Seasonal rituals abound in the state Capitol and one, publication of the California Chamber of Commerce’s annual list of “job killer” bills, is anticipated with both glee and dread.
They are measures that CalChamber and other business groups consider to be the most burdensome – and generally those that labor unions, environmentalists, consumer advocates and personal injury lawyers are most eager to see in law.
This year’s list is unusual because it contains just 17 bills, about half the usual number, but CalChamber terms it “17 and counting,” suggesting that as the legislative session continues, others will be added.
The 17 would boost minimum wages, require employers to give two weeks’ notice of working shift changes, tighten up the state’s program to reduce carbon emissions, halt fracking, and protect workers when grocery stores change hands, to cite but a few.
Any measure on the list faces an uphill struggle for survival. Over the last decade, the chamber has targeted 357 bills, but only 73 made it to the governor’s desk and just 14 were signed by either Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger or Democrat Jerry Brown – less than 4 percent.
Many, perhaps most, of those that failed were not rejected by recorded committee or floor votes.
Sponsors and legislative authors just dropped them because they had no chance of making it.
Business groups have been so successful because they have adroitly influenced the Legislature’s makeup by supporting culturally liberal, but business-friendly, Democratic candidates.
By happenstance, this year’s job-killer list was released in the midst of a hard-fought battle for a state Senate seat that pits business against sponsors of many bills on the list.
In three weeks, voters in the affluent East Bay suburbs of Alameda and Contra Costa counties will decide whether Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla or Democratic campaign consultant Steve Glazer will fill a vacant seat.
Unions and other liberal groups have spent millions to support Bonilla and trash Glazer while business groups and conservative individuals have done the same for Glazer and against Bonilla. Their contest has been filled with charges, countercharges and personal invective.
Underlying the political nastiness is the arithmetic of the Senate’s Democratic majority.
Only 19 or 20 Democratic senators, just short of a majority, are reliable votes for the most contentious business-related bills, such as those on the CalChamber’s target list.
The May 19 election could tip the balance either way. A Bonilla win would enhance the bills’ chances in the Senate, while a Glazer victory would make their passage even more difficult.
The financial impacts of measures on the CalChamber list run into the billions, so the millions being spent in the 7th Senate District are chickenfeed.