The 2019-2020 Legislative Session came to a close on August 31 as members of the California State Assembly and Senate worked feverishly up until the midnight deadline. During a typical legislative session, roughly 700 bills will be passed. There were significantly fewer bills that were passed in the latest session due in part to the complications created by the pandemic. With fewer bills being passed overall, it was less opportunity for new legislation to negatively impact farmers and ranchers.
“I think we got a little bit of a reprieve this year. There were a lot of bills that got stopped that were bad for the agriculture industry,” said California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) Administrator Jim Houston. “Part of that was the effort of the ag and business folks and legislators who I think understood the moment and the need to be focused; but also because of COVID and the clock running out, less bills got passed.”
Some of the bills that were defeated that would have had a significant impact on agriculture were AB 1080, SB 54, and AB 1659. AB 1080 and SB 54 were both opposed by CFBF as they would have placed burdensome regulations on plastic products such as film packaging. Similar bills are expected to be reintroduced in the next legislative session. AB 1659 would have imposed a $2.5 billion surcharge on electric ratepayers which would have significantly impacted agricultural operations. Despite a lower-than-average number of bills being passed during the 2019-2020 Legislative Session, there were still several that made it through which will affect the agriculture sector.
AB 1159 makes the presumption that any essential workers who contract COVID-19 were infected on the job and therefore qualify for workers’ compensation in most instances. AB 685 was also passed and would require employers to notify employees of any COVID-19 infections and makes the failure to report a criminal violation. Another significant piece of legislation that was passed was AB 1383. The bill vastly expands the California Family Rights Act and adds a new private right of action that puts employers at risk. “I’m sure there’s a public good behind private right of action, but when we see it play out in the marketplace it generally feathers the nest of trial attorneys and hurts small businesses,” Houston noted.
Governor Gavin Newsom will now have until September 30 to sign or veto the bills that were passed during the 2019-2020 Legislative Session.