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in the KNOW

September 13, 2013

Legislature Concludes Business & Adjourns

sacramento-pictureLate last night, the California State Legislature concluded its business and adjourned for 2013. Many issues affecting agriculture were in play during the final days of legislative activity, and Ag Council was active in the Capitol on our members’ behalf. Please read on for the outcome of key measures that were under consideration.

Labor

Minimum wage hike passes & mandatory mediation bill stalls

AB 10 (Alejo) – Passed the Legislature – Raises California’s current $8 minimum wage to $9 starting in July 2014 and again raises it to $10 in January 2016. Ag Council and many business and ag groups staunchly opposed a minimum wage hike.

Unfortunately, after Democrat leaders garnered the support of Governor Jerry Brown earlier this week, the momentum existed to move forward and the measure was approved by the Legislature yesterday. Given his support, AB 10 is expected to be signed by the governor.

SB 25 (Steinberg) – Held in the Legislature – Ag Council is pleased to report the mandatory mediation measure, SB 25, was not considered prior to Senate adjournment this week. It would have allowed a party to prolong collective bargaining negotiations under the Ag Labor Relations Act and then call for mandatory mediation of a renewal contract. The contract would not have been subject to worker ratification, which marginalizes workers.

Ag Council and many agricultural organizations had worked to oppose SB 25 throughout the year, and the fact the bill did not move out of the Senate yesterday is a positive outcome for the ag community.

Air Quality

Penalty bills shelved & Carl Moyer measure passes

SB 691 (Hancock) – Held in the Legislature – SB 691 would have subjected Title V permit holders under the Clean Air Act to a $100,000 strict liability penalty for the first day of a nuisance violation that releases a toxic air contaminant. Ag Council strongly advocated against this measure and, in a win for our members with Title V air permits, this bill was not considered before the Legislature adjourned.

AB 1330 (Speaker Perez) – Held in the Legislature – This last minute “gut and amend” measure would have, among other provisions, doubled certain regulatory penalties (including air violations) against businesses located in areas identified by the California Environmental Protection Agency as Environmental Justice Communities. Ag Council and many ag and business groups ardently opposed this bill, which was not considered before adjournment.

AB 8 (Perea) – Passed the Legislature – Extends funding for the Carl Moyer program, among other air quality and transportation programs. Ag Council supported this measure because it is a useful tool in agriculture to incentivize significant reductions in air emissions by funding cleaner than required engines. The bill is now on its way to Governor Brown’s desk.

Energy

Changes to NEM contracts

AB 327 (Perea) – Passed the Legislature – Written to prevent energy cost increases on low-income ratepayers. Unfortunately, AB 327 was amended in a manner that could considerably raise energy costs, particularly for those who have installed renewable energy projects and provide energy back to utilities under the Net Energy Metering (NEM) program.

The final bill includes intent language stating that by March 31, 2014 the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will consider how long exiting NEM contracts operating under the previous NEM tariff will be allowed to continue. Ag Council remains concerned for those with existing NEM contracts and will work with other organizations to try and protect these contracts in the PUC process. AB 327 is now on the governor’s desk for his review.

Climate Change

Ag groups join together to prevent more on-farm regulations

SB 726 (Lara) – Passed the Legislature – An attempt to regulate on-farm carbon emissions was thwarted earlier this week by a united group of agricultural organizations, including Ag Council, Farm Bureau and others. SB 726, addressing transparency issues relating to the World Climate Initiative, was amended with language that would have further regulated black carbon (soot) in agriculture.

Given that black carbon is already being reduced under current regulations, very strong opposition built up against the provision and the language affecting farms was successfully removed. The bill then proceeded to pass the Legislature and is now on the governor’s desk.

Dairy

AB 1038 (Gray) – Held in the Legislature – AB 1038 would have codified the California Dairy Future Task Force. AB 1038 has a new author, Assemblyman Gray (D-Merced). The bill was approved on the Senate floor yesterday and moved to the inactive file in the Assembly with no further action taken on the bill before adjournment.

Driver’s Licenses

AB 60 (Alejo) – Passed the Legislature – Allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a California driver’s license. The bill was approved by state lawmakers late Thursday after Governor Brown said he would sign the bill. Click HERE to read more about AB 60.

Taxes

AB 106 (Budget Committee) – Passed the Legislature – Allows for an income tax credit, equal to the sales tax paid on qualified capital equipment, to be claimed if the equipment is purchased before the end of the calendar year and placed in service prior to January 1, 2015.  Ag Council supported this measure, and it is now pending on the governor’s desk.

AB 1173 (Bocanegra) – Passed the Legislature – Reduces the additional 20 percent California income tax penalty to five percent for Internal Revenue Code Section 409A violations for nonqualified deferred compensation. Essentially, the bill provides partial relief from this penalty tax, which must be paid by workers, not the employer. Ag Council supported this measure.  AB 1173 now awaits the governor’s consideration.

Water

AB 21 (Alejo) – Passed the Legislature – AB 21 creates the Safe Drinking Water Small Community Emergency Grant Fund to provide grants for emergency drinking water projects to serve disadvantaged communities. This bill is awaiting consideration in the Senate.  This measure is pending the governor’s consideration.

AB 115 (Perea) – Passed the Legislature – AB 115 expands the eligibility for grants and loans from the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund allowing multiple water systems to apply as a single applicant and allows funding of a project to benefit a disadvantaged community. AB 115 now moves to the governor’s desk.

AB 118 (Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials Committee)-Passed by the Legislature- AB 118 improves flexibility in the disbursement of loans from the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund to help underprivileged communities pay for the cost of rectifying deficiencies in small water systems. AB 118 is on its way to Governor Brown’s desk.

GOP Legislators Urge Congress to Pass Immigration Bill

This week, 15 California Republican state legislators called on Republicans in the House of Representatives to act on and support the stalled immigration bill in Congress. The measure, with respect to agriculture, would allow undocumented workers living in the United States to earn legal status if they meet certain criteria.

The group of legislators, led by Senator Anthony Canella (R-Salinas), wrote a letter urging Congress’ action on the immigration bill because much of our state’s economy in the agriculture and construction sectors depends on immigrant labor forces. California Republicans are also hopeful this effort will be a step toward repairing the political party’s relationship with minority voters in the state.

Click HERE to read more.