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WECA Political Update March 17, 2022

Thursday, March 17, 2022

California increases inspection and compliance efforts on public projects The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) has stepped up inspection of publicly funded construction sites in the state to ensure better worker compensation and compliance. In January, DIR announced its Labor Enforcement Task Force (LETF) would lead a new initiative to ensure employers on those job sites provide workers’ compensation insurance and adhere to labor laws, such as skilled and trained workforce requirements, workplace health and safety requirements, and apprenticeship standards. The task force will also crack down on pay, as employers must pay all workers employed on qualifying public works projects the prevailing wage determined by the DIR according to the type of work performed and the property’s location. Story

CalSavers’ last deadline is June An important deadline is on the horizon for California business owners. By June 30, 2022, employers with five or more employees must have a retirement plan for workers — either through a private-market option, like a 401(k), or through the state-run CalSavers program.

EIDL deferment extended The U.S. Small Business Administration on Tuesday extended the deferment period for Covid-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans — a welcome relief for small businesses, private nonprofits, contractors, gig workers, and other borrowers affected by the pandemic, as well as severe winter storms in 2020. The move comes as outside groups press Congress to do more with the EIDL program, with a new report produced by the Bipartisan Policy Center and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices, recommending several policies.

‘I Did Not Pay Enough Fund’ Conscience dragging you down? Feel like your bank account is a little fuller than it should be? For Arizona contractors, apprentices and journeyworkers, there’s a way to lighten the load. Taxpayers in the Grand Canyon State who feel they didn’t pay enough taxes the previous year have a unique option to contribute more to state government — the “I Did Not Pay Enough Fund” option on their tax return forms. Surprisingly, each year hundreds of desert denizens willingly shell out some extra cash to this tongue-in-cheek program, writes Phoenix Business Journal’s Andy Blye. How much? A record 849 returns gave $25,700 last year.

No end in sight Senate Democrats rebuffed a Republican effort on Tuesday to terminate Gov. Gavin Newsom’s state of emergency, a nearly two-year-old invocation of the Emergency Services Act that has allowed Newsom to issue scores of executive orders. Republicans argued that as infections and deaths diminish (Tuesday’s infection rate was 1.5 %) and Newsom himself outlines a new phase of living with the virus, it’s time to move on and restore some balance of power with the Legislature. But, but, but, representatives of the California Professional Firefighters and the California Hospital Association said they still need the staffing, space, and emergency response flexibility to respond nimbly to new variants. Newsom made that same argument last month when he discarded a bevy of outstanding orders but kept a core few, writing of the need to maintain “robust testing and vaccination programs and protecting hospital capacity” and warning ending some provisions would “compound the effects of the emergency and impede the state’s recovery.” The outcome effectively functioned as a vote of confidence for Newsom’s COVID record. Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk said the governor had fumbled the response and cited the need to ensure “we don’t make the same mistakes again” when the inevitable next pandemic arrives. Democratic Sen. Bill Dodd countered that the “governor got it right” and “continues to get it right.” A heavyweight coalition of organized labor and local government representatives was arrayed against the resolution to end Newsom’s order. But that doesn’t mean the matter is closed. Democratic Sen. Ben Allen said nixing the emergency declaration “would hinder our ability” to control COVID but allowed “it’s important that this be ended at some point.” When Allen pressed California Professional Firefighters President Brian Rice on when the emergency should conclude, Rice deferred to the Newsom administration, saying we “need to rely on the leaders who have led us so far.” Allen ultimately held off rather than join his colleagues in voting against the resolution, as did Sen. Steve Glazer. Tuesday’s hearing hinted that the Legislature’s appetite for some sort of concrete endpoint could transcend party divides. [Politico]

PAGA Reform – where art thou? Pushback to California’s strict worker protection laws is going to the U.S. Supreme Court. Later this month, the nation’s highest court is slated to hear a case that could overturn a California law allowing workers to sue their employers for violating state labor regulations, such as not paying minimum wage or granting required meal and rest breaks, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The law, known as PAGA — the Private Attorneys General Act — was California’s way of blocking companies from requiring workers to settle such disputes out of court and in private arbitration. But many businesses oppose PAGA and say it violates federal law. At stake: lots of money and workers’ ability to hold employers accountable.

  • Paul Clement, an attorney representing Viking River Cruises, the defendant in the PAGA case before the Supreme Court: PAGA lawsuits are “extracting millions of dollars from employers … (as) another tax for doing business in California.”
  • Attorney General Rob Bonta: PAGA is essential in “ensuring the fair and legal treatment of some of the state’s most vulnerable workers, including those in the agricultural, garment, and frontline service industries.”
  • Further complicating matters: Californians for Fair Pay and Accountability, composed of prominent unions and business groups, is collecting signatures for a 2022 ballot measure to repeal PAGA.
Romney Gets a Challenger? Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who backed Donald Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 election results, is preparing for a 2024 Senate run that could pit him against Sen. Mitt Romney in a GOP primary. Reyes, who has been elected statewide three times, in recent weeks, has discussed the matter with critical players in Utah politics and with allies of the former president, according to a person who is familiar with Reyes’ plans. Reyes is likely to make an official announcement in May. [Politico]

How much would CalCare have cost? California’s plan to enact a single-payer health care system lovingly called CalCare (more accurately perhaps, CalBankruptcy) would have cost the state between $494 billion and $552 billion a year, according to a Legislative Analyst’s Office analysis.

Dems propose a $400 rebate Every California taxpayer would get a $400 refund to help cover the skyrocketing price of gas under a proposal a group of Democratic lawmakers (and one independent) is set to unveil today. The rebates would be funded using $9 billion of California’s massive budget surplus and sent to every tax filer “because all Californians have seen an increase in living expenses,” the 11 legislators said. “Consistent with the state’s values as the global leader in combatting climate change, this will ensure that the rebate includes taxpayers who use public transit, active transportation options, and zero-emission vehicles.”

UC legislation exposed Capitol’s bad habits Dan Walters writes, “Gavin Newsom and state legislators let loose a torrent of self-congratulations this week for acting quickly to protect the University of California from having to limit enrollment at its flagship Berkeley campus. Instead, they should have apologized because what they did encapsulated several of the Capitol’s most worrisome tendencies.” Story

How likely is a new, improved CEQA? Related to the above, the New York Times covered the Legislature’s “swift action” to preserve new enrollments at UC Berkeley. They interviewed UC Davis professor and land use expert Chris Elmendorf. He said, “The building trade unions, which are a powerful lobby, have fought off pretty much any substantial change to CEQA for a long time because it is very useful for threatening developers who don’t sign project labor agreements.” Story

WEI OUT Angie Wei left the Newsom administration and will be succeeded as legislative affairs secretary by lobbyist and gubernatorial administration veteran Christy Bouma, who most recently has been at Capitol Connections (its prominent clients include the California Professional Firefighters, the California Manufacturers and Technology Association and the Consumer Attorneys of California). Before joining Team Newsom, Wei was an executive at the powerful California Labor Federation. She was appointed to the WCAB and is expected the join the UFCW.