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2012 Legislative Wrap-Up

The 2012 legislative session has come to an end, with significant pro-worker bills making it to the Governor’s desk. Many good bills were signed, but there were several disappointing vetoes as well. Highlights from the end of session include:

 

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION REFORM

The Legislature overwhelmingly, on a bi-partisan basis, passed the Labor-management negotiated bill to vastly improve the workers’ comp system for injured workers.  SB 863 (DeLeon) will:

  • Return over $860 million to permanently disabled workers, infusing the system with a 30% benefit increase;
  • Create a new return to work fund of $120 million to provide additional funding for those severely disabled workers who experience significant wage loss.
  • Speed up medical treatment by taking medical decisions from insurance companies and judges and going to Independent Medical Review – where independent doctors review doctor’s treatment decisions within 30 days.  Currently, injured workers must wait up to 18 months to get their treatment approved;
  • Stabilize the insurance market by removing inefficiencies and excess profiteering from the system.  SB 863 will help forestall an 18-25% insurance rate increase scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2013.

SB 863 was signed by the Governor on September 19th. More details on this historic reform package can be found here.


TAKING ON CONTINGENT WORK

In response to an increase in the use of temp workers, subcontracting, and independent contractors, the Federation sponsored a package of bills to increase protections for this workforce.

  • AB 1744 (Lowenthal) will require temporary worker paystubs to break down wages and pay rate by assignment. It also ensures that temporary employers provide client information as part of the wage theft notice. SIGNED.
  • AB 1855 (Torres) prohibits companies from entering into financially insufficient labor contracts in the warehouse industry. SIGNED.
  • AB 2389 (Lowenthal) requires that when a company or local agency uses a subcontractor to provide services at a home or hotel room, that subcontractor uniform must disclose the name of the subcontractor. VETOED.

In addition to our sponsored bills, we supported bills to expand rights to some of the most vulnerable workers:

  • AB 889 (Ammiano), the domestic workers bill of rights, will give domestic workers the right to meal breaks, overtime, and a period of uninterrupted sleep.  This was a major achievement and received support from the Federation, our labor councils, and even AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka!  VETOED.
  • AB 1313 (Allen) would have given farmworkers the right to the 8-hour day, which they are excluded from under current law. (UFW bill.) Died on the Assembly Floor.
  • AB 2346 (Butler) created new heat stress protections for farmworkers and created joint liability for farm operators when labor contractors violate the standards. (UFW bill.) VETOED

JOB CREATION

After the victory in getting high-speed rail bonds appropriated so that construction can begin, the Federation looked for other ways to promote job creation. We also opposed bills that fail to support good jobs.

  • AB 2508 (Bonilla), a Federation-sponsored bill, requires that call centers for state benefits programs be staffed by California workers, stopping the current practice of off-shoring jobs. SIGNED.
  • SB 1156 (Steinberg) replaces redevelopment with a targeted program designed to promote high-quality jobs and sustainable communities, focusing on development around high-speed rail stations and other transit-oriented projects. The Federation and the State Building Trades joined with environmental allies to get this bill passed. VETOED.
  • AB 2026 (Fuentes)/SB 1197 (Calderon) extend the film tax credit, the only tax credit that is capped, allocated, tied to job creation, and has regular review and a sunset date. SIGNED.
  • AB 1446 (Feuer) allows LA County to invest immediately in the region’s transportation infrastructure plan, creating thousands of jobs and building transportation to serve the region’s growing population.  SIGNED.
  • AB 484 (Alejo) would have reauthorized two Enterprise Zones before Administration regulations on Enterprise Zones are finalized, in an attempt to circumvent an explicit agency moratorium on EZ reauthorizations. The Federation opposed this bill and it died in Senate Governance and Finance Committee. Held in Committee.

AFFILIATE BILLS

  • SB 259 (Hancock) extends collective bargaining rights to graduate student research assistants. (UAW bill.) VETOED.
  • SB 359 (Hernandez) discourages hospitals from employing predatory practices that drive up costs for patients who seek treatment in the ER. (SEIU bill.) VETOED.
  • AB 1565 (Fuentes) extends the prequalification process into school construction. (SBCTC bill.) SIGNED.
  • AB 1606 (Perea) clarifies that public employers cannot bypass the fact-finding process by declaring impasse. SIGNED.
  • AB 1675 (Bonilla) creates new penalties for farm labor contractors who operate without a license. (CRLA bill.) SIGNED.
  • AB 1687 (Fong) expands an injured worker’s access to medical treatment and claim information. VETOED.
  • AB 1794 (Williams) improves enforcement against contractors that fail to report or underreport workers for workers compensation purposes. (Laborers bill.) SIGNED.
  • AB 1908 (Alejo) increases layoff notice for classified employees from 45 to 60 days. (CSEA bill.) SIGNED.
  • AB 2439 (Eng) would have required the creation of a database showing how much individual corporations pay in taxes. (SEIU 721 bill.) Died on Senate floor.

CEQA

  • The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) provides important protections to our communities and our unions. An 11th hour attempt to gut this landmark environmental law was successfully defeated by the State Building Trades, the Federation, and many of our unions, alongside our environmental allies.

PENSIONS

  • The Legislature passed pension reform, AB 340 (Furutani), based on the Governor 12-Point Plan released in January. These changes, most of which apply only to new employees, constitute the greatest rollback of retirement benefits in California history.
  • Non-controversial provisions include an end to pension spiking, pension holidays, and the purchase of airtime.
  • Provisions opposed by the Federation and many unions include allowing cities to force concessions without collective bargaining and requiring even blue collar workers to work until age 67 to retire with a full pension. 

BAD BILLS

  • SB 1161 (Padilla) deregulated Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology, leaving the future of telephone service unregulated. SIGNED.


Check out the Top Five Legislative Victories for California Workers in 2012.