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WECA Political Update October 1, 2020

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Government Affairs and Merit Shop Advocacy
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Newsom Follows Guidance of his Bosses in Labor Governor Gavin Newsom “realigned” his agenda with the construction unions and signed several of their bills in the final hours of his review period that expired last night at midnight. He signed:

AB 841 (Ting) that requires all contractors who install most EV chargers to employ commercial electricians who have received training from EVITP – a unit of IBEW.

AB 2765 (O’Donnell) that requires all charter school construction is prevailing wage – even if built with 100% private funds – a bill he vetoed last year.

AB 2231 (Kalra) that replaces the case-by-case analysis of when public contributions trigger prevailing wage with a statutory floor of $600,000 on projects of any size. Newson and Gov Brown had both vetoed similar bills over the years – it must be the start of his 2022 election campaign.

AB 1947 (Kalra) Doubles, from 6 months to one year, the time in which a person who believes that they have been discharged or otherwise discriminated against to file a complaint with the DLSE. Also, AB 1947 overturns the existing balance by prohibiting an employer from recovering its attorney’s fees, which could create an incentive for more potentially frivolous litigation.

We’ll cover these and other measures in more detail next time.

Election forecasters say 75% of this year's federal races will not be competitive, A Ballotpedia review of election forecasts found that 137 of the federal elections taking place this year (26.3%) are predicted to be competitive, with the remaining 384 all but certain to be won by one of the two major parties. Story

New Requirements for Federal Contractors President Trump issued an executive order late Tuesday on "Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping." It extends to federal contractors restrictions on diversity and inclusiveness training that the president recently placed on the federal workforce. The EO specifies "divisive concepts" (see section 2) that are not to be included in training. It also will require contractors to include language in their contracts, and any subcontracts, indicating these "divisive concepts" will not be part of employee training. In addition, the OFCCP is directed to set up a hotline to receive complaints from employees who feel they were subjected to training that was inconsistent with the EO. OFCCP will be conducting a Request for Information to collect information and training materials provided to employees. The EO became effective as of September 22, except that the contract language will not apply until contracts entered into 60 days after September 22. An initial reading of the EO is that this will not prohibit contractors from conducting D&I training, but contractors should review their materials to make sure they align with the restrictions identified in the EO.

Governor Newsom Signs Executive Order in Response to COVID-19 Governor Newsom signed an executive order to extend authorization for local governments to halt evictions for commercial renters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through March 31, 2021 and address a variety of issues in response to the pandemic. To protect local health officers and other public health officials on the front lines of the fight against the virus, the order permits these individuals to participate in the Secretary of State’s address-confidentiality program. The order also allows the Department of Managed Health Care to gather information to assess the impacts of the pandemic on health care providers and health care service plans. Additionally, the order extends provisions allowing certain posting, filing and notice requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to be fulfilled electronically. The text of the Governor’s executive order can be found here and a copy can be found here.

Your Bank will Protect Your Privacy – if you’re Big Enough Top global banks shuffled huge sums of allegedly illicit funds around the globe even after noticing irregularities, according to an investigation dropped yesterday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), BuzzFeed News, and more than 100 media partners in 88 countries. In a treasure trove of leaked government documents, the investigators found at least $2 trillion worth of transactions were flagged as “suspicious” by banks’ internal compliance departments from 1999–2017. Which banks? JPMorgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank, and Bank of New York Mellon were named in the report for shuffling dirty money around even after promising the government they’d keep a more careful eye on money laundering. “Because the free flow of illicit money causes incalculable harm,” writes the ICIJ, fueling drug cartels, enabling tax evasion, and helping oligarchs consolidate power. Story.

Daylight Saving Time Causes More Than Grogginess The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is calling for an end to the annual practice of springing forward with daylight saving time in favor of a permanent, year-round standard time. Story

Proposition 15: Poll Shows Split-Roll Measure Losing Popularity A new poll shows that Proposition 15, the property tax increase initiative on the November ballot, is losing popularity with likely voters. A Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll released September 17 showed that voter support for Proposition 15 is barely above 50 percent and has fallen in recent months. The PPIC poll found that even after being subjected to more than a year of misleading campaigning by public employee unions, only 51 percent of likely voters say they support Proposition 15, while 40 percent are opposed. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent. Support has fallen by two percentage points since the PPIC asked a split-roll question in April. The poll was taken from September 4 through September 13. The Yes on 15 campaign launched a television ad campaign two days before the PPIC began polling, while the No on 15 campaign launched its television ads on September 8, midway through the polling. [CalTax]
 
Cal/OSHA Standards Board Requests COVID-19 Draft Emergency Regulation with Limited Opportunity for Stakeholder Input Cal/OSHA’s Standards Board voted to create a COVID-19 emergency regulation for industries not already covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) Standard. Specifically, on September 17th, the Board approved its staff’s proposed decision (https://www.dir.ca.gov/oshsb/documents/petition-583-propdecision.pdf), which provided for three things:

1) The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (the “Division”) must bring an emergency regulation to the Board for a vote at or before the Standards Board’s November meeting.
2) The Division must convene an advisory committee after the emergency regulation goes into effect.
3) The Division must convene an advisory committee after the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted to discuss the potential for a new, “airborne infectious diseases” standard, which would include “novel pathogens.”

What should concern everyone watching is that the first two elements – a two-month deadline and a post-facto advisory committee – effectively prevent any stakeholder input before the emergency regulation goes into effect. Though the emergency regulation’s text will presumably be released two weeks before the November vote, by that point any real changes will be impossible. Story

Phoenix rises as US construction starts plummet
The Arizona city has seen starts leap by 82% over the first half of 2020. What makes this state capital special? While commercial and multifamily construction activity plummeted in the first half of 2020, one major metro area was spared – Phoenix Arizona. Story
 
Labor Department Proposes Revision Of Independent Contractor Test While President Trump has not had time to repeal 13502, the U.S. Department of Labor has proposed a federal independent contractor rule revising its interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act's classification to "bring clarity and consistency" on how employers decide who is an independent contractor and who is an employee. Story

Gig Worker Bill: A Lousy Way to Make Law Dan Walters writes “California’s political conflict over gig workers [AB 5] exemplifies irrational, opaque lawmaking.” He observes “It’s a lousy way to make law — pass a sweeping decree and then exempt a few favored interests. It resembles the time-dishonored practices of granting specific exemptions from the California Environmental Quality Act’s laborious processes…” but that’s “the way we roll.” Story
 
Phoenix firms partner for 400-home deal Mandalay Homes and Mosaic Building Group have embarked on a $100 million agreement to build 400 homes in northern Arizona. The two Phoenix companies are focusing on an area of the state where housing supply is decreasing while prices are rapidly increasing, said Salman Ahmad, founder and CEO of Mosaic, a construction technology company he formed in 2015 to make the homebuilding process more efficient, scalable and adaptable. Story (May require subscription)
 
Guidance on Payroll Tax Deferral On August 8, 2020, President Trump issued an executive order directing the Secretary of the Treasury to permit employers to defer the withholding and deposit of certain payroll tax obligations. In response, the Treasury Department released Notice 2020-65 (the Notice) furnishing guidance to employers. The Notice permits employers to defer withholding the employee portion of Social Security tax payments on wages or compensation paid between September 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020 but applies only to compensation that is less than $4,000, as determined on a biweekly basis. Story

New California Leave Law Impacts All Companies with 5 or More Employees; And New COVID-19 Law for Large Employers On September 17, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation greatly expanding family and medical leave of absence requirements for all employers with at least 5 employees in California. More specifically, SB1383 expands the California Family Rights Act ("CFRA") and requires employers with 5 or more employees to provide certain unpaid, protected family/medical/military leave to eligible employees. The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2021; thus employers must take steps to comply immediately. Story

Tom Steyer Meets with Biden Officials, Interested in A Role in Administration Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist and former Democratic presidential candidate, is interested in serving in Joe Biden's administration and has discussed the possibility with Biden's advisers.

Steyer met over the weekend in Washington, D.C. with Jeff Zients, a co-chair of the transition team, and longtime Biden advisers Jared Bernstein and Ron Klain, according to a source with knowledge of the trip. Steyer, a former hedge fund manager from California, is co-chair of Biden’s Climate Engagement Advisory Council. Conversations with Biden's advisers touched on his interest in working in the administration on climate policy and the economy, but also on the role of climate, labor and economic issues in the campaign, the source said. [Politico]

Newsom signs mental health parity bill to expand coverage requirements Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that makes California a national leader on mental health coverage by greatly expanding the treatments that commercial health insurers must cover. CA SB855 (19R), authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), requires insurers to cover all non-emergency mental services, including those for substance use disorder and addiction. This greatly expands what is considered “medically necessary." Since Californian’s pay the highest gasoline and diesel prices, what will this do to health insurance costs?
 
California to launch its own consumer financial protection agency Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a consumer financial protection law that will bring a sharper watchdog focus to state regulators — a proposal he presented in January as a rebuke to the Trump administration's weakening of a similar, Obama-era bureau. The California Consumer Financial Protection Law, CA AB1864 by Assemblymember Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), takes effect Jan. 1. It expands the existing Department of Business Oversight and renames it the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation. The law gives the expanded department clear authority to target unfair and deceptive practices under the federal Dodd-Frank Act. It will be led by DBO Commissioner Manuel Alvarez. Newsom acknowledged that passing the bill — which did not go through the normal policy committee process, but through the Legislature as a budget bill — was not easy. He said his administration learned from Senate Budget Chair Holly Mitchell "how to use the budget to leverage good ideas" and attach funding to them. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) later made a quip about that strategy. “I don’t know if I would use the term 'leverage,' governor, but we certainly used the platform of the budget bill and the trailer bill process to effect a solid policy," Mitchell said, to laughter. "That’s what we did, Governor Newsom.” [Politico]
And finally, because we need something good ...

A herd of retired circus elephants that represents the largest group of Asian elephants in the Western Hemisphere is heading to northeast Florida. White Oak Conservation is creating a 2,900-acre preserve for the elephants north of Jacksonville, with Haskell serving as general contractor. The project is being funded by White Oak owners Mark and Kimbra Walter; the organization did not disclose the cost of the endeavor.

The 35 elephants currently are at the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation south of Orlando, where they were put after the circus removed them from shows in 2016. They’ll be moved to White Oak, a 17,000-acre conservation space, as soon as this year, coming two by two (aww) in specially modified trucks. Michelle Gadd, White Oak chief of conservation, told the Jacksonville Business Journal: “We feel for these animals both as individuals and [as] a species. We can make it so these animals can behave like animals.” [The National Observer]
Ask Richard
Richard Markuson
WECA Government Affairs Advocate, Pacific Advocacy Group
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