California Legislature Adjourns for the Year
The last day for the California Legislature to send bills to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk was August 31, when the Legislature wrapped up its two-year session. Several bills were considered in the final days and hours of the legislative session that had significant implications on energy rates, labor costs and solid waste requirements for California’s food processing industry. Following is a recap of those bills.
• Wildfire Response. In the final hours of the legislative session, legislators were under pressure to take action to prevent more wildfires in the future and figure out how to pay for billions of dollars in damages. A mega-bill, SB 901, was the result of a conference committee formed in the final weeks of session to tackle the issue. The bill provides $1 billion for fire prevention over 5 years and allows utilities, including PG&E, to pass on costs from the 2017 wildfires to ratepayers.
CLFP joined a large and diverse group of ratepayer groups in opposition to this bill, including residential consumers, and large industrial and agricultural energy users. The coalition called the bill a bailout for wealthy utilities that failed to properly maintain equipment to prevent fire. Despite the strong opposition, the bill passed the Senate and Assembly and is now on the Governor’s desk.
• Renewable Energy. Senator Kevin de León’s SB 100 passed the Legislature and is on the Governor’s desk. The bill would require the state’s utilities to acquire 100 percent of their power from clean energy sources by 2045. California and Hawaii would be the only two states with such ambitious renewable energy goals. A long list of environmental groups and public health advocates joined by solar energy companies all say that the state has proved that it can speed up adoption of renewable energy from the sun, wind and hydroelectric plants. CLFP along with oil companies and other manufacturing groups strongly opposed the bill, saying that ratepayers would be punished by higher rates.
Two other CLFP-opposed renewable energy bills failed passage and were held in the Senate. Assembly Member Garcia’s AB 893 required the procurement of 4,250 megawatts (MW) of additional and unneeded geothermal, solar and wind power, which would substantially increase rates for California ratepayers. Assembly Member Quirk’s AB 2787 would have required the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) to procure large, pumped storage without being fully integrated with other procurement done by utilities. Many of these facilities will also require new transmission assets to connect to the system, adding billions of dollars to an already exorbitant Transmission Access Charge.
• Regional Electrical Grid. One of Governor Brown’s key priorities - AB 813 (Holden), a bill to link California’s electrical grid with those in other states - stalled on the last night of session and was held in the Senate. CLFP joined other rate payers in opposition to the bill as it did not contain a ratepayer cost implication assessment.
• Energy Efficiency. CLFP supported SB 1131 (Hertzberg), which provides greater transparency and clear timelines for the California Public Utilities Commission’s Agricultural and large commercial sector energy efficiency programs. The bill passed the Legislature and is on the Governor’s desk.
• Ban on Settlement Agreements and Arbitration. CLFP opposed AB 3080 (Gonzalez-Fletcher), which bans settlement agreements for labor and employment claims as well as arbitration agreements made as a condition of employment, which is likely preempted under the Federal Arbitration Act and will only delay the resolution of claims. Banning such agreements benefits the trial attorneys, not the employer or employee. The bill passed the Legislature and is on the Governor’s desk for consideration.
• Sexual Harassment. AB 3081 (Gonzalez-Fletcher) is opposed by CLFP and a large employer coalition because it creates another pathway for costly litigation against employers for issues that are already protected under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). It expands joint liability to all employment related harassment claims, not just sexual harassment complaints. There is no basis for a business that contracts for services being deemed statutorily liable for harassment of another’s employees when there is absolutely no way in which that contractor can engage or force the labor contract company to comply with provisions of FEHA or the Labor Code. The bill passed the Legislature and is on the Governor’s desk.
CLFP and a large employer coalition also oppose SB 1300 (Jackson) because the bill limits the use of non-disparagement agreements and general releases, restricts the ability to summarily adjudicate harassment claims and lowers the legal standard for actionable harassment claims. These provisions will significantly increase litigation against California employers and limit their ability to invest in their workforce. The bill passed the Legislature is on the Governor’s desk.
Solid Waste Requirements
• Organic Waste Haulers. Senate Bill 71 (Weiner) sought to protect local waste hauling franchises from illegal operations by providing them the ability to seek attorney fees and other costs in litigation to enforce their waste hauling agreements through private rights of action. CLFP and a diverse group of agricultural organizations opposed this bill as it would erode years of recycling practices and provide unjustified extraordinary enforcement powers to private entities in order to continue institutional harassment of organic recyclers who are sending these products to animal feed, land application, biofuel and other recycling options. The bill was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
• New Recycling Organization for Beverage Containers. SB 168 (Weickowski) would have increased beverage container manufacturers’ costs and created uncertainty by establishing a new organization requiring them to develop and submit a plan and budget for recycling beverage containers and also a stewardship fee to fund the costs of implementing the program. This CLFP-opposed measure failed passage on the Senate floor in the final days of the legislative session.
By Trudi Hughes, CLFP Director of Government Affairs