Legislature Back in Business, Two-Year Bills Face Deadlines

This week, the Legislature convened an informational hearing focused on justice for victims of sexual harassment. The hearing, convened jointly by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Select Committee on Women, Work, and Families and co-sponsored by the Legislative Women’s Caucus, explored current sexual harassment laws in our state and included compelling testimony from a victim sharing her heart-wrenching experiences.

The Senate Governance and Finance Committee also convened an informational hearing on the recent federal tax reform, taking an initial glimpse at the impacts to California. Committee Chair Mike McGuire announced additional hearings on the federal tax reform would be held throughout the year.

Also, this week, as bill introductions continue to slowly trickle in, policy committees convened hearings to meet the January 12 legislative deadline for two-year bills in their house of origin to be passed out of policy committees. Two-year bills that have progressed to fiscal committees either this year or last year face a January 19 deadline for action. This includes one bill of significant interest to local health departments, AB 626, which is described in further detail in the bill updates below.

Our weekly CHEAC Bill Chart is available here.

Environmental Health

AB 626 (E. Garcia) as amended on 04/02/2017 – Oppose

AB 626 would create a new type of food facility under the California Retail Food code for “microenterprise home kitchens.” These entities would be allowed to operate in private home kitchens with a limitation on the number of meals that can be prepared per day and per week along with a gross annual sales limitation of $50,000. These home kitchens would only be allowed to operate if permitted by a local enforcement agency including being required to submit written operating procedures and allowing compliance inspections.

CHEAC and our county partners including HOAC, CSAC, UCC, and RCRC jointly opposed this bill with specific concerns around the increased potential for foodborne illness and the proposed regulatory role going beyond the scope and ability of local health departments.

While at the time of this writing, the bill has not yet been set for a hearing, we do know that the bill must be acted upon by the Assembly Appropriations Committee next week. CHEAC encourages members to reach out to your Legislative representatives that sit on the Assembly Appropriations Committee to express your opposition and/or concerns with the measure. We also recommend all jurisdictions send updated letters of opposition.

Tobacco Control

AB 1097 (Levine) as amended on 01/09/2018 – Support

Assembly Member Marc Levine’s has reintroduced his bill to ban smoking on state beaches and parks through amending language in AB 1097.  Recall, Assembly Member Levine’s previous bill, AB 725 was vetoed by Governor Brown this fall citing his veto of a similar measure SB 1333, by then Senator Marty Block in 2016. The Governor referred to the bill (SB 1333) as an overly broad, far-reaching prohibition cited concerns around the total fine amount (up to $250) being excessive.

Assembly Member Levine’s AB 1097 is identical to AB 725, which set the fine to $50 and allowed the director of the Department of Parks and Recreation to post signs within the state beach and units of the state park system designating the areas as exempt from the smoking ban.

The measure was passed by the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee and now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Chronic Disease Prevention and Wellness Promotion

AB 274/C.Garcia and ACA 2/C.Garcia as amended on 05/01/2017 – Watch

AB 274 and ACA 2 are companion measures introduced by Assembly Member Cristina Garcia last year to eliminate an existing exemption from sales and use taxes for candy and snack foods.  Originally instituted by Governor Pete Wilson in 1991 to cover part of a significant state budget deficit, a voter initiative overturned this sales tax on candy and snack foods in 1992.  Assembly Member Garcia had hoped to reinstitute these taxes to both encourage a reduction in the consumption of these foods and to use new revenues to address the costs of obesity and diabetes by funding chronic disease prevention programs.

Given the two-year bill policy committee deadline, both bills were heard in the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee earlier this week.  A majority of members expressed a number of concerns with the measures including definitional problems of what constitutes a “snack food” and that there was no specificity as to how new revenues would be spent.  Assembly Member Garcia noted she had made every attempt to engage the opposition to her measures (which included the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Grocers Association, and the National Association of Theater Owners); however, most refused to come to the table.  Both measures failed on a 2-7 vote. It is unclear if Assembly Member Garcia will reintroduce the measures for this year.