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Cal Chamber’s Job Killer List Shrinks, but Does Its Influence?
Capitol Weekly
By Capitol Weekly
Published 1 month ago on
May 23, 2024

Sen. Steve Glazer’s SB 1327, a proposal to tax revenue from the sale of digital ads to help fund local newsrooms, is the latest bill to go on the California Chamber of Commerce's "Job Killers" list. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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When the California Chamber of Commerce added Sen. Steve Glazer’s SB 1327 — a proposal to tax revenue from the sale of digital advertising as a way to help fund local newsrooms – to its annual list of “Job Killer” bills on May 7, the measure became only the 14th this year to receive the designation.

By Rich Ehisen

Capitol Weekly

If that number doesn’t change, it would mark the fewest number of bills to receive the moniker since 2001, when only 12 bills were on the list. Even that was a significant increase over the previous year, when the chamber did not find cause to label any bill a job killer, the only time that has happened since the list was instituted in 1997.

Lawmakers have long dreaded seeing their bills on the list, and for good reason. The chamber is the state’s most powerful business advocacy organization – particularly for big businesses, i.e. the writers of the big checks – making them one of the true power players under the Capitol dome. So, it should not be surprising that of the 844 bills prior to this year the chamber has dubbed job killers, only 64 have become law, a little less than 8 percent.

“Economic growth and job creation are the keys to making California a great place to live, work and do business. The bills on this year’s job killer list are a threat to our state’s future prosperity and our quality of life,” the late CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg said in a release about the 2017 list. “The goal of the job killer list is to remind California policymakers to keep their focus on the paramount issue affecting their constituents—job creation and prosperity for all.”

That year, the final list totaled 27 bills. Of those, only one became law.

(This story was originally published by Capitol Weekly.

Job Killer Bills Overwhelmingly Authored by Democrats

Not surprisingly, a scan of the bills over the years reveals that those in question have overwhelmingly been authored by Democrats. Since 2015, only two bills authored by Republicans made the list: AB 288, a data privacy measure from Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham, and AB 1035, a data breach bill from Assemblymember Chad Mayes and Democrat James Ramos, both in 2019. Even that has a side note: the chamber dropped the job killer designation for the Mayes/Ramos bill after amendments were made in committee. Both bills eventually died in committee anyway.

Twenty chamber-designated “job killer” bills made it to his desk over that two-year span, and Wilson vetoed all of them.

The initial days of the job killer list were heady, with a total of 57 bills garnering the label in 1997 and another 64 in 1998. Those were also the last two years of the Pete Wilson administration, and Wilson did not let his Republican colleagues down. Twenty chamber-designated “job killer” bills made it to his desk over that two-year span, and Wilson vetoed all of them.

Things changed dramatically under Gov. Gray Davis. The chamber tagged a total of 130 bills between 1999 and 2003, 48 of which got to Davis’s desk. The Democratic governor signed 34 of them.

Things swung back the other direction again after the 2003 recall booted Davis out of office in favor of Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. In all, 253 bills were deemed job killers from 2004-2010, with 69 making it to his desk. The self-proclaimed “Governator” terminated all but six of them. In two of those years Schwarzenegger emulated Wilson’s perfect record, vetoing 10 out of 10 and 12 out of 12 in 2004 and 2007 respectively. In 2008, he nixed all but one of the 10 measures that came before him.

Number of Chamber’s Job Killers Steadily Decline

The results have been slightly more balanced under Jerry Brown 2.0 (2011-2018) and now Gov. Gavin Newsom, even as the overall number of the chamber’s job killers has steadily declined. The chamber tagged 226 bills during Brown’s tenure, with just 26 making it to his desk. In line with Brown’s notable “canoe theory” of governance – paddle a little to the left and a little to the right to end up straight down the middle – the governor signed 15 of those proposals and vetoed 11.

To date, only two of Newsom’s five-plus years in office have seen more than 20 bills be designated as job killers (128 overall, counting the 14 so far this year). Of the 15 that have reached his desk, Newsom has signed nine and vetoed six.

Newsom of course has something none of the others has had — his party has held a supermajority in the Legislature throughout his tenure, lessening the Democrats’ need for Republican support for most of their agenda. The result? Last year seven “job killer” bills made it to Newsom, the most since the 2012. He signed four, the most to become law since 2016.

Which begs the question: with Republicans still reeling statewide, does the job killer list even matter anymore? The answer depends on who you ask.

“It matters if you need Republican votes,” says one longtime Capitol lobbyist, who spoke anonymously in order to speak candidly. “Otherwise I don’t even look at it anymore.”

It was a range of opinion echoed by a handful of other Capitol insiders from both sides of the aisle, though perhaps tellingly none for attribution.

That isn’t surprising to California Business Roundtable President Rob Lapsley, who previously spent years as the state political director for the chamber.

“I think it is a reflection of the times,” he says. “We have one-party rule, without question. So what they [the chamber] are trying to do is to identify bills that have the largest overall impact on employers this session.”

Lapsley says it helps streamline the effort, thus allowing the chamber to work directly with lawmakers on lesser bills rather than putting all of the bills it opposes on the job killer list.

“The chamber is still fully engaged on all of these,” he says, calling the list is “as important as it ever was.”

And will continue to be, he says, because the bills on the list “are sending a message to every employer across the country” about what it is like to do business in California.

Glazer Questions Chamber’s Attack on His Bill

Glazer, who is generally considered to be the most consistently business friendly Democrat in the Legislature, says he understands that intent. But he questions the validity of coming for a bill like his SB 1327.

“The job killer tag can be more effective if it’s on matters that have a broad business application rather than when they are criticizing more narrowly crafted bills,” he says. “As an example, when they come out against allowing unemployment insurance for striking workers, that does touch a broad range of businesses. But when they come out against my journalism bill (SB 1327), which is narrowly crafted to only affect three businesses, in a situation where 68 percent of journalists have lost their jobs since 2005, it’s hard to see the effectiveness of labeling my bill a job killer. I think it makes their advocacy a lot less effective.”

His colleagues so far have agreed. The Senate Appropriations Committee cleared SB 1327 off the suspense file last week, sending it to the full Senate for further consideration along with four other measures:

SB 1116, authored by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Glendale), which would allow striking workers to collect unemployment benefits after being on strike for two weeks.

SB 1497, from Sen. Caroline Menjivar (D-San Fernando Valley), which would impose new taxes on fossil fuel polluters.

ACA 16, from Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Culver City), a constitutional amendment declaring that people have a right to clean air and water.

AB 2499, by Assemblymember Pilar Schiavo (D-Chatsworth), which would “revise and recast the jury, court, and victim time off provisions for employees as unlawful employment practices within the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.”

Citing amendments made in committee, the chamber has removed AB 2374 – a measure from Assemblymember Matt Haney (D- San Francisco) that would change the definition of a contractor as it applies to janitors – from the list, though it remains opposed.

The remaining eight bills are already down for the count, and Lapsley of the Business Roundtable says his group is already gearing up to support the chamber in its opposition to the remaining measures as well as the chamber’s ballot measure to overturn the Private Attorneys General Act, which allow individual workers to ask the state to cite or sue employers over wage theft and other employee claims.

That proposal has qualified for the November ballot.

 

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