San Diego Business Journal

Lawmakers: Let Businesses Survive

Just as California businesses are rebounding from a recession deepened by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the state Legislature is launching its own attack on business in the form of bills that could stall any economic recovery.

The California Chamber of Commerce has created a list of the most anti-business bills pending before lawmakers. They range from new environmental mandates to new laws that could send company officials to jail.

- AB 1058, sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Fran Pavley of Encino, would give the California Air Resources Board nearly unlimited discretion to reduce gasoline consumption by levying new fuel taxes without regard to their impact on the economy. Though currently short of votes, this bill may reappear under another number or Christmas-treed to another bill.

- AB 2242 is another attempt at raising the state's minimum wage law. Sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, the bill mandates annual hikes in the minimum wage linked to the consumer price index. It also allows for increased fines for wage and hour violations.

- AB 2160, sponsored by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, gives the Public Employment Relations Board the power to settle disagreements between teachers and administrators over what should be taught in classrooms. If passed, it would undermine business-backed school accountability reforms passed in recent years.

- AB 2752, called the "Be a Manager, Go to Jail" bill, makes more company officials, such as managers, subject to retaliation claims. Sponsored by Assemblywoman Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, it also substantially increases fines and penalties.

- A second "Be a Manager, Go to Jail" bill, AB 2837, could criminalize workplace injury investigations by transferring authority for those probes from the state Occupational Health and Safety Agency to local district attorneys. Sponsored by West Hollywood's Assemblyman Koretz, it would also establish new criminal and civil penalties for employers who fail to report serious work-related injuries within specified time limits.

- SB 1466, sponsored by state Sen. Richard Alarcon, D-Van Nuys, would make employers who contract for labor liable for the actions of a contractor when they don't have control over them. Includes both civil and criminal penalties.

- SB 1521, sponsored by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles, is perhaps the most preposterous piece of legislation. It imposes a statewide model zoning ordinance that cities and counties would be required to adopt and implement in order to receive state infrastructure grants. If passed, the bill would eliminate local decision-making on land use issues.

California businesses are struggling to regain their footing in the wake of recession, terrorist attacks and war. This is no time to shackle them with burdensome mandates and liabilities. Sacramento needs to rein in these ridiculous bills and let California's businesses continue the march toward economic recovery.

, Martin Hill