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What We're Reading

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Federal Judge approves Greenmail. In a much-anticipated ruling, a federal court judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit by San Diego-based Evans Hotels accusing local labor unions of extortion and bribery in their efforts to unionize the hospitality industry. The ruling by U.S. District Judge William Q. Hayes marks a crucial victory for organized labor, which has pushed hard for using union labor not only in the operation of hotels but also in their construction. Hayes' decision comes more than a year after Evans Hotels, which operates three longtime San Diego resorts, filed suit to break what it claims is a union-engineered stranglehold on development. Story
 
State Building and Construction Trades Council of California - Champions of GHG Reduction. California Senators will consider legislation next week that would impose a new 10% state tax on oil extracted within the state, a move that would raise pump prices that already are second highest in the nation. An oil severance tax has been proposed many times in the past and invariably fails. The Senate set a hearing for Wednesday on the bill by Sen. Bob Wieckowski, a Fremont Democrat. The decision to hear the bill is something of a surprise. Democrats have hesitated to approve new taxes after then-Senator Josh Newman, an Orange County Democrat, was recalled in 2018 over his vote to approve a gasoline tax. Sen. Melissa Hurtado, a first-term Democrat from a swing district in oil-rich Kern County, sits on the committee that will hear the bill, and would likely have to vote on the measure. But the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, famous for their environmental lawsuits, will join with oil companies to oppose the measure. Robbie Hunter said that if approved, the Wieckowski's bill would raise pump prices, make California more reliant on Saudi Arabian oil, and "destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs." Meanwhile: AAA's latest survey shows the average price of gasoline in California is the nation's second-highest after Hawaii and almost $1 above the national average. [Calmatters]
 
AB 5 on hold for truck drivers. A federal judge in the Southern District of California granted the California Trucking Association's request for a temporary restraining order on New Year's Eve to block the state from applying AB 5 to truck drivers. The truckers' lawsuit argues that the new California law is "preempted by a 1994 federal statute that prohibits states from making laws that affect the price, route, or service of freight-hauling motor carriers."
 
No Special Election. Congressman Duncan Hunter will resign from Congress next week, more than a month after the California Republican pleaded guilty to conspiracy to misuse campaign funds. Since it is the last year of the term, and Hunter's resignation has come after the candidacy filing deadline for the ballot for the March primary, Governor Newsom has opted to leave the seat vacant until the November election. Former Rep. Darrell Issa, former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio and State Sen. Brian Jones are already running against Hunter for the nomination set for the March election as is Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar who ran against Hunter in 2018. In his letter to Speaker Pelosi, Hunter said, "It has been an honor to serve the people of California's 50th District, and I greatly appreciate the trust they have put in me over these last 11 years." POLITICO observed The Hunters have been a political dynasty in Southern California politics for decades. Hunter or his father, Duncan Hunter Sr., have held that San Diego seat since 1980. When he first came to Congress in 2009, Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran, was seen as a rising star in the GOP. But he developed a reputation on Capitol Hill for drinking heavily and inappropriate behavior. After being arrested for misusing campaign funds, Hunter - one of Trump's earliest congressional supporters - went on to win reelection in the 2018 midterms. Even without a Republican incumbent, most analysts favor the GOP to hold on to the seat given a robust registration advantage.
 
New Law Brings Changes to Help Employees Be SECURE in Retirement. On December 19, 2019, the Senate passed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019, which contains provisions that significantly reform many of the existing retirement plan rules and regulations. The SECURE Act encourages the adoption of employer-sponsored plans, alters plan distribution rules, eases administrative requirements, and makes many other changes to existing or newly established retirement plans. Also, the Senate eliminated several excise taxes under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the controversial "Cadillac Tax," a 40 percent tax on high-cost employer plans. This article outlines the key provisions of the SECURE Act and when those provisions first become effective. Story
 
DFEH Updates FAQ on Sexual Harassment Prevention Training in Light of New Deadline to Comply The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing ("DFEH") recently updated its Sexual Harassment Prevention Training FAQ guidance to address some of the questions surrounding SB 1343, which requires employers with five or more employees to provide classroom or "other interactive training" for all California employees (not just supervisors) every two years. SB 1343 was initially set to go into effect on January 1, 2020. But in 2019, Governor Newsom signed two amendments to SB 1343 that push the effective date out to January 1, 2021. The deadline to comply with SB 1343 does not change the obligation of an employer with 50 or more employees to train new supervisory employees within six months of their promotion or hire. Story
 
Split roll. The business coalition opposing a proposed split roll ballot measure to revise Proposition 13 is expected to deliver petitions with nearly 200,000 signatures to Newsom in an effort to showcase what it says is a wide range of support from California groups. The move heralds the official kickoff of what's sure to be a pricey battle between business and labor over an initiative that would lift Prop 13 tax caps for commercial and industrial properties. The petitions have no direct effect on the measure.
 
Housing Measure. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "State Senator Scott Wiener's latest attempt to pass a bill (SB 50) to boost housing around public transit and in wealthy suburbs met a hostile reception Tuesday from a powerful colleague who could soon decide its fate. The measure has been in limbo since May, when state Senator Anthony Portantino, a Los Angeles County Democrat who chairs the Appropriations Committee, held the bill through a process for legislation with a significant fiscal impact. He has until Jan. 24 to decide whether to advance the measure to a vote before the full Senate. But in the months since his bill stalled, Wiener did not consult with Portantino about amendments that he introduced Monday - and Portantino was not pleased." The most significant change would give cities and counties two years to create plans to boost housing development in their communities before the state mandates to increase density would go into effect, the Los Angeles Times reports. Much of the criticism over the initial version of the bill revolved around the lack of local control. Wiener's latest changes would give local jurisdictions time to decide where they wanted increasing housing density in their cities. In response to another criticism of previous versions of the bill, communities across the state at risk of gentrification will have five years - instead of two - to develop their own development blueprints. Groups representing lower-income communities had argued SB 50 would exacerbate the displacement of residents in those neighborhoods.