Foon Rhee

The Numbers Crunch: Let’s accentuate the positive on jobs legislation

Gov. Jerry Brown signs a bill to raise the state minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016. It was the only one of 38 “job killers” tagged by the California Chamber of Commerce in 2013 to become law.
Gov. Jerry Brown signs a bill to raise the state minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016. It was the only one of 38 “job killers” tagged by the California Chamber of Commerce in 2013 to become law. Associated Press file

Every year, the California Chamber of Commerce puts out its hit list of “job killer” bills. After each legislative session wraps up, it brags about how many it buried. Both pronouncements get plenty of publicity.

Who knew the chamber also sends forth a list of “job creator” bills it supports?

I didn’t, and I try to keep tabs on the state Capitol.

It turns out that since 2008, the chamber has given its blessing to bills it believes will improve the business climate or stimulate the economy by reducing costs to employers, encouraging investment and streamlining regulations.

From 2008 through 2014, 106 of these “job creators” were identified – and 24 became law. Among other things, they reformed disabled-access requirements, accelerated environmental reviews for some energy projects, and expanded film and TV tax credits.

The chamber plans to send out its 2015 list next week; it could very well include some of the “pro-growth” bills introduced Thursday by Assembly Republicans.

As of Friday, there were four “job creators” on the preliminary roster: Assembly Bill 588 would give employers legal wiggle room to fix technical violations on wage statements; AB 1038 would encourage voluntary flexible workweek agreements between employers and workers; AB 1252 would shield small businesses from Proposition 65 warning lawsuits; and AB 1470 would exempt companies from paying overtime to many employees earning at least $100,000 a year.

By contrast, there were 16 on the initial “job killer” list released last week. Among them are high-profile bills to raise the minimum wage, require employers to give more notice on work schedules and to slash California’s use of petroleum.

Over the past decade, of the 357 bills tarred as “job killers,” only 14 were signed into law. The label has become a playbook for business-friendly legislators.

The chamber says it sends out similar alerts for both categories of job bills and includes both on its vote records for legislators – job creators in green, job killers in red.

But clearly, the job killers get more fanfare, with their own website and Twitter handle. Not surprisingly, the press pays less attention to the job creators. In fact, a chamber spokeswoman told me that I was one of the first to inquire about them.

That’s too bad. Our culture – journalism included – focuses too much on the negative. How about we accentuate the positive?

So here’s some friendly advice for CalChamber: When you send out the “job creators” list next week, make it as big a production as the “job killers.”

If CEOs around the country hear as much about attempts to improve California’s business climate as about bills that could worsen it, it might do wonders. Who knows, we just might add more of those high-paying jobs boosters and politicians keep telling us about.

By the numbers

“Job creator” bills by year, and how many became law:

2008: 3 identified, 2 signed

2009: 18 identified, 2 signed

2010: 16 identified, 4 signed

2011: 5 identified, 0 signed

2012: 34 identified, 9 signed

2013: 16 identified, 2 signed

2014: 14 identified, 5 signed

Source: California Chamber of Commerce

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