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in the KNOW

June 5, 2015

House of Origin Deadline in the Legislature

California State Capitol

California State Capitol

Hundreds of bills were considered in the Assembly and Senate this week in order to meet the June 5 house of origin deadline and proceed to the opposite chamber. Below is a review of some of the bills Ag Council has been engaged in recently, along with the status of those bills and Ag Council’s position.

In the coming days, the Legislature must approve the state budget by June 15 as required in the California Constitution.

Labor Legislation

AB 67 – Double Pay on the Holiday Act
Position – Opposed

Ag and business groups are pleased AB 67, by Assemblywoman Gonzalez (D-San Diego), failed passage in the Assembly this week. The bill would mandate that employers recognize Thanksgiving as a “family holiday” and require employers to compensate all employees with double pay for work performed on that day.

Ag Council and others opposed AB 67 given it would increase costs and could be expanded in the future to other holidays. In addition, it would place California businesses at a further disadvantage when compared with other states.

Assemblywoman Gonzales attempted to garner support for AB 67 this week by sending legislators pumpkin pies, a Thanksgiving tradition, with a note stating, “Last Thanksgiving when we were sitting down for turkey and pumpkin pie, a million Californians were required to report to work at their retail or restaurant job. It’s time that they enjoy a small piece of the pie as well.” The measure needed 41 votes to pass and only garnered 29.

AB 304 – Paid Sick Leave Expansion
Position – Opposed

In a positive outcome for California businesses, AB 304 by Assemblywoman Gonzalez (D-San Diego) did not have the votes to pass the Assembly this week. Ag Council opposed AB 304 because it was amended to expand the new paid sick leave law, approved in 2014, onto employers who already provide accrual-based paid sick leave/time off for employees.

The current paid sick leave law goes into effect on July 1, and AB 304 only adds confusion to the existing law. AB 304 would eliminate more favorable employer policies that do not accrue time-off according to hours worked and would limit an employer’s ability to accrue paid time off in another manner other than hours worked.

AB 357- Fair Scheduling Act of 2015
Position: Opposed

In a win for California businesses, the Fair Scheduling Act of 2015, AB 357 by Assemblyman Chiu (D-SF) missed the house of origin deadline in the Assembly. The measure did not garner enough support, particularly among moderate Democrats in the Assembly.

AB 357 would have required food and general retail businesses to give their employees at least two weeks’ notice of their schedules before a shift and mandated pay for each on-call shift the employee did not work. This measure was a huge priority for the labor unions. AB 357 would broadly apply to any food and general retail establishment with 500 or more employees in California and 10 sites nationwide satisfying factors such as having a “standard array of merchandise” or “standardized signage.”

Ag Council opposed AB 357 given it would set a terrible precedent, increase costs, and could be expanded, if passed. Many ag and business groups, such as CalChamber, opposed the measure. After the bill was moved to “inactive,” Assemblyman Chiu said he wants  to continue discussing the scheduling issue, so further conversations will likely occur.

AB 561 – Limits due process at the ALRB
Position – Opposed

AB 561 by Assemblywoman Campos (D-San Jose) limits an employer’s due process rights for appeals of an order by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) and may discourage employers from appealing an order altogether. The bill mandates that an employer, seeking a review of an ALRB decision, post a bond in the amount of the entire economic value of the order as determined by ALRB. The bill also grants ALRB general counsel more authority.

The bill author made a commitment to Assemblyman Gray (D-Merced) this week to narrow the scope of the bill relating to the requirement to post a bond in the amount of the full economic value of an order on appeal. Ag Council appreciates Assemblyman Gray’s efforts to try and limit the scope of AB 561. The measure passed the Assembly and now moves to the Senate.

Water Bills

AB 1390 – Improving the efficiency of groundwater adjudications
Position – Support

AB 1390 by Assemblyman Alejo (D-Watsonville) passed the Assembly on May 26 by a vote of 76-0. Ag Council supports this measure, and it was a key bill discussed with legislators during Legislative Day on May 19.

The measure makes the groundwater adjudication process more efficient and facilitates early settlement of groundwater adjudications whereby courts determine groundwater rights in a basin. AB 1390 addresses delays in groundwater adjudications through the development of standardized forms, processes and requirements. The bill reduces costs on the courts, claimants and local entities. AB 1390 protects water rights.

As background, in groundwater adjudications, groundwater users can request a court to hear arguments for and against the right to use groundwater resources. The court can then assign water rights to users and require others to limit groundwater pumping. The Assembly passed AB 1390. The bill is pending consideration in the Senate.

SB 226 – Changes to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
Position – Opposed 

Ag Council is opposed to this bill by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) because the measure makes changes to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, approved in 2014, in a manner that raises concerns about water rights. For example, SB 226 allows the Department of Water Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to intervene in a court proceeding on behalf of the environment in groundwater adjudications, which is a change to existing law. SB 226 was approved in the Senate. It now awaits Assembly consideration.

SB 20 – Public access to well logs
Position – Opposed
 

Ag Council opposes legislation by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) to make well logs publicly available. Ag Council members spoke out against this measure in meetings with legislators during recent Legislative Day. Agencies that need well log data already have access to the information. This data is confidential and releasing it to the public does not provide any advantage, except to render it subject to litigation.

The Senate approved SB 20 on June 1. Unfortunately, there is also a funding provision in the pending state budget to allow the public to access well logs. Ag Council is working with a coalition to oppose both the budget language and SB 20, which is now under consideration in the Assembly.

Use of Antibiotics in Animal Agriculture

SB 27 – Antibiotics Use in Livestock & Poultry
Position: Working with the author 

On June 3, the Senate approved SB 27, which is Senator Hill’s (D-San Mateo) legislation to limit the use of medically important antibiotics in livestock and poultry.

SB 27 addresses medically important antibiotics (used in both animals & humans). The bill continues to be a work in progress because stakeholders are holding ongoing conversations with the governor’s staff regarding what the governor seeks to achieve in the bill. Given this, the language is not yet final in SB 27.

Ag Council, California Farm Bureau Federation, and other agricultural organizations provided Senators with a letter this week outlining concerns about SB 27 in the following issue areas: 1) veterinary oversight, 2) prevention, 3) tracking, and 4) stewardship. Agricultural advocates continue to work to address these issues with Senator Hill and the governor’s staff. Senator Hill has been willing to work with the ag community on this important issue and his leadership is appreciated.

With Senate passage, SB 27 now moves to the Assembly and outreach is taking place with members of the Assembly Ag Committee.

Energy

SB 687 – Renewable Gas Standard
Position – Opposed
 

SB 687, a measure to require the State Air Resources Board (ARB) to adopt a carbon-based renewable gas standard, was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 29. Therefore, the bill failed to meet the fiscal committee deadline for approval.

Ag Council strongly opposed SB 687 because it would have required ARB to adopt a renewable gas standard, leading to higher costs, and making California businesses less competitive. Ag Council members lobbied against SB 687 during Legislative Day on May 19, and we are pleased the bill was halted in committee given it easily could have raised natural gas costs by 25 percent.

SB 350 – Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act
Position: Opposed

Ag Council opposes SB 350 by Senator de Leon (D-Los Angeles).  SB 350 mandates a 50 percent reduction in the use of petroleum-based fuels, requires a 50 percent reduction in energy use in existing buildings, and dictates a 50 percent increase in power generation from renewable energy sources – all by 2030.

SB 350 is costly and threatens energy affordability. Also, SB 350 does not account for the steps business owners have already taken to improve energy efficiency. The bill passed the Senate on June 3 and is pending in the Assembly.  Ag Council and a coalition of ag and business groups continue to oppose the measure.

Climate Change

AB 32 Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Position: Opposed

Ag Council opposes SB 32 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. SB 32 was approved by the Senate and is now under consideration in the Assembly. This bill goes too far.  Instead, the Legislature should conduct oversight and review what has worked within the current cap and trade program to better understand how to move forward and where improvements can be made.

In late April, Governor Brown issued an executive order establishing an aggressive target for California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030. The Governor views this action as an interim step toward later attaining an 80 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2050.

Excavation

SB 119 – Excavations/811-Call Before You Dig
Position: Working with the author of the bill

SB 119 establishes enforcement provisions relating to excavation violations under the 811-Call Before You Dig program. The bill is authored by Senator Hill (D-San Mateo). Ag Council recently participated in developing amendments to SB 119, along with others in the ag community, to address the unique nature of agriculture. The amendments limit the circumstances around which farmers must call 811 and include a limited ag exemption where ag activities to a depth of less than 16 inches are not considered excavations.

SB 119 passed the Senate on June 2 and is pending in the Assembly.

Regulatory Review

AB 12 – Duplicative Regulations
Position – Support

AB 12 by Assemblyman Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) requires state agencies to review, amend or repeal any regulations that are duplicative, overlapping, inconsistent, or out of date by Jan. 1, 2018.  This bill is quite simply good public policy, and Ag Council members advocated in favor of AB 12 during our recent Legislative Day.

UC Davis Drought Study

UC Davis recently released a Preliminary Analysis for the 2015 Drought Economic Impact Study. Below are some of the key statistics. A link to the preliminary analysis is available HERE.

Ag Council President Emily Rooney already used statistics from the study as part of her hearing testimony on dairy pricing at the California Department of Food and Agriculture on June 3.

Some of the findings in the study include:
• About 564,000 acres will be fallowed in 2015, which is a 31 percent increase over 2014.

• This results in a statewide reduction in gross crop farm revenue of about $856 million. Livestock and dairies may add another $350 million in direct revenue losses for 2015.

• Approximately 18,600 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs will be lost in the Central Valley once multiplier effects are included. The total economic loss to agriculture is estimated to be $2.7 billion.

• The study estimates the 2015 drought will cause direct farm revenue losses of about $1.2 billion, relative to an average water year, with a net water shortage of about 2.5 million acre-feet.

• The total surface water shortage is estimated to be 8.7 million acre-feet, of which 6.2 million acre-feet will likely be replaced through increased groundwater pumping. The additional pumping will cost $595 million, approximately a 31 percent increase over 2014.

Air Resources Board Public Workshops

The Air Resources Board (ARB) intends to develop an online reporting system that Large Spark-Ignition (LSI) equipment owners would use to report engine and equipment information. This reporting system would also automatically report a fleet’s compliance with the existing LSI Fleet Regulation.Workshops are being held in June on a proposal developed by ARB staff.

The proposal for equipment labeling, similar to the In-Use Off-Road Diesel-Fueled Fleets Regulation, ensures that all equipment that operates in California is registered and continues to meet the current LSI fleet average requirements. ARB states that the proposed amendments are critical to providing needed inventory updates, facilitating uniform compliance, and identifying incentive opportunities.

ARB staff is also interested in hearing from affected stakeholders on alternatives to achieving its air quality, climate, and sustainability goals.

The workshops are an opportunity for stakeholders to provide comments to ARB staff.  Ag Council will participate in the Sacramento workshop on June 8.