Commentary By Jon Coupal – January 4, 2023
As the Legislature gavels in for another session of taxpayer abuse, we can look back at the last session and cheerfully report, it could have been worse. The Legislature sent Gov. Gavin Newsom 1,166 bills last year. He signed 997 and vetoed 169.
Fortunately, the midterm elections served to concentrate the minds of lawmakers, taming many of the Legislature’s more radical proposals. However, several bills that were signed by the governor are still a cause for concern among taxpayers.
Assembly Bill 257 imposes “sector-wide minimum standards” for wages, hours and working conditions at fast-food chains. While not a direct taxpayer issue, it is a government mandate that will significantly increase costs and we know those costs will be passed onto the consumer like an indirect tax. The franchisees have collected signatures to place a referendum on the ballot to overturn it. If the measure qualifies, voters will decide in 2024 whether the law will take effect.
Assembly Bill 2582 is one of two new laws that change the process for recall elections at the local level. It removes the choice of a successor from the ballot, allowing voters to vote only on the recall of the elected official. A vacancy would be filled later, by appointment or a special election. The former removes the right of the people to select a successor and the latter unnecessarily drives up recall election costs.
Assembly Bill 2584, among other things, eliminates the ability to have a stand-alone local special recall election and would allow special interest groups to litigate the statement of reasons given for the recall and to sue proponents for libel. Recalling elected officials requires sober consideration but is absolutely a legitimate tool in the arsenal of a functioning democratic republic.
Assembly Bill 2780 authorizes the city of Selma to initiate, participate in, govern, or finance an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District (EIFD). EIFDs do not require voter approval to form, and while General Obligation bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of a municipality’s General Fund, EIFD bonds have no such assurances. This creates a much greater risk for the bondholders and taxpayers, resulting in higher interest rates and thus less money for projects. This bill sets a bad precedent for other cities.
Senate Bill 54. HJTA opposed SB 54 because as consumers are already feeling pinched by inflation, the Legislature is placing an unnecessary fee on the production of single-use packaging and plastic single-use food service ware that are part of many Californians’ daily lives. This law will only exacerbate skyrocketing costs in this difficult economic climate.
Senate Bill 679 establishes the Los Angeles County Affordable Housing Solutions Agency and would authorize the agency to, among other things, raise and allocate taxes, incur and issue bonds and other indebtedness, and place tax measures on the ballot in Los Angeles County. While HJTA opposes the bill for all our usual reasons, it’s also completely unnecessary, except to provide political cover for elected officials. As the Assembly’s own Committee on Appropriations staff report notes, “such powers and capacities already exist within the county government.”
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association supported a few good bills that were signed into law.
Assembly Bill 1249 clarifies that victims of the Butte Fire, North Bay Fires and the Camp Fire are exempt from state gross income tax for amounts received from PG&E’s Fire Victims Trust.
Senate Bill 1246. HJTA supported SB 1246 because, like AB 1249, it provides a tax exemption from state gross income tax settlement awards from Southern California Edison for victims of the Woolsey and Thomas Fires.
Senate Bill 1271 amends the public contract code to require no-bid contracts of $25 million or more to be subject to an oversight hearing of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee prior to a renewal or extension of the contract.
But it’s a new year and that means hundreds of new laws will be proposed. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association will be watching the Legislature closely to protect your interests. To stay informed, sign up for email updates at HJTA.org.
Happy new year!
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Scott Kaufman is HJTA’s legislative director.