It seems like every week there’s a new report about the emaciated state of the California Dream. Housing prices continue to rise. Environmental regulations push more Californians into energy poverty. Taxes and frivolous lawsuits incentivize businesses to leave the Golden State.
Yet despite all the rhetoric from Sacramento around combatting inequality and improving Californians’ standard of living, life isn’t getting much better for most of us. Our state continues its slide into neo-feudalism. A new Dark Age, de facto segregation between the wealthy haves and the have-not service employees who wait on them.
It can feel like we’re just factory gestation away from living in Huxley’s Brave New World.
It wasn’t always this way. The post-war era saw rapid growth and expansion across California as families and individuals migrated to seek the middle-class jobs and opportunity the state afforded. Freeways were built. Communities were developed. Our state was the sunny and suburban middle-class setting for sitcoms like "The Brady Bunch."
A lot has changed since the 1960s, including the proliferation of legislation and regulation that affects businesses' ability to profitably operate in California.
Since 1997, the California Chamber of Commerce has been releasing an annual list of “Job Killer” bills. CalChamber tracks the 3,000 legislative proposals each year and sounds the alarm on those that will hurt employers and the economy, harming California families.
CalChamber and other groups lobby aggressively to stop these bills. And they’re effective. Over 21 years, 527 of 580 bills labeled Job Killers have met their demise. That’s a 91 percent success rate.
While you likely haven’t heard of the bills that didn’t make it through, you’ve probably heard of the ones that did. They’re laws like the $15 minimum wage and Private Attorney Generals Act (PAGA).
This year, CalChamber has identified 24 bills as Job Killers. Here’s a digest of some:
AB 2351 (Eggman; D-Stockton) increases the personal income tax rate from 13.3 percent to 14.3 percent. California’s high income earners already pay half of the state’s income taxes. Why do they need to pay more?
AB 2447 (Reyes; D-Grand Terrace) makes it more difficult to build projects by increasing the cost and complexity of CEQA compliance.
AB 2527 (Muratsuchi; D-Torrance) exposes small businesses to more class action litigation by banning arbitration agreements, prohibiting class action waivers, and interfering with contractual negotiations, among other things. Certain portions of the bill are already preempted by existing federal law.
AB 2560 (Thurmond; D-Richmond) increases taxes on contractors doing business with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations.
AB 2765 (Low; D-Campbell) would impose difficult and costly mandates on companies in the “digital marketplace” and create more confusion and uncertainty about the use of independent contractors in the gig economy. Also in store, more frivolous litigation.
AB 3080 (Gonzalez Fletcher; D-San Diego) would increase litigation costs for employers and employees by banning settlement agreements for labor and employment claims and banning arbitration agreements as a condition of employment. Like AB 2527, certain portions of AB 3080 are likely to be preempted by federal law. Banning these types of agreements has nothing to do with helping employers or employees. It only benefits trial lawyers.
AB 3087 (Kalra; D-San Jose) is a further intrusion by state government into the healthcare marketplace. It would establish an appointed commission responsible for controlling prices for healthcare providers and insurers.
ACA 22 (McCarty; D-Sacramento) would increase California’s corporate tax rate from 8.84 percent, one of the nation’s highest, to 18.84 percent. This would rapidly accelerate companies’ departure from California and discourage future investment. McCarty introduced ACA 22 after federal tax reform passed, arguing that the increase would only maintain corporate tax rates at their levels prior to reform.
SB 1284 (Jackson; D-Santa Barbara) would require employers to submit pay data to the state, opening the door to false wage discrimination and unequal pay claims and increasing litigation costs.
SB 1300 (Jackson; D-Santa Barbara) would open the flood gates to litigation by allowing individuals to sue employers for failure to prevent harassment or discrimination, without requiring them to have standing. It also limits the ability of employers to use severance agreements and prohibits the use of nondisparagement clauses in employment agreements. This bill makes PAGA blush.
Lastly, SB 1398 (Skinner; D-Berkeley) would threaten publicly held corporations and financial institutions with massive tax increases if the business reduces its U.S. employees while increasing contractors. A great way to encourage job creation.
And think, these fewer than half of the 24 Job Killers currently targeted.
Sadly, while most of us are busy working, raising families and trying to improve our lives, politicians in Sacramento can’t seem to help but introduce bills that put everyday Californians further behind. You don’t have time to track every bill that could jeopardize your job, but you will be affected by them.
We’re fortunate to have organizations and advocates in Sacramento fighting for employers and jobs in the state, but they can always use our help.
Right now, the legislative season is in full swing. It’s important that our local representatives, Assemblymen Rudy Salas and Vince Fong, and Senators Jean Fuller and Andy Vidak, hear from their constituents to make sure they are committed to opposing job-killing legislation.
If Sacramento wants to help revive the California Dream, it’s time to leave behind the Job Killers and start enacting Job Creators.
Contributing columnist Justin Salters writes weekly on politics and current events; the views expressed are his own. Reach him on Twitter @justinsalters, or email him your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org.