Legislature shelves minimum wage hike and oil drilling ban

Aug 28, 2015

Thursday was a make-or-break for over one hundred bills this session.  Legislation to raise the minimum wage, ban oil drilling off the California coast and create a guest worker program for agricultural workers all failed to get out of Appropriations, meaning that they are done for the year.  Patrick McGreevy and Melanie Mason report for LAT:


“With this year's session ending Sept. 11, lawmakers faced a deadline Thursday for deciding which bills they can afford this year. They withheld action on measures they considered too expensive or lacking political support, meaning they will not be acted on this year…


“Those held up include one by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) to increase the minimum wage to $11 per hour next year and $13 an hour in 2017…. Also shelved was a measure by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) to allow agricultural workers in the country illegally to get state permits to stay and work in California… Environmentalists were disappointed that lawmakers put a hold on a bill by state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) to ban new oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara…


“Earlier in the day, the full Senate met in special session on healthcare and approved a package of six tobacco-control bills that now go to the Assembly for consideration.”


The Senate did, however, advance a bill to regulate medical marijuana.  Sort of.   David Downs, East Bay Express:


“Today the California Senate Appropriations Committee advanced historic medical cannabis regulations with a last-minute twist: nothing was in the bill.


Assembly Bill 266 was gutted and amended to read: ‘It is the intention of the state legislature to regulate medical marijuana.’


“But for the first time, the Governor’s Office weighed in with language of its own that may become the text of a last-minute bill that passes the Senate by September 7, and makes it to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.


“Senate Appropriations voted 5-1 this afternoon to gut, amend, and advance AB 266, according to sources in the capital.”


As expected, the Assembly advanced Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson’s (D-Santa Barbara) pay-equity bill, which the governor has indicated that he will sign.  Judy Lin has the story for the AP:


“The bill by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would let female employees challenge pay discrimination based on the wages that the company pays to other employees at different locations. They could also base challenges on wages the company pays to other employees who do substantially similar work.


“It would also bar companies from retaliating against employees who discuss or ask about pay at work.


“Lawmakers on Thursday approved SB358 on a 66-2 vote. The bill now returns to the Senate for a final vote.”


Even Bloomberg followed the story, with the headline calling it the “Toughest U.S. Law Requiring Equal Pay.”


And, as if there weren’t already enough going on, there was leadership drama in both houses yesterday: in a surprise move, Senate Republican leader Bob Huff (R- San Dimas) was replaced by Senator Jean Fuller of Bakersfield. Meanwhile, on the Assembly side, termed out Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) sent a letter to Democratic lawmakers asking them to hold off on replacing her until January.  Alexei Koseff and Jeremy White, Sacramento Bee:


“Senate Republicans ousted Bob Huff of San Dimas, electing Jean Fuller to replace him as minority leader.


“The move came months ahead of a scheduled transition in November, and most Republican senators declined to discuss the circumstances of the decision. Fuller, of Bakersfield, declined to provide the vote tally or say if Huff agreed to step aside ahead of schedule….


“’I sped up the transition because there’s many opportunities that we need to work on that I need to give my full time to and my full attention to,’ Fuller said. ‘Sen. Huff is running for the L.A. County supervisor. He has a lot to do.’


“…In the lower house, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, was taking steps to avoid a leadership fight, asking Democrats to wait until next year to vote for a new leader…


“Atkins has circulated a letter asking Democratic lawmakers, ‘for the stability of the house,’ to commit to voting for her replacement the week of Jan. 5, 2016, ensuring they won’t make a move until after this legislative year ends.”


In another surprise move, veteran Dem strategist Chris LeHane is leaving his position as Tom Steyer’s chief advisor to become Airbnb’s head of global policy and public affairs.  From Tony Romm and Alex Guillen at Politico:


“The move could have major implications for Steyer’s efforts to sway the 2016 elections after Steyer’s group NextGen has spent more than $100 million of his personal fortune to support green-minded candidates and ballot initiatives in the past five years. Steyer has largely operated in a chairman-of-the-board role, setting big-picture goals rather than guiding operations and strategy, a job that was handed to Lehane.


“In that role, Lehane successfully helped the campaigns of Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2013, but a year later saw most of Steyer’s favored Senate and gubernatorial candidates lose, part of a wider pattern of Democratic losses.”


While SB 277 generated a tremendous backlash from anti-vaccine activists, another vaccine-related bill has quietly made its way through the legislature and appears to be headed for the governor’s desk.  David Gorn, KQED:


“A bill that would require day care workers to be immunized against three major diseases that could harm children passed out of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations Wednesday.


“It was the last committee stop for the bill, which passed the Senate and now will be up for an Assembly floor vote.


SB 792, by Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, would require vaccination for whooping cough, measles and influenza for all day care workers…

“’[This bill] protects young vulnerable children by making sure that those who care for them in child care settings are vaccinated against serious contagious illnesses,’ Mendoza said at Wednesday’s committee hearing.”


A little bit of good news this week: Californians cut their water use by a whopping 31% in July!


And, some bad news: a state audit of inappropriate behavior by state employees and public agencies found examples of over $4 million in waste and abuse of work time. Including the case of a CalTrans engineer who spent 55 paid workdays on the golf links.   Melody Gutierrez, SFGate:


“The employee said he played golf as much as possible - for an estimated four and a half hours a day — during hours the auditor found he was supposed to be working.


“The audit also found a month in May 2014 in which no one could account for how much work the engineer had done, if any, because there was a miscommunication about who was supposed to oversee the employee.


“The employee will have plenty of time to hit the links now after Caltrans said he retired in July. The agency said it planned to place a letter in the worker’s personnel file indicating he retired during an active investigation. A similar letter would be placed in the supervisor’s file after that employee retired this month, the agency said.”


The report cited other egregious examples of poor behavior by state employees, but the golf guy is the standout, and is not helping the image of CalTrans, an agency already under fire for bolt failures on the new Bay Bridge and a 2014 LAO report that found CalTrans overstaffed by 3,500 engineers (at a cost of $500 million per year.)


Cue Sen. John Moorlach (R-Orange County), who jumped on the story, pointing out that $500 million would go a long ways toward fixing California’s roads, hint, hint.


All of which makes it easy to hand our #WorstWeekinCA politics trophy (again) to Malcolm Dougherty, Director of the Department of Transportation, with sympathies to spokesman Will Shuck, who has probably had better weeks himself.