AB 10 would increase the state minimum wage from the current $8 an hour, with annual increases beginning in 2014 and ending at $10 an hour in 2018. AB 10 would impose a significant burden on employers—and harm the current workforce as struggling employers reduce hiring. California employers already face increased costs from the Affordable Care Act, newly enacted state tax increases and the partial reduction in federal unemployment insurance-related tax credits next year. The bill, by Luis Alejo of Salinas, awaits action in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
AB 69 would impose a 1 percent tax on all fertilizer sales, dedicated to reduce the presence of nitrates in drinking water, with the authority to increase the tax up to 4 percent based on certain conditions of fund reserves beginning in 2016. Clean drinking water is a high priority for everyone, but money collected through this tax could be used for a wide variety of water programs with vague directives. Meanwhile, the state already has $455 million in unspent funds that could be used to address drinking-water issues, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. AB 69, by Henry Perea, has been referred to two Senate committees for hearing.
AB 976 would allow the California Coastal Commission to impose administrative penalties without due process. Current law requires that penalties for violating the state Coastal Act be authorized by a court. Farm Bureau believes any penalties must result from a fair proceeding and should continue to be determined by an independent source. AB 976, by Toni Atkins of San Diego, has been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
SB 25 would permit a union to force an employer into a collective bargaining agreement that was abandoned years—or even decades—earlier. Current law allows a union to force an employer into mandatory mediation after 90 days of bargaining. SB 25 would remove the requirement to renew bargaining, meaning that a demand to bargain made years earlier would be enough to trigger immediate, mandatory mediation. As a result, current employees would have no opportunity to decide whether or not to seek union representation. SB 25, by Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, awaits action on the Assembly floor.
In addition to the measures above, the Legislature will be working on new water bond language, seeking to reduce the size of the bond and make various other changes. Farm Bureau supports the current bond and believes new surface storage is essential to having a workable water infrastructure system. Farm Bureau will be engaged in the upcoming discussions about the framework for and components of a new water bond.
The end of the legislative session moves fast, and more items may be added to this list of key bills. Watch for Capitol Alert updates in Ag Alert® between now and the end of session.
Outreach by individual farmers and ranchers will be crucial as key bills near final votes. If you haven't already done so, please sign up to receive Farm Team alerts, which provide status updates on important legislation and will notify you about key times to contact your legislators. To sign up, click on the Farm Team icon at www.cfbf.com.
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