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Thursday, April 18, 2019



Richard Markuson

Misguided Effort to Manipulate Economy

Assemblyman Marc Levine - who represents Marin County and parts of Sonoma County - is one of the nicer members of the State Assembly due to his willingness to discuss policy, even those where he might be diametrically opposed. He has authored 32 bills in 2019 that deal with a broad range of topics - from the death penalty to coastal resources to residential care facilities. But one bill in particular stands out and has garnered membership in the elite "Job Killer" list of the California Chamber of Commerce.

The current list includes 24 bills that would "harm California's economic growth and job creation should they become law", according to the above-linked article. CalChamber president Allan Zaremberg says, "these bills represent some of the worst policy proposals affecting California employers and our economy currently being being considered by Legislature. Some of these bills have been rejected time and again by the Legislature or vetoed by the previous governor. Legislators should, instead, focus on removing impediments to economic growth and creating upward mobility for all Californians."
Senator Hanna Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) leads with three bills on the list. As you may recall, Jackson decreed that gender-specific pronouns would not be permitted in her committee room. There are even a few Republican bills on her list; I suspect that Jackson is obviously emulating her Democratic brethren.
But back to Mr. Levine's lone bill on the list - AB 790. This bill requires a company with a market capitalization of at least one billion dollars - according to the company's most recent annual report - to pay a variety of folks who are employed pursuant to a personal service contract at least 85 percent of the area median income. This amounts to a kind of prevailing wage for private workers.
The service workers covered by AB 790 include: "janitorial and housekeeping services, custodial services, food service workers, laundry services, window cleaning services, bus driving services, or security guard services." Why landscapers are not included is perplexing - but there is time to add more types of work.
It is also important to note that if these companies employ their own service workers performing these tasks, such as only contracting with janitorial firms, transportation firms, or a food service, that AB 790 no longer applies.
The CalChamber observes that "According to the Department of Housing and Community Development's 2018 report, the area median income in Santa Clara County is $125,200. Thus, an eligible employer in Santa Clara County, as defined by AB 790, would have to pay $106,420 based on an 8-hour day/40-hour workweek for each individual performing work for a personal services contract". Yikes!
The bill up next week in the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee - whose motto is "no idea by a Democrat author is too ridiculous to pass" - will almost assuredly receive a "do-pass". The CalChamber has had a pretty good run of success with the so-called "job killers". By the chamber's tally, Governor Jerry Brown signed only 10 of the 135 bills dubbed "job killers" over the last five years.
Noted political curmudgeon Dan Walters notes that "the Capitol's ideological ambiance has undergone a shift to the left - not only because Democratic legislative supermajorities became even larger in last year's election - but because California voters also elected a new governor, Gavin Newsom, who is outwardly more liberal than Brown. Moreover, there's a big psychological impetus among the Capitol's Democrats to reinforce California's status as the leader of the 'resistance' against President Donald Trump".
Will the Chamber be able to claim a similar success in 2024? We'll see.