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Saturday, Jun 3, 2023

‘Kill Bill’Is More Than a Movie

If we were to sum up our mission, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association’s (VICA) staff and members work year-round to support business-friendly policy and to prevent bad-for-business legislation from passing. Like the “Kill Bill” films, this can be thrilling, with some political Kung Fu involved. But much less blood. VICA was pleased to see that legislators sided with us on almost 90 percent of business-related bills – with the majority of harmful legislation killed early on and many business-friendly bills awaiting the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown. As of publication, 27 VICA-tracked bills sit on the governor’s desk, with just six on his desk opposed by VICA. Those six VICA-opposed bills are still six too many, but the 21 business-friendly bills are a sign that legislators are starting to understand the need to undo burdensome regulations and incentivize businesses. While Californians should be aware of bills that become law, it is also important that businesses learn about the bills that did not make it past the Assembly or Senate floor. There are about 30 VICA-opposed bills that were killed, Uma Thurman-style. A glance through them shows us what kind of changes legislators were hoping to make and what kind of bills we may see revived in the 2014 legislative session. A perennial favorite of legislators is an attempt to create a split-roll system, which eliminates the cap on property tax increases for commercial properties and expands the definition for a “change of ownership” in commercial property. The top 17 commercial brokerage firms in the San Fernando Valley handled sales totaling $3.9 billion in 2010, so it is important that businesses continue to fight such legislation. This session Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco attempted to pass this proposal, and we can expect it to be brought back again next year. Another recurring effort in the Legislature is a tax on specific industries to generate more revenue. This year VICA helped shoot down legislation to impose a per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages by Bill Monning, D-Carmel, and a $2-per-pack cigarette tax by Kevin De León, D-Los Angeles. The greater Los Angeles area employs more than 400,000 food service staff and cashiers whose jobs rely on sales from the products that legislators regularly try to tax. Luckily, enough legislators realized that businesses and employees cannot afford further industry-specific taxes and that the state needs to find revenue elsewhere, or even better, cut down on government spending. Another bill that would have hurt the Valley was Assembly Bill 880 from Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, which would have assessed a massive penalty on larger employers if a part-time worker enrolled in Medi-Cal – even if the employee rejected the employer’s offer to provide health care coverage. That would have meant your average high-schooler waiting tables during the summer or a seasonal store clerk working before the holidays would have to be covered. As a result, employers would cut out these temporary and seasonal jobs that people rely on. Luckily, strong opposition from large restaurants and retailers squashed the bill early. These harmful bills were denied passage thanks to business leaders who made their opinion heard through letters, faxes, phone calls and in-person interactions. When a Valley business is directly affected by a bill and the employer explains these effects to their representatives, the legislators listen. For example, Ross Pendergraft, executive vice president at USI Insurance Services Inc. in Woodland Hills, attended multiple VICA advocacy trips to Sacramento. He repeatedly explained to legislators how businesses would be negatively affected by Senate Bill 161 from Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, which eventually died. The legislation severely restricted the ability of small employers to self-insure for health coverage. For the small employers with whom Pendergraft works, taking on $95,000 of risk per person as a result of the original version of SB 161 would have effectively eliminated self-insurance as an option. Our legislators decide on hundreds of bills each session, and the authors of business-unfriendly legislation do a good job of making the bills sound beneficial. The best strategy for keeping these bills off the governor’s desk is for Valley business leaders to let their representatives know exactly how damaging these policies would be to our local industries. The Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) is a business advocacy organization based in Sherman Oaks that represents employers throughout the Los Angeles County region at the local, state and federal levels of government.

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