Already, 2018 is shaping up to be a blockbuster year for California politics. The Legislature’s active agenda, leadership changes and a growing sexual harassment scandal in the Capitol — all combined with two competitive top-of-the-ticket races — are sure to keep the state in the national spotlight once again.
The California Legislature
In 2017, the resistance to President Trump was the California Legislature’s major motivation. In an anti-Trump fashion, bills were passed to protect “undocumented immigrants,” as noted by media outlets, and prevent censorship of environmental data. As Republicans in Congress toiled to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Democrats in Sacramento disputed a plan to create a single-payer healthcare system. Further, Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the Trump administration nearly two dozen times. California Democrats are expected to continue with this resistance movement in 2018.
Legislatively, the Western Carwash Association (WCA) continues to closely monitor and engage in a few key measures related to the business community. AB 5 by Assemblywoman Gonzalez-Fletcher (WCA oppose), introduced in 2017, would have required an employer to offer additional hours of work to an existing employee before hiring any additional employees. The bill was ultimately held on the Assembly Appropriations Suspense file on Jan. 18th and is dead for 2018. However, we are likely to see some variation of this bill in anticipated predictive scheduling legislation that has yet to be introduced.
Several legislators have indicated they may bring forth some form of a predictive scheduling bill that would require employers to provide employees greater advanced notice of their schedules. If changes to work schedules are made within a certain window, regardless of the reasoning, employers would be subject to financial penalties. WCA, as part of the broader business community, will continue to oppose any such measures.
AB 281 (Salas) Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004: right to cure (WCA support) was recently pulled from hearing in Assembly Labor Committee, as the author did not have enough votes. The bill, now dead, would have reformed Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) to allow an employer the right to cure a violation before a financially devastating representative action is filed. Additionally, the bill would have extended the period of time in which the employer may cure the violation from 33 to 65 calendar days.
Assemblyman Vince Fong (R) has introduced AB 2016-Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004: civil actions with the hopes of reforming PAGA for the better and providing relief to employers. Although it is likely to be a tough sell, WCA will work with industry in supporting his efforts. There have been many attempts over the past several years to reform PAGA, but so far, nothing substantial has made it through the legislative process.
Feb. 16th marked the bill introduction deadline, and WCA will be analyzing all bills for any potential impact.
Leadership changes and seat vacancies
In December, the Senate Democratic Caucus selected Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) to replace Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León. Atkins assumed this role officially on March 21st, after serving as speaker of the Assembly from May 2014 to March 2016. She is the first woman to reach this leadership position and also first in modern state history to lead both houses of the California legislature.
Special elections have been called for seat vacancies in Assembly Districts 39, 45 and 54, after two members of the Assembly resigned amid sexual harassment allegations and one over health issues. In each district, unless a candidate gets an outright majority of the votes, the top two will progress to a runoff. The runoff is scheduled for June 5th, the same day of the primary for the Nov. 6th election for the next two-year term.
Two other members in the Assembly are on leaves of absence while sexual harassment allegations are investigated.
The race for governor
Governor Jerry Brown, an invariable presence in California politics for nearly half a century, will conclude his 16th year as governor in 2018. The ballot for the race is crowded, but there are several key players to watch. Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, former San Francisco mayor, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — both Democrats — have considerably outpolled Republican Travis Allen, a state assemblyman from Orange County, and Democrat John Chiang, the state treasurer.
Other candidates in the running include: former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, accountant and businessman John Cox and former Congressman Doug Ose. The top two candidates from June’s primary election, regardless of party affiliation, will move on to November’s general election.
U.S. Senate seat
Current California Senate Leader Kevin de León will be challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein in the open primary. De León has fixated his candidacy on generational change and maintaining a bellicose posture against the policies of President Trump. Running for a fifth full term, Feinstein has massive advantages in fundraising, name recognition and backing from powerful political groups.
Governor’s proposed 2018-19 budget
In early January, Governor Jerry Brown proposed a $131.7 billion General Fund budget plan for 2018-19, serving as the starting point for five months of negotiations within the state legislature. The budget is estimated to have a vigorous one-time surplus. However, the state will continue to face ambiguous times, which include the implications of the newly enacted federal tax bill, which have not yet been accounted for in the budget’s economic or revenue projections.
Brown’s proposal sets aside $3.5 billion for the state’s rainy day fund, the reserve he advocated for in 2010, as an instrument for the state to lessen the blow of future recessions. By the end of 2017-18, the rainy day fund will have a balance of $8.4 billion (65 percent of the constitutional target).
A revised copy of the budget will be released in May, giving the Legislature a June 15th deadline to pass the budget proposal. The governor has until June 30th to sign the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1st.
There are many policies at play in California each and every year, and 2018 will be no different. California continues to outpace the rest of the country in all measures of growth as the nation enters its seventh year of economic recovery. However, the next few months will reveal the answers to many of California’s biggest political questions.
For more information on the WCA, please visit www.wcwa.org.