Six bills identified by the California Chamber of Commerce as job killers passed the Legislature in the closing days of this year’s session. The job killer bills will increase labor costs and create more liability for employers.
Also approved and headed for the 2024 ballot are two proposed constitutional amendments that will make it easier to raise taxes on Californians.
Among CalChamber-supported bills approved were proposals to transform California’s behavioral health care system and provide the resources needed to care for and house persons with the most severe mental health needs and substance use disorders.
The Governor has until October 14 to act on the bills passed by the Legislature in the final days of the session.
• SB 365 (Wiener; D-San Francisco) Undermines Arbitration. Discriminates against use of arbitration agreements by allowing trial courts to continue trial proceedings during any appeal regarding the denial of a motion to compel, undermining arbitration and increasing court and party time and resources spent on cases that ultimately are sent to arbitration.
• SB 616 (Gonzalez; D-Long Beach) Costly Sick Leave Expansion on All Employers. Imposes new costs and leave requirements on employers of all sizes, by increasing existing sick leave mandate, which is in addition to all other enacted leave mandates that small employers throughout the state are already struggling with to implement and comply.
• SB 627 (Smallwood-Cuevas; D-Los Angeles) Onerous Return to Work Mandate. Imposes an onerous and stringent process to hire employees based on seniority alone for nearly every industry, including hospitals, retail, restaurants and movie theaters, which will delay hiring and eliminates contracts for at-will employment.
• SB 799 (Portantino; D-Burbank) Increased Unemployment Insurance Taxes to Subsidize Striking Workers. SB 799 will allow striking workers to claim UI benefits when they choose to strike. Because the UI Fund is paid for entirely by employers, SB 799 will effectively add more debt onto California employers. Moreover, SB 799 will effectively force employers to subsidize strikes at completely unrelated businesses because the UI Fund’s debt adds taxes for all employers, regardless of whether they’ve had a strike.
• AB 524 (Wicks; D-Oakland) Expansion of Litigation Under FEHA. Exposes employers to costly litigation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act by asserting that any adverse employment action was in relation to the employee’s family caregiver status, which is broadly defined to include any employee who contributes to the care of any person of their choosing, and creates a de facto accommodation requirement that will burden small businesses.
• AB 647 (Holden; D-Pasadena) Grocery Workers. Significantly expands statute related to successor grocery employers, including disrupting ability for independent small stores to join together, expands number of workers covered under the law, and creates a significant new private right of action.
Former Job Killers
• SB 525 (Durazo; D-Los Angeles) Minimum Wage for Health Care Workers. Increases minimum wage for health care workers to $25 in stages. Job killer tag and opposition removed due to September 11, 2023, amendments. CalChamber neutral.
• SB 723 (Durazo; D-Los Angeles) Onerous Return to Work Mandate. Continues an onerous and stringent recall process for specific employers to return former employees to the workforce for specified industries, including hotels and restaurants that have been disproportionally impacted by this pandemic, by extending the current law past the previously imposed sunset date. Job killer status removed due to September 7, 2023, amendments. CalChamber still opposes.
Also sent to the Governor were the following:
• SB 253 (Wiener; D-San Francisco) Corporate Climate Accountability Act. Imposes a mandatory climate tracking, and auditing on climate emissions that will fall heavily on all California businesses, impacting competitiveness and increasing costs.
• SB 261 (Stern; D-Canoga Park) Climate-Related Financial Risk. Requires any business with revenues over $500 million annually to prepare a climate financial risk assessment on its holdings including any supply chain assets.
Headed for 2024 Ballot
Two proposed constitutional amendments that make it easier to raise taxes on Californians will go before voters on the 2024 ballot. The CalChamber opposes:
• ACA 1 (Aguiar-Curry; D-Winters) Lowers Voter Threshold to Increase Property Taxes. Overbroad constitutional amendment lowers voter approval threshold from two-thirds to 55% for affordable housing and public infrastructure, thereby providing increased tax authority for every government agency in California—not just cities and counties, but thousands of potentially overlapping special districts.
• ACA 13 (Ward; D-San Diego) Increases Voter Threshold for Taxpayer Protections. Aims to amend the California Constitution to require a higher voter approval requirement for citizen-proposed ballot initiatives that seek to increase protections for adoption of new taxes but does not impose that same voting threshold burden for tax increases placed on the ballot by the Legislature or local governments.
• SB 326 (Eggman; D-Stockton) Restructures California’s behavioral health services programs to provide services for substance use disorders and move homeless individuals to shelter for treatment.
• AB 531 (Irwin; D-Thousand Oaks) Provides $6.38 billion to fund critically needed behavioral health treatment beds and supportive housing through a general obligation bond measure.
• SB 621 (Caballero; D-Merced) Pharmaceutical Cost Containment. Reduces pharmaceutical costs and premiums for employers by allowing plans and insurers to utilize less expensive but equally as effective biosimilar drugs prior to administering a reference biologic.