Updated Legislative Priorities for Small Business Advocates

CA-legislatureFollowing the annual legislative house of origin deadline, NFIB California reflected on our victories and challenges ahead with our “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” bill list. Each year we proactively identify which bills will have the greatest impact, either negative or positive, to our 22,000 small businesses across California. Throughout the year we advocate in the Capitol for these priorities in order to lower the burden and cost of doing business in this state.

It is now halftime in the Legislature, and with that comes some welcome victories for small business, but more importantly there remain significant challenges ahead in these final months of this legislative session. With this being the first year in the 2017-18 two-year session, it is important to remember nothing is ever truly dead, but below are some highlights of where small business stands at legislative halftime.

Victories:

Good Bills Passed

AB 657 (Cunningham): Requires state agencies that significantly impact small businesses to display the name and contact information of the small business liaison on the agency’s Web site, and to fill any vacancy in this position within 3 months. Passed out of Assembly, in Senate Appropriations.

AB 816 (Kiley): Requires public California Environmental Protection Agency meetings, including subordinate departments like CARB and OEHHA, to be broadcast online and interactive to the public. It also requires them to be recorded for future access. Passed out of the Assembly, in Senate Rules.

Bad Bills Stopped

AB 5 (Gonzalez-Fletcher): Requires employers with 10 or more total employees to offer more hours to their part-time employees before they can hire new workers, including temporary or seasonal staff. It creates a new right to sue your employer if you don’t get more hours. Held in Assembly Appropriations.

AB 43 (Thurmond): Imposes a 10% tax on businesses that contract with CDCR for the “privilege” of having a state contract in order to fund education programs designed to discourage future criminals. It sets a bad precedent by taxing businesses just for having a state contract. Held in Assembly Appropriations.

SB 300 (Monning): Requires all sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California to have a health warning label, and creates new civil penalties for failure to do so. This is yet another example of nanny government. Held in Senate Health.

Challenges Ahead:

Needs to Pass

AB 12 (Cooley): Requires all agencies to do a full review of their regulations to see if they are outdated, too costly, or overlap with other rules. Such a full-scale review has not happened in decades. Held in Assembly Appropriations.

AB 77 (Fong): Requires legislative approval for any regulations with an economic impact of over $50 million. Held in Assembly Appropriations.

AB 281/AB 1429/AB 1430: Create desperately needed PAGA reforms, including extending the timeframe in which a business can cure a problem before being sued, limiting the types of PAGA suits, and requiring an agency investigation before suing.

AB 1005 (Calderon): The Department of Consumer Affairs oversees the licensure of businesses and professions. This bill would allow 30 days for abatement of the violation before the administrative fine becomes effective. Held in Assembly Appropriations.

Need to Stop

AB 1008 (McCarty): Prohibits employers from asking applicants about convictions until they make a conditional offer of employment. It creates new obligations and liabilities for employers and allows for new lawsuits. It will hamstring a small business owner’s ability to quickly fill a position. Passed out of the Assembly, in Senate Rules.

SB 2 (Atkins): Creates a new $75-$225 per document fee (or tax) for the transfer of real property to fund affordable housing programs. Held on the Senate Floor.

SB 562 (Lara): Creates fiscally reckless single-payer healthcare system in California. This would cost $400-500 billion annually, and would require enormous tax increases to fund. It would hurt the quality of healthcare for our citizens. Passed out of the Senate, in Assembly Rules.

SB 640 (Hertzberg): An intent bill that will expand the state sales tax to services. Small businesses would have to collect a new tax, and also pay the tax when they contract out for services. Held in Senate Governance & Finance.

Tom Scott is CA Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Bill to Curb ADA Lawsuit Abuse Signed by Brown

Photo courtesy of man pikin, flickr

Photo courtesy of man pikin, flickr

Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 269 (Roth) which gives some relief to small business. Among other things, the bill allows small businesses that hire a Certified Access Specialist to inspect their facilities a chance to fix Americans with Disabilities Act compliance issues before a suit can be filed. It also allows all small businesses to correct basic issues like signage and warning strips without penalty.

Last year, Senator Roth introduced SB 251 which was essentially the same legislation except it also included tax credits to assist small business owners with the costs of retrofitting their place of business to be compliant with the ADA. Governor Brown vetoed SB 251 due to these tax credits, arguing that tax credits should be part of the budget negotiation process.

Following this setback, Senator Roth reintroduced legislation in the form of SB 269 sans the tax credits, which gained bipartisan support and ultimately the Governor’s signature.

California’s legal climate remains one of the highest costs of doing business in this state, and SB 269 moves the needle in the right direction. While this bill does not completely fix California’s hostile legal climate, hopefully it helps to move us away from being annually ranked the #1 Judicial Hellhole in the nation by the American Tort Reform Association.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was intended to increase compliance and access, not become a source of income for trial lawyers. SB 269 helps prevent unnecessary lawsuits which frequently serve only as a cash cow for attorneys rather than a means to make business more accessible for all.

SB 269 is listed on our The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly bill list as a “Good” bill for these reasons, along with other key legislative priorities for NFIB. Again, we thank Governor Brown, Senator Roth, and the bipartisan support for this bill and hope it moves us toward a more positive legal climate for small businesses in California.

CA Executive Director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Aloe Vera Added to Prop. 65 List

Aloe VeraThere are two very different types of actors in the realm of making our economy tick. Entrepreneurs wake of every day trying to think of new ways to innovate, to expand, and thus create new jobs. Then there are the regulators in Sacramento who wake up every day thinking of new, creative ways to add burdens and barriers to operating your business in California and beyond. Their latest regulatory red alert: Aloe vera.

You read that correctly: Aloe vera. In December of last year, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) published its intent to list Aloe vera, whole leave extract to the Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer. Despite the widely accepted extensive health benefits of Aloe vera, an unelected regulator in Sacramento can now tell you and all consumers it will cause cancer, even if no cases of cancer from Aloe vera exposure exist.

The problem is that the 800+ chemicals listed in Proposition 65 are not devised to protect consumers, but rather serve as a cash cow for private trial lawyers to sue small business and reap the hefty settlement payout. Since 1986, nearly 20,000 lawsuits have been filed, adding up to over half a billion dollars in settlement payments by business owners.

Unfortunately, the most profitable thing regulators give to trial lawyers at the expense of job creators is confusion. Recent Proposition 65 proposed regulatory revisions create compliance difficulties, increase frivolous litigation, and add consumer confusion.

Included in these proposed revisions are additional Prop 65 labeling requirements on the immediate container or wrapper of products containing at least one of the twelve chemicals listed by OEHHA. However, the chemical(s) only need to be listed if it exists at a “level that requires a warning.” Which products need a Prop 65 warning label and which do not? A lawyer only needs to know the chemical exists to take legal action; the costly burden to prove it exists at a safe level falls on the business owner.

Beyond package labels and chemical lists, new proposed regulations seek to further specify even the acceptable font size for Prop 65 warning signs. Most business owners would not know that the font on a Prop 65 warning must be “no smaller than one half the largest type size used for other consumer information.” The average small business coffee shop owner is likely unaware that he or she may be at serious risk for a frivolous lawsuit because of a minor font size error.

Confused yet? The bottom line is that these regulations exist to cause confusion, and the latest addition of aloe vera to the list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer only further confuses both consumers and small businesses. Every time a chemical is added to the Prop. 65 list, it simply creates one more avenue for trial lawyers to sue.

If our regulators and legislators in Sacramento spent half as much effort thinking of ways to support small business as they do devising new creative ways to regulate them, perhaps California would not be ranked dead last for its business climate by CEO Magazine ten years in a row, nor would we be listed as the #1 Judicial Hellhole by the American Tort Reform Foundation.

Small businesses reflect the lifeblood of every community across California and the nation. Each day, entrepreneurs struggle to thrive in spite of additional mandates and regulations—now small businesses can add aloe vera to their list of things to worry about. Let’s instead focus on policies that support small business, not regulations that add to the cost of doing business in California.

CA Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business.

For more than 70 years, the National Federation of Independent Business has been the Voice of Small Business, taking the message from Main Street to the halls of Congress and all 50 state legislatures. NFIB has 350,000 dues-paying members nationally, with over 22,000 in California. NFIB annually surveys its members on state and federal issues vital to their survival as America’s economic engine and biggest creator of jobs. To learn more visit www.NFIB.com/california.