Last year brought about a budget surplus for California, paving the way for voter approval of important initiatives such as the water bond and the increase of funds to the state’s savings account. It seems as though a solid foundation has been laid for good policymaking in 2015. The Valley Industry & Commerce Association hopes that the Legislature will examine existing laws instead of drafting new ones, and create new incentives to bring straying industries back. Every year, VICA holds meetings and surveys its members on the issues they feel should receive special focus during the course of the following year. With their guidance, we compile our list of legislative priorities. Thanks to our members’ diverse expertise, we are able to predict the political landscape for the near future and better effect change on behalf of the business community. While some sweeping positive changes have been made at the state level, we still face the same old challenges, statewide and locally. Last year, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made an important first step in eliminating the city’s gross receipts tax by including the beginning of a phase-out in the city budget. However, the effort is counteracted by the mayor’s and some councilmembers’ proposals to raise the minimum wage citywide to up to $15.25 by 2019. And California still takes the cake when it comes to frivolous litigation. Unless business leaders work with legislators toward a solution, we can look forward to more bad faith lawsuits this year. VICA will be tirelessly advocating to close loopholes in workers’ compensation law that encourage lawsuits in a way that serves both employers and employees. The state is also in dire need of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) reform, as many years of project delays have shown us. We hope to see lawmakers prioritize streamlining the review process, and discourage challenges to developments by special interests. While the state is notorious for lawsuits, Los Angeles is best known for its unbelievable traffic. The 405 and 101 freeways are two of the most heavily trafficked in the nation, costing the region significantly in lost productivity. The multi-freeway interchange in downtown Los Angeles is the most congested in the world. VICA hopes to see renovations to key sections of the region’s freeways, providing for easier transportation between the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and San Gabriel Valleys, downtown Los Angeles and the Westside. With a sales tax increase to fund county transportation projects potentially looming on next year’s ballot, it’s clear that traffic will continue to be a much-discussed topic in 2015. While a less glamorous issue, our region’s water supply is among the most important. Recent storms and last year’s passing of a $7.12 billion water bond has given us some hope in recovering from the worst drought in recorded history. But ensuring that we receive some of that funding for local water reclamation improvements, flood control management and recycling efforts – and balancing those needs with the needs of the business community – will be an ongoing battle. Aligning education with job skills doesn’t typically get the attention it deserves. In 2015, VICA will carry on its efforts to increase financial and political support for workforce development and career technical education programs, beginning with early education and continuing through higher education. In order to maintain the state’s reputation for quality higher education, we will push for more state funding to the California State University and University of California systems. With the state on a path toward an economically secure future, VICA is looking forward to being more proactive in its advocacy efforts, especially when it comes to business incentives. In 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown approved a deal that more than tripled funding for the California Film & Television Tax Credit program. We hope that has inspired local municipalities to remove bureaucratic barriers to film, television and commercial production. State and local elected officials should also create tax incentives for manufacturers, which are fleeing Los Angeles and California at an alarming rate. VICA hopes that 2015 will be a year for thoughtful evaluation of existing policies, and for making California and the Los Angeles area a great place to do business. Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a Sherman Oaks-based business advocacy organization that represents L.A. County employers at the local, state and federal levels of government. – How to reach us Guest Opinions: Op-ed pieces must be 700 to 800 words and on topics about the San Fernando Valley business community. Please submit op-ed ideas to email@example.com.