The 2021 half of the two-year session of the California State Legislature ended September 10, with some big victories and a few disappointments for small business. Following the October 10 deadline for Gov. Gavin Newsom to either sign or veto bills put on his desk, below is the final outcome and current status on 35 bills of importance to Main Street that NFIB lobbied for, against, and monitored. Lawmakers return on Jan. 3, 2022, for the second half.
The Big Victories for Small Business
- NFIB helped win passage of Assembly Bill 80, which partially conforms state tax law to the federal tax law regarding the forgivability of PPP loans. It’s now law.
- NFIB was a key proponent of Assembly Bill 150 that creates an elective tax that passthrough entities can use as a workaround of the State and Local Tax (SALT) limitation. It’s now law.
- NFIB provided key testimony in support of Assembly Bill 1033, which aims to preserve the Small Employer Family Leave Mediation Program within the California Family Rights Act. Signed by governor.
- NFIB successfully lobbied for passage of Senate Bill 657, concerning the receipt of legally required notices for employees who work from home. SB 657 provides that in instances where an employer is required to physically post information in the workplace, an employer may also distribute that information to employees by email with the document or documents attached. The distribution by email shall not alter the employer’s obligation to physically post the information in the workplace. Signed by governor.
Victories by Amendment or Defeat
- NFIB and its business coalition teammates helped derail proposed amendments that were to have been inserted into Assembly Bill 455 and Assembly Bill 1102. Amendments that would have required every employee to get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing and would have extended paid sick leave beyond the affordability of most small businesses. In the end, the clock for inserting amendments ran out.
- NFIB and its coalition partners succeeded in amending Assembly Bill 570, which sought to allow dependent parents and stepparents to be added to employer-sponsored health plans. The estimated cost on employers was pegged at $1 billion. After accepting the coalition’s suggested amendments, dependent parents can only be added to individual policies, not on employer-sponsored plans. Status: Awaiting governor’s signature.
- Assembly Bill 654 would have blacklisted businesses by requiring the state Dept. of Public Health to publish on its website a list of every workplace in the state where a COVID-19 outbreak has occurred. This bill was substantially amended, allowing NFIB to go neutral on it. The amendments remove the address-specific listing of businesses with COVID-19 outbreaks, which was the sole remaining point of opposition against this legislation. What remains in the bill is a legitimate clean-up that does not make substantive changes to existing law and is, in parts, a specific clean-up requested by the business community. Signed by governor.
- Opposed Assembly Bill 995, which would have nearly doubled the requirement to provide paid sick leave from three days per year to five days per year. NFIB was part of a coalition that sent this letter of opposition to all Assembly members. More employee leave is not needed at a time when businesses are recovering from a year of shutdowns and having to contend with other leave mandates recently imposed. Status: Sent to the inactive file at the request of the author.
- Assembly Bill 1041 would have expanded the definition of “family member” in the California Family Rights Act to allow an employee to take leave time to take care of any person of his or her choosing. Status: Moved to the inactive file.
- NFIB opposed Assembly Bill 1119 that allowed for increased family leave accommodations. NFIB and other business interests succeeded in having it held in committee. Status: Dead for the year but could be reintroduced in 2022.
- Assembly Bill 1177 called for the creation of a state-owned bank. NFIB joined other business associations in support of amending the bill to, instead, call for establishing a CalAccount Blue Ribbon Commission to conduct a market analysis to determine the feasibility of a state-owned bank. Signed by governor.
- Assembly Bill 1371 “would prohibit an online retailer that sells or offers for sale and ships purchased products in or into the state from using single-use plastic packaging that consists of shipping envelopes, cushioning, or void fill to package or transport the products, on and after January 1, 2023.” NFIB teamed up with 25 other business associations to issue a Floor Alert opposing AB 1371. Status: Refused passage on third reading in the Assembly.
- Opposed Assembly Bill 1400, which would have instituted a single-payer, health-care system in California that would have cost more than the entire state budget to pay for and forced tax increases on everyone. Status: Was never brought to a vote because of strong opposition from many different interests.
- Senate Bill 335 would increase workers’ compensation costs by:
- reducing the time an employer has to deny liability for a workers’ compensation claim from 90 to 45 days
- reducing the time an employer has to deny liability for a workers’ compensation claim for specified presumptive injuries from 90 to 30 days
- requiring that a compensation claim which has been unreasonably delayed or refused have its award increased by 10 percent.
Status: Failed passage in the Assembly Insurance Committee.
State Agency Victory
- NFIB lobbied Cal-OSHA Standards Board for workplace rules on employee masking that mirror those of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
- In spite of the best efforts of NFIB and its 109 coalition partners, Senate Bill 95 was signed into law. It mandated the addition of up to 80 hours of employer-paid COVID-19 sick leave. And it was made retroactive to January 1, 2021. It expired on September 30.
- Senate Bill 606 establishes a rebuttable presumption that an employer who has multiple worksites has committed an enterprise-wide violation. Status: Passed Senate 28-7. Signed by governor.
- Assembly Bill 1003 allows the intentional theft of wages of greater than $950 from any one employee or $2,350 from two or more employees in any consecutive 12-month period to be punished as grand theft. Signed by governor.
2021 Priority Bill NFIB is Working to Pass in 2022
- Assembly Bill 247 would give small-business owners some liability protection against unfair COVID-19 lawsuits. Status: Not set by committee. It may be reintroduced in 2022.
Pro-Small-Business Bills Dead for the Year
- Their potential conflict with provisions of the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) prevented the following bills from being considered:
- Assembly Bill 62, which provides a tax credit for complying with Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 regulations.
- Assembly Bill 91, which would reduce the Minimum Franchise Tax fee from $800 to $400 and to $200 for microbusinesses.
- Assembly Bill 632, another bill reducing the Minimum Franchise Tax fee based on gross revenues.
- Assembly Bill 664, suspending the Minimum Franchise Tax Fee until the governor lifts the state of emergency.
- Assembly Bill 259, a tax credit for alcohol licenses.
- Assembly Bill 1146, which would enact the California Property Tax Small Business Rent Relief Act, authorizing a county to establish a local property small business rent forgiveness and tax relief program.
- Senate Bill 74 would invest $2.6 billion in grants to help small businesses and nonprofits with financial losses sustained because of the pandemic. NFIB has sent a letter of support to a bipartisan group of legislators pushing for passage of the Keep California Working Act.
Other Pro-Small-Business Bills Dead for the Year
o Assembly Bill 879 would establish a tax amnesty period.
o Assembly Bill 385 would establish certain conditions before a Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) case could be filed, and Assembly Bill 530 would allow for employer notification of PAGA lawsuit.
o Senate Bill 440 would mitigate some of the insurance risks from wildfires.
o Assembly Bill 230 would provide employees with greater workplace flexibility in setting their schedules by enacting the Workplace Flexibility Act of 2021.
o Assembly Bill 513 transmission of documents for employees who telecommute.
o Assembly Bill 1028 employee remote work flexible schedule.
NFIB Monitored Bills Dead or Inactive
- Assembly Bill 255 would provide commercial rent relief protections for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Status: Moved to inactive file by request of the author.
- Assembly Bill 16 establishing the Tenant, Small Landlord, and Affordable Housing Provider Stabilization Program. Status: No action since January 13. (Dead)