Reporting

September 18, 2013 by John Guenther

Taking stock of economic bills that emerged this season

While we wait for Governor Jerry Brown to flip through the hundreds of bills on his desk, it seems appropriate to take stock of some of the economic legislation that we've talked about this session.

California Forward recently gave us a breakdown of the legislative season, calling it "a winning season, not a championship year, but steady progress."

The Summit sponsor's president and CEO, Jim Mayer, also highlighted some of the economic bills that emerged from the Legislature this year, such as AB 53 which seeks to reshape some of California's economic development strategy. The bill would require the state to adopt an economic strategy to set economic priorities statewide on a regular basis. Importantly, the plan would use the Summit strategy of seeking regional know-how to keep the California economy competitive.

"One bill waiting for the Governor’s signature, AB 53 (Speaker Perez), directs the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development to tap into regional leaders to develop and periodically renew a strategy for growing jobs."

At the whirlwind end of session, the saga of CEQA reform took an interesting turn, when Senate leader Darrell Steinberg shelved his comprehensive reform bill and instead used the Sacramento Kings arena exemption bill as a vehicle for CEQA infill development changes. 

"The Legislature also took on the abuses of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and sought to reduce the burden the law can impose on “green developments.” The final bill is useful (especially for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings), but does not satisfy the significant demands for reform from local governments, community groups and employers. Importantly, key policy makers were willing to go farther than some of the interest groups, and in this case a step in the right direction is better than gridlock."

Other highlights that made it to the Governor's desk: 

AB 118 - The Legislature passed on September 5 a bill to revamp workforce training in the state, from Senator Ted Lieu, D-Torrance. The bill would require the state to adopt what's called a "sector strategy," which targets high-growth industries. The state's Workforce Investment Board would also be required to analyze every year where California's skills gaps are and how to adjust to fill them. 

AB 1299 and SB 740 - Two bills that are waiting for signatures address the infrastructure issue of Internet access from different angles: SB 740, sponsored by Senator Padilla, deals with expanding rural broadband infrastructure, while Assemblyman Steven Bradford’s AB 1299 is about expanding digital literacy. The bills enhance certain funds already established for increasing and improving Internet access.

AB 250 - The state's iHub program is a network of public-private partnerships that are intended to boost local innovation and give some structure for building up the state's pool of high-tech startups. AB 250 would expand the program, which the Summit highlighted earlier this year.

Earlier this year, the Governor signed a bill, AB 113, to clear out a backlog of 100,000 business filings in the Secretary of State's office, hopefully getting small business owners into the business of hiring Californians, instead of the business of waiting.

“Business owners are not politicians, and we don’t have time to get caught up in the bureaucratic nonsense, as this stifles growth and innovation," said Frank Flores, a small business founder who spoke to us after the bill passed. "Time to market is sometimes the difference between winning and losing and this bill will hopefully make an impact."

And on this day, National Cheeseburger Day, it seems fitting to wrap this up with the "Choose California Farms First" bill, AB 199. It's sort of like a "buy local" campaign for state-run institutions that could be a boost to California's few bright spots, the $43 billion agriculture sector. The bill would require those institutions, like state schools and prisons, to buy their food products from California farms if the cost is as low or lower than the best bid from out-of-state sellers.

Each of these bills are just steps on the road towards creating a stronger recovery for the California economy. It's clear there's plenty of work still to be done by the Legislature and we'll be keeping an eye on what the next year will hold. But we'll also be highlighting the work the Californians who are taking their place on the Summit Action Teams and working towards knocking out of the park at the Summit taking place on November 7-8 in Los Angeles. 

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