SOME SIGNIFICANT PROPOSALS CONTINUE TO HANG IN THE BALANCE
Among those are bills that would permit employees to work a 40-hour flexible workweek (AB 907, Conway-R), provide local jurisdictions with the option to seek extended alcohol service hours (SB 635, Leno-D, SB 607, Berryhill-R) and legislation that would require the Department of Public Health to conduct a risk assessment evaluation to determine what products and foods contribute to a significant public health epidemic and impose fees on those products (SB 747, DeSaulnier - D).
Other measurers that were amended and no longer directly affect the restaurant industry would have allowed all individuals, regardless of their actual or perceived “housing status, income level, mental illness, or physical disability” the right to engage in “life-sustaining activities” that must be carried out in “public spaces,” including urination, and possessing or storing personal property, including animals. As introduced, the bill considered “public spaces” broadly including sidewalks, parking lots, and buildings open to the public. Accordingly, under AB 5 (Ammiano-D), a person would have had the right to urinate on the sidewalk or entryway of a restaurant, or bring an animal into an eating facility, jeopardizing the health and safety of other patrons. The bill was significantly amended removing the private sector and now only allows for homeless people to rest, eat and sleep in public places without being harassed.
With a few weeks still to determine the fate of a number of bills introduced in their original house of origin remain uncertain. These include proposals attempting to force an annual increases in the state’s minimum wage (AB-10, Alejo-D), prohibit quickservice food facilities from distributing disposable foodservice packaging unless certain stringent requirements are met (SB-529, Leno-D), require businesses to arrange for collection of food waste (AB 323, Chesbro-D) and restrictions and prohibitions against the smoking of tobacco products to include electronic cigarettes (SB 648, Corbett-D).
Outstanding bills that have been tagged with an urgency or two-thirds’s vote requirement have until Sept. 13 to make their way to the Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. A number of high-priority bills fall into this category: Proposition 65 enforcement (AB 227, Gatto-D), medical program costs to large employers (AB 880, Gomez-D) and a newly created tax on sugar sweetened beverages (SB 622, Monning-D).
Since the start of the legislative session, the CRA has worked closely with Assemblyman Gatto (D- Silver Lake) on Assembly Bill 227, which allows a business that receives a notice for allegedly violating the warning provisions of Proposition 65 to correct the violation within 14 days and pay a $500 penalty. This legislation will help prevent unnecessary litigation while still preserving the public protection goals and rights of the act.
However, earlier this week, Gov. Brown announced his intent to address a broader reform to Proposition 65. Specifically, the administration, through the California Environmental Protection Agency, will work closely with the Legislature and stakeholders to revamp Proposition 65 by ending “shake-down” lawsuits, improving how the public is warned about dangerous chemicals and strengthening the scientific basis for warning levels. Details on how this overall reform will be administered have not been released.
NEW EMPLOYER SANCTIONS PROPOSED ON TOP OF ACA PENALTIES
AB 880 seeks to assess a penalty on employers if any of their employees who work as little as eight hours per week enroll in California’s Medi-Cal program. The amount of the penalty is based on 110 percent of the average cost of health care coverage including both the employer’s and employee’s share of the premium. In addition, the bill would expand discrimination litigation by expanding the labor code to include a protected classification for any employee s who enroll in California’s Medi-Cal program or in the California Health Benefit Exchange.
The CRA is opposed to this legislation and working aggressively to stop it. The bill will next be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, likely on May 22.