Last week, Democrats on the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee jammed through controversial legislation that will increase employer costs and threaten job opportunities for hardworking Californians.
Senate Bill 3, which calls for repeated automatic increases in the state’s minimum wage, is just one of many pushed by majority Democrats this session to raise taxes, increase costs and impose new job-killing regulations. In my view, these bills will punish small businesses and make it harder for people to find a job.
The vote on SB 3 was nothing out of the ordinary. As an Assembly member of the minority party, I am often on the short end of split votes in the Labor and Employment Committee.
What I wasn’t prepared for were the ridiculous actions of committee Chairman Roger Hernández to stop opposing points of view from being expressed.
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During the hearing, Hernández, D-Baldwin Park, abruptly cut off a witness testifying in midsentence. Then he moved to quickly call for a vote on the bill, even though many members of the public and other committee members wished to speak.
As vice chairman of the committee, I protested this action and asked to be heard. My protests were ignored and Hernández started the vote. As I continued to protest, he literally silenced my voice. Reaching over another person on the dais, he physically shut off my microphone. After that, he ordered the Assembly sergeants-at-arms to remove my microphone completely.
It is unfortunate that Hernández has been completely unapologetic about his behavior. Using such tactics to silence an opposing point of view is not only unfair, it is undemocratic. I fear that these actions will set a dangerous precedent that it is OK for committee chairpersons to prevent their colleagues from speaking on behalf of their constituents.
These outrageous bullying tactics would be roundly condemned if they took place in a school or in the workplace. These actions are a stain on the institution and have no place in the people’s House. They are contrary to the Legislature’s action in recent years to enact strong anti-bullying laws and mandate harassment training.
I appreciate that legislative debate can become very animated. No one debates the issues before the Assembly more passionately than me. I welcome the open exchange of our deeply held beliefs on the key issues facing our state. Californians are better off when all sides of an issue are considered and debated.
On the bill in question, I believe that raising the minimum wage would hurt our economy at a time when our unemployment rate is higher than the national average. Silencing this point of view is not just disrespectful to me. It ignores the voices of small-business owners who are struggling to keep their doors open due to costly mandates. It also ignores the pleas of thousands of Californians who just want the opportunity to go back to work.
Every lawmaker was sent to Sacramento to represent the values and the concerns of the constituents we represent. Whether we agree or disagree, each of us should have the right to make the voices of our constituents heard at the state Capitol. I am very disappointed by what happened at last week’s Labor Committee hearing and am hopeful steps will be taken so that it will never happen again.
Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach, represents the 74th Assembly District.