The Unbridled Disregard of California’s Employers By Matthew Allen, Vice President, State Government Affairs At the time of this writing, we are well into the first year of this new two-year legislative session. WG staff have met with the new legislators, as well as their staff, and have been very busy advocating for and against proposals that will impact our membership. “Working the bills” has its own set of rules and rhythms. There’s a general order for assigning specific bills to specific committees as well as Assembly and Senate Floor deadlines to meet. Many long hours are spent in hearings waiting in the queue to testify. This time has given me some pause to really consider what has been nagging at my core these past few years. It’s not so much a feeling as it’s a logical fact and not one that sits well with me.

California is not so much in a war with employers as they try to disregard them with destructive legislation and woefully ill-considered regulations. I differ on the use of “war” because history has shown times where war has been justified. “Disregard” signals more a lack of interest and due respect about the impact that new policies will have on our state’s employers, including farmers. This disregard likely comes naturally for some government officials because many have no business background. It’s also because labor has a tight grip on the Capitol. This tendency to try and sideline business concerns is evidenced in the sheer number of anti- employer bills that are introduced each year as well as ongoing attempts to eliminate good governance requirements like California’s Standardized Regulatory Impact Assessment (SRIA). The SRIA is a statutory requirement wherein proposed regulations that are anticipated to have a $50 million or more impact on business and individuals within a 12-month period have to undergo a much more in-depth economic analysis as part of the rulemaking process. This only makes sense because the economic consequences are real and may impact other operational and regulatory requirements with which companies already have to comply. The SRIA was meant to help govern a regulation and allow for a more surgical review of the language; it would determine if perhaps it should be narrowed or clarified so as to minimize impacts. Unfortunately, labor has been trying to remove this requirement from the Cal OSHA process. I just witnessed another glaring example on a Senate bill regarding air quality. It directs local air districts to only focus on the socio-economic impacts of their rules on families making less than $100,000. I guess the state doesn’t care about other working families who may earn more than this arbitrary number. What about businesses? This phrase in the bill is truly astounding: The bill would change the definition of “socioeconomic impacts” to, among other things, “remove from consideration the types of industry and business, other than small business, that is affected, to remove from consideration the impact of the proposed change on the economy of the region affected...”.

This phrase identifies two emerging concerns within California government. One, we don’t need to hear from employers or pay attention to their economic impacts and two, the myopic focus of climate change has led to disavowing a need to even consider the regional economy. Is it acceptable for people to suffer economically as part of a piecemeal, scattershot approach to try to make the air clean? Is it acceptable for people to suffer economically as part of a piecemeal, scattershot approach to try to make the air clean? We shouldn’t be surprised by this. In the early days of COVID-19 when a vast majority of Californians worked from home, climate activists rejoiced in the clean air caused by fewer cars and trucks on the state’s roadways. No matter that many lost their livelihoods as a result of the stay-at-home order. Not all is lost, however. WG advocates push back aggressively on these types of policies all the time and we’ve been largely successful. Consumers, employees and employers will not be successful if the true economic costs of a proposed regulation are specifically exempt from consideration. Economics matter. They always have and they always will.


MAY | JUNE 2023

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