Supermajority legislative leaders declared that the 2017 Session "may be the most productive and progressive legislative session in memory." They may be right. And it's only half done.
We don't know if that is something to brag about, though. We believe that media perspectives describing 2017 as a rage reaction against the new Trump Administration are also accurate. From the first day of Session last December, the Democrats provided an anti-Trump resolution nearly every week and emphasized a strong move to the left on policies that will hurt California, prohibiting the state from leading the nation to prosperity.
What was most stunning was how unabashed the public employee unions were in pushing through massive, if not coercive, requests to strengthen their declining membership numbers. AB 1250 was a brazen attempt to eliminate non-profits' contracts and hand county services over to unions. Luckily, the non-profit world summoned enough strength to fight it off, at least until January. But in light of these union bills, it begged the question, "Who's your daddy?"
Regretfully, our "Top 20" list is not comprehensive and does not include all the terrible bills the legislature has passed and the governor has signed this year. The gas-tax increase (SB 1) and cap-and-tax (AB 398) are already the law of the land.
There also were several bills we watched throughout the year to see if they were going to make it to final floor votes. Several didn't.
Finally, the bills below are those that, despite our opposition, were affirmed by both the Senate and the Assembly and are going to the Governor's desk. He has until October 15 to sign them - or prevent them from harming Californians by vetoing them. We present them to you in numerical order.
AB 20 (Kalra) Send Jobs, Not Investments to Dakota Bill: Paves the way for the California Public Employees Retirement System to "divesting" from valuable investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Doing so could reduce the value of CalPERS assets, endangering retiree pensions.
AB 168 (Eggman) Across the Board Salary Lowballing: Inhibits employers' ability to hire qualified employees, prohibiting employers from using past salary information of a prospective employee as a factor in deciding whether to hire someone, or how much to pay them. This will lead to reduced production at a time when the state economy is starting to falter. Instead of helping employees, an unknown number of their jobs could be killed.
AB 199 (Chu) Construction Reduction Act: We should be avoiding government-mandated prevailing wages, not increasing their requirements. This legislation would significantly increase circumstances where prevailing wages would be mandated.
AB 569 (Gonzalez Fletcher) Discrimination of Church by State: Beyond limiting private religious organizations' code-of-conduct policies for employees, it could bring the state into conflict with federal religious-rights legislation because it mandates that employers provide employee handbooks to include information on abortion coverage. That violates the religious conscience of many employers and employees.
AB 890 (Medina) Voter Suppression Act: This is anti-democratic and would silence voters pursuing pro-growth land-use decisions, usurping local control by mandating changes in local land use decision-making via state law.
AB 1008 (McCarty, Gipson, Holden, Reyes, Weber) Employment Meddling Act: This bill prohibits employers from inquiring about or using a prior criminal conviction of an prospective employee as a factor in whether to make them a conditional offer of employment. This is another bureaucratic hassle for businesses, increasing costs and, in the end, killing job opportunities because of increased legal liabilities and administrative burdens for employers.
AB 1209 (Gonzalez Fletcher) Women Employee Reduction Act: Gender discrimination already is against state and federal law. This would increase companies' red tape in providing useless data about employee compensation to state busybodies, who would then post the information online. It could kill the jobs of the women it's supposed to help.
AB 1269 (Mark Stone) Mobile Home Tax: This is a tax on mobile home parks and increases regulations on them. It could encourage owners to bulldoze the parks and turn them into condos.
AB 1274 (O'Donnell) Fee Hidden as a Tax: This is yet another car tax that is estimated to cost certain car owners over $100 million. The majority can't get enough of car taxes.
AB 1455 (Bocanegra) Public Employee Bargaining Secrecy Act: How can we be reducing transparency? Yet this bill would prohibit local governments from sharing with the public documents concerning labor negotiations. We should be doing everything in our power to increase government transparency for our taxpayers.
AB 1461 (Thurmond) Are Food Handler Cards for Farmers Next?: Pointless red tape to give food unions an edge on the new "gig economy" by increasing the costs of doing business for companies that send food ingredients to your home for you to prepare.
AB 1513 (Kalra) Union Invasion of Privacy: Requiring that the Department of Social Services release private information of registered home care aides is a blatant invasion of privacy. It is also a shameless attempt by public employee unions to increase their membership.
SB 2 (Atkins) Killing Homes and Jobs for the Middle Class Act: Would raise taxes on real-estate transactions (by hundreds of millions of dollars annually), thereby discouraging home purchases.
SB 3 (Beall) California Legislature's Housing Sub-Prime Act: Another massive, unneeded multi-billion dollar bond measure that doesn't address or solve the underlying issues of housing supply or costs. It just creates more debt for the state for generations to come for homes they won't be able to afford.
SB 5 (De Leon) Park Bond Boondoggle: Who doesn't want more parks? But at $6.5 billion for principal and interest, that's $235 million a year removed from the General Fund. Voters just enacted the Proposition 1 water bond in 2014. Let's wisely spend all that money first. A review of this bill shows pork-barrel spending at its finest.
SB 54 (De Leon) Sanctuary State Nonsense: California has prioritized defiance to the federal government over its duty to govern responsibly and protect its citizens. If signed, this bill could cost the state and local governments hundreds of millions of dollars in public safety grants, establishing a state mandate that state and local governments may not assist federal immigration authorities as they attempt to find and detain illegal aliens. This is showmanship for the cameras, not leadership for the people.
SB 63 (Jackson) Small Business Meddling Act: It goes without saying that allowing new parents to bond with a child is very important and the state has a number of paid and unpaid benefit programs to provide for that leave. This bill requires that a an employer with 20 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave within one year of the child's birth. And employers must maintain the employee's group health coverage during that leave. There should be concern about the impact of this heavy-handed requirement on small businesses and the potential liability that could result.
SB 149 (McGuire, Wiener) Do As I Say, Not As I Disclose: This Constitutionally-dubious legislation would preclude a candidate for President from being placed on the California ballot if they have not publicly disclosed their tax returns - yet another dig on President Trump. It's disingenuous to limit disclosure of tax documents to only presidential candidates. Why not all elected officials attempting to get on the ballot in California? This didn't seem to be an issue in 2010 or 2014 when Governor Brown did not release his own tax returns.
SB 239 (Wiener) HIV Assault Act: Although strides have been made in HIV and AIDS treatment, those infected still can die. So intentionally infecting someone is as serious as assault and battery and even homicide, and should retain similar penalties. This legislation reduces this crime from a felony to a misdemeanor.
SB 285 (Atkins) Bargaining Meddling Act: Federal and state laws already guarantee the right to collective bargaining. The author claims this bill extends that right "to employees who are choosing whether or not to become or remain union members." But it's really redundant and would just increase costs for local governments, reducing services to the public.