatory damages, injunctive relief, declaratory relief, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. This provision would particularly hit small businesses who do not have a dedicated human resources team or in-house counsel to advise them on how to properly administer this leave.
We are working closely with the CalChamber and other business groups to address the serious concerns raised by SB 1383 and hope to amend the bill or stop it in the Legislature.
In stead of providing a long e-mail containing all of the bills that we are monitoring and engaging, we added a “Legislative Priorities” page to our website that is being updated every couple of days as bills advance, are amended or stall. We will alert you of any significant changes to this list or as needed. Please click here to see the full list.
CA mandates zero-emission big rigs, trucks, buses
California on Thursday adopted the world’s first regulation to force manufacturers to ramp up sales of zero-emission trucks and buses over the next 15 years. Under the rule passed unanimously by the state’s air board, 55% of delivery vans and large pickups, 75% of larger vehicles like school buses and 40% of big rigs sold in California must be zero-emissions by 2035. Though manufacturing costs will shoot up, the air board estimates the new rule will result in billions of dollars of savings in the long run and reduce smog and pollution disproportionately concentrated in low-income communities and those of color. Final Environmental Analysis can be read here.
House Democrats Release Text of $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Bill - H.R. 2 the Moving Forward Act:
On June 22, the Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) was joined by six other Democratic House committee chairs in a press conference releasing the legislative text of the Democratic Infrastructure Bill – H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. Text of H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act is here. A Section by Section is here. A Fact Sheet is here.
Have a great weekend and please do not hesitate to contact me if you should have any questions.
Damon R. Conklin
Director of Government Affairs
Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange