Business Community Enjoys Successful 2015 Legislative Session

The just-concluded 2015 Legislative Session ended on a relatively good note for the California business community. While a number of bills sponsored or supported by the business community were not successful getting through the Legislature, several hard-fought bills opposed by California’s employers were vetoed by the Governor. In fact, all but one “Job Killers” opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce were defeated this year. Sixteen such bills did not even get to the Governor’s Desk, while three of them did, but the Governor vetoed two of those three measures.

 

According to the Governor’s Office, Governor Brown signed 808 bills and vetoed 133 bills, for a total of 941 bills that reached his Desk this year. That is a 14% veto rate. There were just over 2,300 bills introduced this first year of the 2015-16 Session. Roughly 41% of the introduced bills got to the Governor’s Desk.

 

The following is an overview of key measures of interest to the business community and their outcome this year:

  • The proposed increase to the state’s minimum wage was rejected (SB 3), but there will likely be a statewide ballot measure in November 2016 sponsored by labor groups.

  • In a major victory against organized labor, the Governor vetoed a bill that would have banned employment arbitration agreements (AB 465).

  • Business-backed gender pay equity legislation was signed into law (SB 358).

  • Efforts to reform excessive litigation under California’s version of the Americans with Disabilities Act were met with limited success (AB 1251 was enacted). The main bill was vetoed because it contained a tax credit for small businesses (SB 251). The other major reform bills (SB 67, AB 52 and AB 54) all were held in policy committees.

  • Minor legal reform bills to promote judicial efficiency on summary judgment motions (SB 470) and expedited jury trials (AB 555) were enacted, but a measure that will create more hurdles in using demurrers passed over business’ objections (SB 383).

  • The Governor vetoed a proposed, significant expansion of the California Family Rights Act (SB 406).

  • The business community resolved concerns about a measure to provide the California Labor Commissioner with substantial, additional powers to address wage theft (SB 588).

  • In early successes, bills to increase employer costs for employees working on “family holidays” (AB 67) and one that would penalize scheduling changes (AB 357) were defeated.

  • The only “Job Killer” that got enacted this year could impose a costly employee retention mandate on grocery businesses (AB 359).

  • The Governor did sign a business-opposed bill that expands the Labor Commissioner’s powers to enforce local minimum wage laws (AB 970).

  • The business community resolved their concerns about a measure on franchise agreements (AB 525).

  • Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed all of the bills that would have created or increased tax credits in this state, including those for research and development (AB 437), phantom income on home short sales (AB 99), and insurance tax credits (SB 377).

  • The Governor did sign the first omnibus federal tax conformity bill enacted in the last five years (AB 154).

  • Efforts to address over-warning and excessive Prop. 65 lawsuits did not pass out of the policy committee (AB 543) nor did one to limit lawsuits against small businesses under Prop. 65 (AB 1252).

  • An effort to prohibit employers from seeking a job applicant’s prior salary history was vetoed by the Governor (AB 1017).

  • An important measure that will limit certain types of lawsuits involving employee wage statements was enacted (AB 1506).

  • The targeted tax increase measures were all defeated in the Legislature, including those on tobacco (SB 591) and sodas (AB 1357).

Legislation to increase taxes on corporations with high CEO salaries did not get heard (SB 684), nor did a measure to create a split roll property tax system (SCA 5), nor a measure to make public certain change of ownership information (AB 567).

Chris Micheli is a Principal with Aprea & Micheli, Inc. and serves as a lobbyist for CompTIA in California. He can be contacted at (916) 448-3075 or cmicheli@apreamicheli.com