The upcoming legislative session is likely to be a tough one for the California businesses Rob Lapsley represents.
With Democrats holding supermajorities in both houses of the state Legislature, the traditional Republican allies of big business will essentially be powerless. Democrats will be able to pass taxes and repeal tax breaks with the two-thirds majority they now hold.
"We're in historic times," said Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable. "It's going to be a fascinating two years."
The Roundtable a nonpartisan group that includes two dozen of the state's largest employers and its allies in the business world will likely foster a cadre of moderate Democrats to temper the liberal side of the party when it comes to issues such as taxes, labor laws and environmental regulation.
Lapsley touted the re-election of Sen. Rod Wright of Inglewood and the election of Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra of Pacoima both Democrats as two crucial victories for business interests.
Bocanegra was among the candidates Lapsley supported during the campaign season as chairman of the Reform California Now independent expenditure committee.
But Lapsley still faces an uphill battle in the Legislature.
The committee took money from insurance, oil, tobacco and real estate companies and distributed it to other committees supporting Republicans in swing districts. The primary goal was to prevent Democrats from getting a two-thirds majority in the state Senate. Lapsley's committee funded ads attacking Democrats Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills and Cathleen Galgiani of Stockton, who both won their races for the upper house.
"In this business you have some years when you win and some years when you don't win," Lapsley said. "You continue to move forward and build relationships and do the best you can for what you feel is the best policy to create a better California."
Lapsley, an Air Force veteran who previously worked for the California Chamber of Commerce, said he's optimistic that business interests will still have clout in the Capitol. Both the chamber and the Business Roundtable stayed neutral on Gov. Jerry Brown's successful tax measure, Proposition 30. And, less than a month after the election, Lapsley said he sat down for breakfast with Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.
"The speaker has sent outstanding signals on where he would like to go and the need for restraint. The governor certainly has been a leader with that message," Lapsley said.
Fellow business advocate John Kabateck, executive director of the California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, praised Lapsley's ability to listen, build consensus and work with members of both parties.
"That's what's so important in this brave new world," Kabateck said.
Lapsley said he's hoping to see changes to the California Environmental Quality Act in the year ahead, something in which the governor has also shown an interest. But whether the changes businesses seek would be enacted by the current Legislature "remains to be seen," Lapsley said with a laugh.
"We're going to continue with what we do, which is look for bipartisan, business-friendly legislators," Lapsley said. "Just because this cycle worked out like it did doesn't mean we have to do anything different."