Bad outcomes are the consequence of bad laws, whether intended or not

With hundreds of new laws going into effect next year, the saying that “there ought to be a law” is taken way too seriously by California politicians. Regrettably, there is one law lacking – a binding requirement that forces legislators to think about the unintended consequences of the bills they enact.

Here are a couple of examples.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the Legislature sent billions of dollars in new spending to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk this session. But it was a pleasant surprise that he vetoed some of the worst, stressing it was “important to remain disciplined when considering bills with significant fiscal implications” as the state faces “continuing economic risk and revenue uncertainty.”

That random act of sanity even earned him some praise in the media with reporters suggesting that the governor was exhibiting a more moderate streak in preparation for a possible presidential run. But two bills he did sign show that his supposed fiscal discipline was short-lived.

Assembly Bill 1228 raises the hourly minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 and Senate Bill 525 raises the minimum wage for healthcare workers to $25. Taxpayer advocates and other fiscal conservative warned that these two government mandates would significantly increase costs and that those costs would be passed onto the consumer like an indirect tax.

That’s exactly what is happening. Both McDonald’s and Chipotle recently announced that they will be raising prices in California in response to the state’s minimum wage increase. While McDonald’s didn’t specify how much prices would increase, Chipotle said it would be a “mid-to-high single-digit” percentage. You can bet that other fast-food restaurants will be doing the same soon.

As for the increase for health care workers mandated by SB 525, even the state’s own Department of Finance opposed it out of concern for “significant economic impacts” and the bill analysis stated that its fiscal impact was “unknown.” The Legislature passed it anyway and now we know that SB 525 will cost $4 billion in the 2024-25 fiscal year alone. About $2 billion of that is coming directly out of the General Fund while the rest will be paid out of federal Medicaid funds.

The L.A. Times called it “one of the most expensive laws California has seen in years and comes as the state faces a $14-billion budget deficit that could grow larger if revenue projections continue to fall short.” Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that “California is poised to fall well short of its budget forecasts as the recent stock market slump erodes the state’s tax revenue.”

Did the governor actually know what he was doing when he signed these two costly bills? Maybe it’s wrong to assume that the higher price tags are simply “unintended consequences.” It is just as likely that he was aware of the impact to taxpayers and consumers but intended to reward political allies in labor organizations that can help further his political ambitions.

Senate Bill 616, also signed by the governor, greatly expanded mandated sick leave for employees of private-sector companies. The bill imposes new costs and leave requirements on employers of all sizes, by nearly doubling existing sick leave mandate, which is in addition to all other enacted leave mandates that already have small employers throughout the state struggling to implement and comply.

The unintended consequences of mandates such as SB 616 on California’s businesses, both large and small, is evident from countless media reports about the Great California Exodus as productive citizens and businesses move to other states. California’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average and our poverty rate, when the cost of living is taken into account, is the worst in the nation.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Rules for thee: How California Legislature Skirts Its Own Laws

California legislators pass hundreds of laws every year. But sometimes, they free themselves from following them.

On one emblematic issue, however, this may be the session when that changes: Lawmakers, who have pushed through major bills to support unions throughout California, may finally let their own staffers organize.

For at least the fifth time in the last 25 years, the effort came to an anticlimactic end last year as a legislative unionization bill passed the state Senate, but failed in an Assembly committee on the last day of the session. 

This year, there are a lot of pieces in place that could help the new push. For one: the amount of turnover in what is now California’s most diverse Legislature ever 

The legislation was revived — and highlighted as Assembly Bill 1 on the first day of the current session Dec. 5 — by new Assemblymember Tina McKinnor, who leads the committee where it has died four out of the five times it has been proposed.

“What are we afraid of? Why are we afraid of our staff to have representation?” the Inglewood Democrat told CalMatters today. “We’ve asked the farmers to let the farmworkers unionize. We asked the hotel owners to let hotel workers unionize and the restaurant owners to let restaurant folks unionize. And we’re not letting our own folks in our building unionize. We can’t continue this.”  

In addition, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon supports the idea of staff unionization. The incoming speaker, Assemblymember Robert Rivas, who is set to take the top leadership post on June 30, is one of 20 Assemblymembers and seven senators whose names were on the bill at introduction. 

A wave of unionization in Democratic state legislatures across the country, plus among some congressional staff, could also help the cause. Oregon became the first state to allow legislative staff to unionize in 2021. Similar efforts were started in Massachusetts, New York and Washington state.

Legislative staff said that those movements provide a helpful template, and that they see the passage of the California bill as a question of when, not if. 

“Legislative staff face the same workplace issues as other workers, but are explicitly carved out of labor protections,” staff members behind the organizing effort said via email. “We, as staff, are put in the position of asking our employer to grant us the right to organize. With AB 1, we will have the right to advocate for our interests the way all workers should.”

Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher — one of the most prominent union champions in the Legislature from 2013 until last year, when she resigned from the Assembly to become head of the California Labor Federation — says there’s no legitimate reason for legislative staff to be blocked from collective bargaining.     

“It’s an argument that we hear always in unionizing efforts: Our place of work is special, it’s different, we have unique challenges,” she told CalMatters. “We have unions that are used to dealing with a variety of sticky situations. That’s something that can be worked out.” 

At last count, there are more than 1,800 full-time staffers in the Assembly and Senate, including legislative directors, district coordinators, secretaries and aides. 

Unionization isn’t the only area where the Legislature exempts itself. The state Senate and Assembly also set rules for other state agencies and businesses that they don’t require themselves to follow: minimum wage, whistleblower protections, public access and more.

Dan Schnur, a politics professor at UC Berkeley, USC and Pepperdine University, says there’s “no coherent argument” to be made on why legislators should not abide by the laws they pass for other Californians. He also argues that “rules for thee” damages civic engagement. 

“This is exactly the type of double standard that makes voters across the ideological spectrum absolutely despise politics and politicians,” he said. 

Legislative staffers unite  

State employees other than legislative staff were granted the right to collective bargaining in the Ralph C. Dills Act, signed into law by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 1977. 

Of the 200,000-plus state workers, more than 80% are represented in one of 21 bargaining units; managers, supervisors and some others are excluded. Last week, for instance, the union representing more than 2,700 state scientists rejected a contract offer from the Newsom administration. The union, which has been without an agreement since July 2020, is seeking 43% raises. 

Concerns about past staff unionization bills have included treating the Assembly and Senate as one joint employer though they operate independently, as well as potential timing conflicts between labor contracts and legislative terms.

Other lawmakers have also flagged concerns about outside interests such as unions having a say in the Legislature’s operations, where constituents’ voices are meant to be prioritized above all else.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

New California laws for 2023: Abortion, Minimum Wage and More Laws That Go Into Effect in January

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —The new year will usher in hundreds of new California laws. From protecting abortion and gender-affirming health care to legalizing jaywalking, state lawmakers and the governor approved a swath of new rules in the state that take effect in January.

We take a look at those, explain the laws that go into effect later this year, and provide you an update on laws that were supposed to go into effect but may be blocked or delayed.

Health care

Gender-affirming care: SB 107 aims to make California a sanctuary state for transgender health care, shielding transgender people, including youth and their parents, from legal action from states with bans and restrictions.

Abortion: Several reproductive healthcare-related measures have either already taken effect or will at the start of the year in response to the United State Supreme Court’s decision to overturn federal abortion protections, which restricted access to the procedure in several states.

This includes laws that protect medical records and cooperation with out-of-state entities regarding abortion restrictions (AB 2091, AB 1242), expands abortion training options and providers (SB 1375), and protections for people from criminal or civil liabilities for pregnancy loss or abortion (AB 2223).

COVID-19: AB 2963 requires workplaces to continue providing employees with COVID-19 exposure notifications until 2024.

AB 2098 makes it easier for the California Medical Board to punish doctors who spread COVID-19 misinformation.

Labor

Minimum wage increase: SB 3 (2016) will raise California’s minimum wage to $15.50.

Pay transparency: SB 1162 requires employers to make salary ranges for available job positions to applicants and employees. It also sets new pay data reporting requirements based on gender and race.

Paid family leave: SB 951 increases the share of paid family leave provided to lower-income Californians. It extends what was a temporary increase in the benefit from 55% of wages to 60% to 70% depending on income. In 2025, the bill requires an increase of the benefit to 70%.

Public Safety and Criminal Justice

Rape kits: SB 1228 prohibits law enforcement agencies from using the DNA collected from a sexual assault victim from being used in the investigation of an unrelated crime.

Free prison phone calls: SB 1008 provides free phone calls to people detained in California prisons and jails.

Rap lyrics in court: AB 2799 limits the use of creative expression, such as rap lyrics, as evidence in criminal cases.

Retail theft: AB 1700 sets up a section on the state Attorney General’s office website to report stolen items.

AB 2294 gives law enforcement the ability to keep those in custody who are accused of organized retail theft.

Immigration status in court: SB 836 prohibits disclosure of a person’s immigration status in open court in a criminal case by any party unless approved by a judge.

Jaywalking: AB 2147 allows pedestrians to jaywalk (or cross the street outside of an intersection) without being ticketed, as long as the crossing is done when it’s safe to do so.

Retail

Pink tax: AB 1287 prohibits gender-based pricing on products based on who they’re marketed toward.

Fur: AB 44 (2019) bans the sale and manufacturing of new fur clothing and accessories. It does not apply to used fur products, leather, cowhide, faux fur or shearling.

Food packaging: AB 1200 bans the sale, distribution or offering of any food packaging that contains perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also knowns as PFAS.

Laws that take effect later this year

Mental Health: SB 1338, also known as CARE Court, will launch new judicial branches in six California counties in October, which would provide court-ordered mental health care to severely mentally ill, unhoused people. Those counties are Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne. The rest of the state is expected to implement the new system by the end of 2024.

Housing: AB 2011 aims to boost housing production and affordability by turning unused retail spaces into homes and communities. It goes into effect on July 1.

Guns: AB 1594 allows the state attorney general, local prosecutors and anyone who suffered harm as a result of gun violence in California to sue firearm manufacturers.

Sealed convictions: SB 731 allows most old convictions on non-violent or non-sex-related offenses in criminal records to be permanently sealed. It applies to previous convictions of those who completed their sentence and did not return to the criminal justice system.

New laws that may be delayed or blocked

Farmworker unionization: AB 2183 makes it easier for farmworkers in California to unionize. The implementation of this law has been delayed following an agreement signed by the governor and labor leaders.

The governor agreed to sign the bill, with conditions, after facing political pressure from high-profile people and politicians, including President Joe Biden.

One of those conditions involved striking out nearly half of the measure that farmworker groups had been pushing for, while another is based on the assumption the state Legislature — a completely separate body from his branch in state government — will approve the changes he wants.

Fast food workers: AB 257 would create a state council to bargain wages and working conditions on behalf of the than half-million fast food workers in the state. Opponents of the measure have said they have gathered more than enough signatures to keep the measure from going into effect, and to give voters the final say on the issue in 2024.

Click here to read the full article at KCRA

How Will California’s New Laws Affect You?

SACRAMENTO — The COVID-19 pandemic continued to slow the pace of governing California in 2021 as it did the year before, with the second fewest number of bills approved by the Legislature of any year since 1967, trailing only the record low number ratified in 2020.

In all, Gov. Gavin Newsom considered 836 bills covering a range of topics, a mix of proposals prompted by the current COVID crisis as well as items that have been hotly debated for years. Newsom vetoed only 66 of the bills that made it to his desk.

The Times’ list highlights 43 noteworthy new laws for 2022, including several that were approved years earlier but are only taking effect now. Most of those listed take effect on New Year’s Day. As in years past, the list mostly reflects the interests of the Democrats who hold a supermajority of seats in both the state Senate and Assembly.

Some of the most notable new laws make significant changes in criminal justice, law enforcement oversight and healthcare.

  • Anyone who protests at a vaccination clinic must keep a distance from any patients who are within 100 feet of its entrance. Failure to do so could result in a fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail.
  • A broad array of services provided by Medi-Cal, California’s healthcare program for low-income residents, will be available to all income-eligible adults age 50 and over, regardless of immigration status, beginning on May 1, 2022.
  • Protesters can’t videotape, photograph or otherwise record patients or providers within 100 feet of reproductive clinics. The new law also bans sharing those images online.
  • Electronic cigarettes will be subject to a new tax as of July 1, 2022 to be paid by purchasers, equal to 12.5% of the sales price. The proceeds will go to public health and education programs.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

New California laws 2016: What to expect in the new year

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Like bubbles ascending a champagne flute, a bevy of recently passed California policies will float to the surface and take effect this Jan. 1. Here’s a review of some of the major items.

Vaccines

One of 2015’s fiercest fights was over SB 277, which was introduced in the wake of a measles outbreak at Disneyland and requires full vaccination for most children to enroll in school. Schools will begin vetting students to ensure they have their shots in July, before the 2016-2017 school year begins.

Search warrants

Arguing our privacy laws lag behind our technology, lawmakers passed SB 178 to require search warrants before law enforcement can obtain your emails, text messages, Internet search history and other digital data.

Ballot fees

Thinking of filing a ballot initiative? You’ll need more cash. …

Click here to read the full article

New 2015 Laws: Hollywood Wins, In-Home Care Loses

New Year’s Day sure wasn’t a holiday from new regulations: 2015 brings 931 new laws Californians must obey. Some took effect on Jan. 1; others will later in the year.

State lawmakers — with the approval of Gov. Jerry Brown — have changed how consumers shop for groceries, how Hollywood blockbusters are funded and how much time you get off work when you’re sick.

Perhaps the most talked about new law, the country’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, also is the least likely to go into effect. Under Senate Bill 270, by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, grocery stores and markets would be banned from distributing plastic bags on July 1. Stores would also be forced to charge customers at least 10 cents for a recycled paper bag, the proceeds of which can go toward offsetting the cost of complying with the new regulation.

However, a manufacturing trade group, the American Progressive Bag Alliance, has channeled consumer anger over the new state regulation into a successful petition drive. Earlier this week, the group turned in more than 800,000 petition signatures to county registrars in an effort to qualify a referendum for the 2016 ballot. If the measure qualifies for the ballot, the law would be delayed until voters decided its fate in Nov. 2016.

Hooray for Hollywood handouts

While the outcome of the state’s plastic bag ban remains in doubt, there’s no doubt Hollywood will have its handout in the new year. Assembly Bill 1839, authored by Assemblymen Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, and Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, would more than triple California’s corporate welfare program for film and television programs.

Under the state’s current subsidy program, the California Film Commission gives away $100 million in tax credits to big studios that keep production in California. The new law will increase that corporate welfare fund to $330 million per year for the next five years. It also changes how the funds are distributed, linking the size of the welfare to the number of jobs created by the project.

“In the last 15 years, film production has dropped nearly 50 percent in California,” said Senate GOP leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, a co-author of the corporate welfare bill. “When that happens, it’s the ‘behind the scenes’ workers who take a hit, as well the ancillary businesses that serve the production sites and teams. If California is going to get these jobs back, we must compete with other states and nations who are clamoring for that big movie business.”

Yet taxpayers often fail to see an adequate return on their investment, as CalWatchdog.com reported earlier this year, “A recent Legislative Analyst’s Office report concluded that the Golden State is actually failing to recoup its supposed investment in keeping the entertainment industry local, losing some 35 cents on the dollar.”

In-home workers excluded from new paid sick leave

As the state gives away hundred of millions of dollars to Hollywood studios, it simultaneously claims it can’t afford to extend a new perk to in-home care workers. AB1522, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, requires all companies to provide their employees up to three paid sick days per year.

But the new law, which takes effect on July 1, excludes 365,000 in-home support service workers. The California Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill and included it in its list of 2014 “job-killers.”

Why did the Democratic-controlled Legislature abandon the state’s low-paid workers and exclude government from the new regulation?

“At the end of the day,” Gonzalez told the union-backed Capitol & Main blog, “we were forced to take that specific group out.  It was a condition of having the bill signed by Gov. Brown.”

Brown objected to the $82 million annual price tag to hold the state to the same regulations as private businesses. The cost of providing sick days to in-home workers was less than the current Hollywood subsidy program.

Other new laws in California

Redevelopment Revival

AB229, by Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, allows local governments to create Infrastructure and Revitalization Financing Districts to revive old military bases. These districts could issue 30 years of debt with the approval of two-thirds of voters in the district.

SB628, by state Sen. Jim Beall, D-Campbell, revives redevelopment agencies under a new name, “Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts.” These districts would be allowed to “finance public capital facilities or other specified projects of community-wide significance” with the approval of 55 percent of voters in the district.

New Gun Laws: 

AB1964, by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, bans gun shop owners from selling single-shot handguns that can be altered into semi-automatic weapons.

AB1014, by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Oakland, creates a new restraining order that allows the confiscation of firearms when a person is determined to be “an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to himself, herself, or another.”

New Laws in the Bedroom: 

SB1255, by state Sen. Anthony Cannella, D-Modesto, expands California’s “revenge porn” ban against posting intimate images of unwilling or unaware people on the Internet, including selfies.

SB967, by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, requires colleges to develop instruction manuals informing students that sexual activity requires affirmative consent.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

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