The Assembly voted Monday to send $2 million to Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office to immediately begin reducing a six-week backlog of business filings.
The bipartisan 71-1 vote sends Assembly Bill 113 to the Senate, which is expected to act quickly.
"Every day that a business owner has to wait for their paperwork to be processed is a day they aren't selling to customers or serving clients, hiring workers or contributing to our recovery," said Assembly Speaker John A. Perez.
The backlog came to light after The Bee reported it two weeks ago, prompting a committee hearing and Monday's vote.
The infusion of $2 million would allow Bowen to pay overtime and hire temporary employees to move the current mountain of mail from a 43-calendar-day wait to seven days by June.
The processing time would reduce to five days by November. To do that, lawmakers also are weighing a recommendation that they allocate an extra $6 million to $9 million in fiscal 2013-14 for Bowen to hire another 68 employees.
Those staff would take either two-year or three-year positions dedicated to processing business filings until the state brings an automated filing system online in 2016.
Bowen has told lawmakers she needs that much money and help to shrink the filing wait time to five business days by November and then to keep it there. Texas processes similar business filings in a week or less and uses an automated online filing system.
In California, business filings are on paper. The department uses 3-inch by 5-inch index cards for some record-keeping.
There is a backlog of 122,000 business filings.
"This an been an unnecessary brick wall to business startups and job creation for way too long," said John Kabateck, executive director of the California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.
"What we hear from our members is layer after layer after layer of bureaucracy," said Kabateck, whose organization represents 22,000 businesses. "That makes it difficult to turn the lights on."
Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, said he was concerned about the rush to assist Bowen's office, saying that the secretary of state hasn't made business filings a priority.
"I don't believe in rewarding bad behavior," said Chavez, who initially abstained from voting on the bill, but later voted against it.
The quickest average turnaround time for business filings since Bowen took office in 2006 has been 20 days. She has blamed budget cuts a few years ago for pushing the delay to an all-time high of 85 days last year.
Perez transferred $1.2 million last year from the Assembly's operations budget to help knock that backlog down to its current levels.
Perez said, at the time, that he was led to believe the backlog was a one-time problem that needed a one-time solution. He emphasized that moving forward, the infusion of additional money will come with monthly reports from Bowen's office on the status of the backlog.
"The idea here isn't to point blame, but to find solutions to a problem and that the solution is ongoing," Perez said.
Call Melody Gutierrez, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5521. Follow her on Twitter @melodygutierrez.