Labor’s Legislative Update: June 2010

With an important legislative deadline passed, Labor’s sponsored bills continued on their path to enactment. Overall, our bills easily garnered the support they needed to pass on majority votes. But with two senators (Oropeza and Wiggins) out with illness, several bills died at the hand of moderate Democrats. Their return late in the session helped squeeze out key bills with just 21 votes, the bare majority needed in the 40-member Senate. Here's a quick breakdown of our bills:

  • SB 1272 (Wolk) would require all new tax breaks to be sunsetted and reviewed after seven years. The bill was introduced as a five-year sunset, but Senator Elaine Alquist (D-San Jose) would only vote for it if it was extended to seven years. Even after this amendment, Senators Lou Correa (D-Orange County), Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) and Rod Wright (D-Los Angeles) voted NO on SB 1272. The bill squeaked out on a 21-15 vote.
  • Just as tough a vote faced SB 1391 (Yee), a bill to require that corporate tax breaks be paid back if a company experienced a net decrease in jobs over three years. This bill passed on a 22-11 vote, with Senator Correa again voting VO.
  • A bill to require that corporate tax breaks be counted as expenditures and released with the budget flown through the Assembly with 71 votes (AB 2564 Swanson). The bill is set to be heard in the Senate Revenue and Tax committee later in June.
  • Rounding out this year’s corporate tax break accountability package, AB 2666 (Skinner) would create a publically searchable database of corporations receiving tax breaks. This bill passed the Assembly floor on a 45-28 vote, with Democratic Assemblymembers Alyson Huber, Joan Buchanan, and Jerry Hill voting NO and Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes abstaining.
  • SB 967 (Correa) would provide a 5% bid preference to state contractors who hire 90% California workers on the contract.
  • AB 1830 (Jones) would require the High Speed Rail Authority to do everything possible to build the high speed rail train cars in California. This bill won bipartisan support with Republican Assemblymembers Anthony Adams, Bill Berryhill, Kevin Jeffries, and Sam Blakslee voting for the measure.
  • Another measure to win bipartisan support was AB 2058 (Block), a bill to support laid off workers to seek the training and educational opportunities they need to find jobs when they return. Federation staff lobbied Republican members on this bill supported by the Community College League and the CA Workforce Association. In the end, Republican Assemblymembers Emmerson, Gilmore, Hagman, Nestande, Niello Nielsen, and Villines added up to give AB 2058 a 58-19 margin.
  • Starting September 2010, Unemployment Insurance, State Disability Insurance, and Paid Family Leave benefits will be paid through direct deposit or electronic paycards. Paper checks will be eliminated. The Employment Development Department (EDD) has negotiated a contract with Bank of America that protects workers with nearly no fees for the use of electronic paycards.
  • AB 2188 (Bradford) was a legislative vehicle to protect workers from getting nickel and dimed till broke in fees. Now that EDD has negotiated a good contract, AB 2188 merely authorizes electronic paycards for the SDI program.

With such an important deadline passed, all eyes focus on the state budget and the $19 billion deficit that must be resolved. Recall that California has already cut its budget by $32.5 billion over the last 2 years and education cuts alone amount to $17 billion.

When will this madness stop? When the Republicans step away from their knee-jerk no taxes pledge and finally admit out loud what they know in private – that our tax system is antiquated and must be modernized. We need new revenues to provide the bare state services – public safety, public education and universities, public transportation – Californians need and deserve.