in the KNOW

September 14, 2012

Heat Illness Bills–Take ACTION

As many Ag Council members are aware, despite strong opposition from ag and business groups, both state heat illness bills (AB 2346 and AB 2676) were approved in the Legislature and are awaiting consideration by Governor Jerry Brown. The Governor has until September 30, 2012 to sign or veto pending legislation.

Ag Council and many other ag and business organizations are seeking a veto of AB 2346, authored by Assemblywoman Betsy Butler (D-Torrance), and AB 2676, authored by Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whitter), and have communicated that message to the Governor. To read the joint coalition letters to the Governor, click HERE.

Ag Council encourages you to send letter to the Governor requesting a veto of AB 2346 and AB 2676. You can email the Governor TODAY via his website by clicking HERE.

In your veto request, let the Governor know the heat illness bills are unnecessary given that the state the state already has a well-structured regulation in place to protect farmworkers from heat illness, and Cal/OSHA has allocated resources to ensure compliance. The regulation is protecting lives and is supported by the ag community.


Workers’ Comp Revision

In a bipartisan deal brokered to prevent skyrocketing workers’ compensation rates, legislation to improve the state workers’ compensation system was approved at the end of the legislative session and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

SB 863, by Senator Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), reduces administrative costs in the appeal process and shortens the medical and legal review of workers’ compensation injuries. By offsetting costs, SB 863 provides benefit increases for injured workers. It also streamlines the permanent disability schedule.

Click HERE to read the CalChamber’s overview of this measure.


Governor Signs Pension Bill

This week, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 340, a pension reform measure recently approved by the Legislature. The bill is authored by Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D-Long Beach).

Under the new law, all state employees (including current employees) must pay at least 50 percent of their pension benefit costs. Retirement age is raised by two years or more for new employees, and pensionable salaries are capped at the Social Security contribution and wage base of $110,100.

AB 340 was approved on the last day of the legislative session. Republicans said the measure did not go far enough to cut state costs, and Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Laguna Niguel) called it an “insincere ploy to go out before the voters and say we did some pension reform.” Meanwhile, Governor Brown said it is “the biggest rollback to public pension benefits in the history of California pensions.”

For further details, read the Governor’s full statement HERE.


Timber Measure Signed into Law

AB 1492, a bipartisan bill addressing issues facing California’s timber industry, was signed into law this week by Governor Jerry Brown.

In signing the measure, the Governor said, “California’s laws have saddled our timber industry with costly burdens while giving out-of-state competitors a free ride—but that stops today. This legislation enacts serious bipartisan reform to even the playing field to protect California’s timber-industry jobs.”

AB 1492 limits liability on landowners when a fire begins on private land. It also enacts a one percent consumer tax on lumber in order to pay for strict state regulations that lead to costs on California companies that are much higher than the costs borne by timber operators in other states. In addition, the new law lengthens timber harvest plans from five to seven years.

Read the Governor’s entire statemstatement HERE.


Rubio Tapped to Serve as Chairman

State Senate President pro Tem, Darrell Steinberg, this week announced his intent to appoint Senator Michael Rubio (D-Shafter), as Chair of the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality. The current Chair, Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) is terming out in late November. The committee has jurisdiction over environmental quality, air quality, water quality, integrated waste management, toxics and hazardous waste.

In his announcement, Steinberg said, “Since the day he arrived in the Senate, Michael Rubio has shown a keen interest and a sharp intellect on environmental issues ranging from cap-and-trade to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). He will bring new energy and ‘outside the box’ thinking to California’s environmental laws and regulations.”

Click HERE for a press release by Senator Rubio.


Record High California Farm Revenues

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) recently announced that California farm revenues reached a record high of $43.5 billion for their output in 2011. This is a revenue increase for farms and ranches in California of 15 percent over the 2010 level.

Read a copy of the NASS press release HERE.