Big Sur, California
The California Legislature is in session today.
Lengthy senate sessions M-F this week. Noon-5pm today
then 10am start times thru Friday- which btw is the last day to amend
bills on floor
The California State Senate’s Schedule is here and the Assembly is here.
On to today’s headlines.
Gov. Brown questions whether California can afford Amazon sales tax offer
Gov. Jerry Brown and the state’s two top legislative leaders are showing little enthusiasm for Amazon.com Inc.’s offer to build at least two giant distribution centers and hire up to 7,000 workers if the state postpones until 2014 an attempt to force the Internet retailer to collect California sales tax.
Brown on Thursday did not dismiss the Amazon bid out of hand. But, he stressed that he’s mostly concerned about losing an estimated $300 million in badly needed state revenues that his budget expected to get once Amazon complies with a new law that took effect on July 1.
“I’m concerned about anything that would reduce revenues going forward because we’re in a very uncertain economy,” the governor said after attending an awards ceremony for correctional officers in Sacramento. “We need more revenues unless we’re going to keep curbing schools, courts, corrections.”
Amazon, so far, has refused to collect the tax on purchases made by California customers. Instead, it’s contributed more than $5 million to a referendum campaign to repeal the new sales tax collection law.
Amazon would not comment on its new offer or the preliminary talks it held with legislative staff and representatives of California big-box retailers.
Supporters of the new law, led by the California Retailers Assn., argue that unfair competition from Amazon and other companies that do not collect sales tax has cost California about 18,000 jobs.
In a counterstrike, Democrats in the Legislature last week came up with a parliamentary maneuver that, if successful, would nullify the referendum. The trick would be passing a new law that would contain all the elements of the old one but could not be subjected to a referendum. To make that plan work, Democrats would need to win a bipartisan two-thirds vote of the members of both houses and persuade a handful of generally anti-tax Republicans to vote their way.
For now, top Democratic lawmakers said they are not interested in cutting a deal with Amazon and are pursuing the move to turn aside the referendum. They would do that by passing a bill, AB 155, in the last few days of the legislative session that recesses on Sept. 9.
“The Amazon proposal in my view is interesting, but 155 is more interesting because it upholds the law and guarantees that the state will be able to collect the sales tax from Amazon over the next two fiscal years,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).
Not collecting the sales tax on purchases from Amazon turns California taxpayers into “tax cheats,” said Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles).
Democrats propose reforms of business regulations
Democratic lawmakers and business leaders have announced a package of bills designed to make California’s regulatory environment friendlier to businesses.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez announced an agreement with business leaders Thursday. They hope to pass the bills next week, at the end of this year’s legislative session.
The main bill would require state agencies to assess the economic impact of regulations before they are adopted. A second bill would establish the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
The bills are supported by the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, which called the package a good first step to reducing business costs.
Republican lawmakers said the proposals do not go far enough.
Bill targeting Walmart goes to governor
The Assembly on Thursday sent Gov. Jerry Brown legislation that would require superstores such as those proposed by Walmart to include an economic analysis as part of the routine local permitting process.
The measure grew out of a heated debate in San Diego over the broad economic and societal impacts of certain big-box stores.
The study, similar to an environmental review but focused on fiscal impacts, would account for a number of collateral costs in contrast to direct benefits created by the stores.
Among those costs: the potential loss of jobs at neighboring stores that may have to close or cut back, increased demand for social services by low-wage employees and declines in nearby property values.
The legislation covers most proposed stores of more than 90,000 square feet that dedicate 10 percent of that space to nontaxable items, mostly food. That largely narrows the impact to certain Walmart superstores, and potentially stores opened by Target.
“There are a lot of companies that come in and claim they create jobs when instead they take jobs away,” said Sen. Juan Vargas, a San Diego Democrat carrying the measure. “This will be an honest look at big boxes that are saying ‘We are great for the community.’ Well, prove it.”
Walmart and its allies counter that the stores provide badly needed jobs at a time when work is scarce. They say Walmart also provides a low-cost place for consumers to find a variety of goods and services.
Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia said the legislation would “stifle economic development” and “create another layer of bureaucracy.” She said a fair amount of the information demanded either “doesn’t exist” or is “too subjective.”
California Democrats scramble on the economy
It’s the economy, stupid.
Those words, coined by James Carville as he was managing Bill Clinton’s campaign for the presidency in 1992, encapsulate a basic axiom of practical politics, to wit: When the economy is hurting, it preoccupies voters, and politicians ignore it at their peril.
And that, in a nutshell, is why California’s Democratic politicians are suddenly and publicly pledging concrete steps to improve the state’s business climate.
California remains mired in its worst recession since the Great Depression, with its 12 percent unemployment the second highest in the nation, with well over 2 million idled workers, and with a drumbeat of complaints from business that it’s hostile to job-creating investment.
Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled a proposal for business tax breaks that he said would restore business confidence. Thursday, the Legislature’s two top Democrats stood with business leaders to announce legislation that they said would make regulatory rule-making more relevant and transparent.
Darrell Steinberg, the president pro tem of the state Senate, said it would “send a message to investors and employers that California is serious” and “put an end to the drumbeat that California is not friendly to business.”
Republicans denounced it as tokenism and slapped Democrats for killing GOP business climate bills, while business executives saw it as merely a first step.
Their complaints include not only taxation and California’s dense regulatory thicket, but laws they say encourage frivolous litigation and the state’s chronic transportation, water supply and education deficiencies.
Enjoy your morning!