California Republicans want investigation into Newsom’s ties to Panera franchisee, new fast food law

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —Republican California lawmakers on Thursday called for an investigation into Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ties to a billionaire Panera franchisee and the restaurant’s exemption from a new state law that will require major fast-food chains to pay their workers $20 an hour.

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“He owes everybody an explanation,” Republican State Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones said.

Some Republican lawmakers said they had little faith in the ability of California’s Democratic Supermajority Legislature or other top Democrats in state government to investigate the issue. Assemblyman Joe Patterson, R-Rocklin, went as far as to say the FBI should get involved.

“Frankly, I don’t think the California Attorney General is capable of doing that,” Patterson said. “I think it has to be an outside agency that investigates this.”

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Multiple sources who spoke on condition of anonymity have confirmed to KCRA that billionaire franchisee and Newsom donor Greg Flynn influenced Newsom’s push to carve out chains that sell and make bread on-site from the new law in the final weeks of the legislative session in 2022.

Newsom’s office has said that it was the result of two years’ worth of negotiations between him and the Legislature. The law goes into effect in April.

“The Governor never met with Flynn about this bill & this story is absurd. Our legal team has reviewed and it appears Panera is not exempt,” Newsom’s spokesman Alex Stack said on Thursday. Newsom’s office said the exemption applies to those who produce bread on-site, and said some bakeries, including Panera, mix dough off-site at a centralized location before sending it to their restaurants for baking and sale. Experts note that appearance is up for interpretation, and stakeholders for years have understood it as an exemption. The legislation also does not define the word “produce.”

KCRA 3 asked Newsom why the exemption was in there when he signed the law in September of 2023. He said it was “part of the sausage making … part of the negotiations.”

Greg Flynn sent KCRA 3 a lengthy statement on Thursday night:

“It is true that I opposed AB1228, as did thousands of other California restaurant owners. If the intent of the bill was to address alleged labor code violations in fast food restaurants, then the scope of the law should be limited to true fast food restaurants and not include fast casual restaurants like bakeries, bagel shops, delis, etc. I suggested the bill’s language defining “fast food restaurant” should be amended to exclude fast casual restaurants,” Flynn said.

“To be clear, at no time did I ask for an exemption or special considerations. In fact, the idea never even occurred to me and I was surprised when the exemption appeared in the final legislation. Such a narrow exemption has very little practical value. As it applies to all of our peer restaurants in the fast casual segment, we will almost certainly have to offer market value wages in order to attract and retain employees,” Flynn said.

“I also never met with Governor Newsom about this bill, though I did meet with his staff in a group meeting with other restaurant owners. And finally, although we attended the same high school, I never met him there and in fact didn’t meet him until decades later,” he said.

Flynn has not said if he agrees with Newsom’s new interpretation of the law, that it may not exempt Panera.

Democratic Assemblyman Chris Holden, who wrote the law, said he did not know why the exemption was put into the bill. He told reporters on Thursday that despite being the author of the law, he was not part of the negotiation to include the carve-out for bakeries.

“It’s my bill, but in terms of the negotiations, it was bringing together the business community and franchisees and franchisors and through the governor’s leadership, it came together and what came out of that came the amendments of the bill,” Holden said.

Holden said he was not aware of the relationship between Flynn and Newsom.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Comments

  1. Donald J. says

    The corruption in California runs too high to ever do the right thing and get rid of the malfeasance in control of California due to the ignorance of the California voter.

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