California has too many regulations. Taxes and fees are too high. And the state needs to slow down its rush to curtail oil and gas production in its headlong race to fight global warming.
That was the message Southern and Central California business leaders delivered in Sacramento this month during their second annual lobbying effort at the state Capitol.
While not new, such traditional positions put members of the Business Federations of Los Angeles and the Central Valley at all odds with the the mostly liberal, Democratically-controlled California Legislature.
About 80 members of “BizFed,” which represents more than 250 chambers of commerce, industry associations and other business groups, assembled Feb. 12 in Sacramento to make a case for business-friendly legislation.
Business leaders, including representatives of numerous oil companies, also warned lawmakers against phasing out reliance on natural gas in favor of an all-electric future powered by renewable resources.
Lawmakers, on the other hand, welcomed input from the state’s business community, finding common ground on several issues.
“Elected officials read the stories about businesses fleeing California. … They realize there has to be a balance struck between the business community and progressive goals,” said Clint Olivier, executive director of BizFed Central Valley. “They need the tax base to accomplish their goals. … They want businesses to stay.“
Still, some legislators refused to back down from controversial stances of the past year.
But she adamantly defended the need to ween the state from fossil fuels.
“I will argue all day long with anybody who tells me that global warming isn’t real. To say that (scientists) are alarmed with what they are seeing globally with global warming is an understatement,” Friedman told business leaders.
“ … This idea that if the world continues down the path we’re going is fine, there is no science that supports that,” Friedman said.
Senate and Assembly majority leaders also defended AB 5, a measure passed in September seeking to protect workers from “misclassification” as independent contractors.
Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, agreed AB 5 needs revision to exempt musicians, creative workers and the entertainment industry, calling the new law “a work in progress.”
But he defended the intent of the measure, which was passed in the wake of a 2018 state Supreme Court decision affecting independent contractors and such “gig economy” workers as Uber and Lyft drivers.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about what’s out there and a lot of confusion about what the law does,“ Calderon said. “A lot of our time and attention is also going to be spent on making sure people are comfortable and clear when it comes to what the law does.”
Business leaders also expressed concern about the California Consumer Privacy Act, the nation’s most expansive digital privacy law passed in 2018 and due to be enforced starting in July. The state Attorney General’s Office still is in the process of drafting regulations.
The law is confusing and imposes costs that are too high, possibly causing some businesses to go under, BizFed officials said.
But Assemblymember Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, warned that a statewide initiative proposed for the November ballot could result in a digital privacy law that’s even more unpalatable to business.
“We’re going to have to hedge (to include) what may be coming anyway,” Smith said.
Tracy Hernandez, chief executive of BizFed Los Angeles, worried about the uncertainty of passing digital privacy laws state by state.
“It’s complete mayhem to have the state to start getting in that business versus the one federal standard,” Hernandez said.
Despite their differences, business leaders and state legislators found common ground on some issues, particularly on the need to boost housing production.
Nationally, business groups gravitate to the conservative message of less government and lower taxes, said Olivier, the BizFed chief in the Central Valley. But in California, it’s different because businesses need to work with a Democratic supermajority.
“Businesses have no choice in California,” Olivier said. They have to work with progressive state leaders “in order to make money and get things done.”