Commentary: Legislature to debate key bills in final month of session
By Rich Matteis
Legislators returned to Sacramento this week for the final month of the 2011 legislative year. In the next 30 days, hundreds of bills will be discussed, debated, amended and voted on. Some bills will pass both houses of the Legislature and move to the governor for a signature or veto, while others will fail.
The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on Sept. 9. The short time frame means things will move quickly, and the status of the various bills of concern to Farm Bureau may change daily.
Your Farm Bureau governmental affairs staff will be diligently watching what occurs, but we need your help, too. When FARM TEAM puts out a call for action, let your voice be heard—it may be the only opportunity for you to provide your input.
For those of you who are already FARM TEAM members, keep up the good work. Thank you, for example, for your efforts on Senate Bill 104 (Steinberg, D-Sacramento), which would have denied an agricultural worker's right to a secret ballot election when determining unionization. FARM TEAM members flooded Gov. Brown's office with more than 900 emails, urging his veto. The governor did veto the measure, thanks to the numerous communications he received from farmers and ranchers.
Below, you will find a list of key bills that could have major impacts on California family farmers and ranchers. Support legislation that is good for business and agriculture—and help us defeat harmful legislation—by weighing in when needed. Register for real-time online alerts through FARM TEAM at www.cfbf.com or read weekly updates in the Capitol Alert column in Ag Alert®.
(Rich Matteis is administrator of the California Farm Bureau Federation. He may be reached at email@example.com.)
Your Guide to Legislation that Impacts California Family Farmers and Ranchers
Farm Bureau SUPPORTS this legislation that would help family farms:
Assembly Bill 6 (Fuentes, D-Los Angeles) - Streamlining of CalFresh
Works to improve access to California-grown fruits and vegetables through the CalFresh program, commonly known as "food stamps." This bill streamlines the reporting requirements, implements cost-saving measures and a "heat and eat" provision that will improve access to additional federal funding.
AB 69 (Beall, D-San Jose) - Senior Nutrition Benefits
Works to improve access to California-grown fruits and vegetables for seniors, ensuring they receive proper nutrition. This bill will improve the coordination between counties and the federal Social Security Administration, increasing the enrollment of eligible seniors into the CalFresh program.
AB 228 (Fuentes, D-Los Angeles) - State Compensation Insurance Fund
Improves the business climate by providing California employers who also operate out-of-state businesses an opportunity to seek workers' compensation insurance coverage for all employees in a one-stop application process.
AB 292 (Galgiani, D-Livingston) - High Speed Rail Agricultural Advisory Committee
Improves communication between agriculture and the High Speed Rail Authority by requiring the authority to appoint a nine-member agricultural advisory committee.
AB 634 (Huber, D-El Dorado Hills) - Vertebrate Pest Control
Provides additional tools for controlling rodent infestations. This bill allows for the use of carbon monoxide as a safe, targeted and humane method of control.
AB 964 (Huffman, D-San Rafael) - Conditional Water Rights
Protects the environment while improving the business climate by providing a means for farmers to obtain authorization to develop small, offstream water storage projects that could be used for irrigation while protecting fisheries.
Senate Bill 489 (Wolk, D-Davis) - Net Metering
Promotes environmental benefits while improving the business climate by expanding the reach of net metering to any renewable energy source as currently defined, opening additional opportunities for farmers and ranchers to use net metering.
SB 618 (Wolk, D-Davis) - Williamson Act & Solar Projects
Protects prime agricultural land while encouraging the use of renewable energy by allowing landowners with marginally productive farmland to rescind their Williamson Act contract if placed into a newly created solar-use easement.
SB 900 (Steinberg, D-Sacramento) - Regional Water Quality Control Boards
Increases confidence in regional water quality control boards by expanding the pool of candidates eligible to serve. The measure would allow a person to serve who receives or has received a portion of their income from someone who is subject to waste discharge requirements in another regional board's jurisdiction.
Farm Bureau OPPOSES this legislation that would harm family farms:
AB 51 (Yamada, D-Davis) - Payroll Cards
Denies employees of protection currently provided through the convenience of payroll cards by adding regulations onto employers and financial institutions, making the use of payroll cards unlikely.
AB 197 (Monning, D-Carmel) - Recovery of Wages: Liquidated Damages
Threatens the business climate by unreasonably expanding employer liability by doubling the liquidated damages that can be awarded against employers in minimum wage actions in court.
AB 243 (Alejo, D-Salinas) - Farm Labor Contractor Disclosure
Increases liability on farmers by requiring farm labor contractors to disclose information about the farmers and ranchers on their workers' pay stubs.
AB 246 (Wieckowski, D-Fremont) - Water Quality Enforcement
Increases the role of government by transferring water quality enforcement to a district or city attorney in a jurisdiction that exceeds 750,000 in population. The bill ultimately circumvents the ability of a regional water quality control board to evaluate and take action on enforcement issues.
AB 685 (Eng, D-Monterey Park) - Accessibility of Water
Increases the role of government by establishing state policy that every human being has the right to clean, affordable and accessible water for human consumption, cooking and sanitary purposes. This bill would require the Department of Water Resources, State Water Resources Control Board and Department of Public Health to consider this policy in revising, adopting or establishing policies, regulations and grant criteria.
AB 1062 (Dickinson, D-Sacramento) - Arbitration Agreements
Harms the business climate by restricting the use of arbitration agreements in California, forcing many employment disputes into the state court system instead of being settled through widely accepted, faster and less costly alternatives.
AB 1155 (Alejo, D-Salinas) - Workers' Compensation Insurance
Increases the cost of doing business by changing the way the degree of impairment is determined in a workers' compensation insurance injury. The bill restricts a physician from using race or any other protected class when making an apportionment decision, ultimately opening decisions up for litigation and increasing employers' costs for both workers' compensation insurance and permanent disability.
SB 459 (Corbett, D-San Leandro) - Independent Contractors
Increases the cost of doing business by fining and holding employers responsible for "willful misclassification" of an employee when determining whether or not the individual is an independent contractor, without giving clear guidance on how to make the determination.
SB 535 (De Leon, D-Los Angeles) - Climate Change Fund
Creates an illegal tax by allocating 10 percent of an unknown amount of revenue raised by the implementation of AB 32 to accelerate greenhouse gas emission reductions and mitigate direct health impacts of climate change in the most impacted and disadvantaged communities.
SB 829 (DeSaulnier, D-Concord) - Cal/OSHA Appeals
Threatens the business climate by undermining employer rights in Cal/OSHA citations by allowing private parties to interfere with the appeals process.
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