What Remains on the Legislative Agenda?

On August 11, the Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees met to consider over 800 bills on the “suspense” file.  This is where bills costing the State of California over $50,000 are either held in committee or receive a vote and move forward, sometimes with amendments.

Once the suspense file is considered, the scope of legislation advancing is slightly narrowed.  About 25 percent of bills were held in the Appropriations Committees amounting to more than 200 bills.  The remaining bills proceed to the respective Assembly and Senate floors for consideration by August 31, which is the last date of the legislative session.

Outcomes for critical water, labor, climate, and pesticide measures, as well as multiple other bills, are provided below, in addition to Ag Council’s position and advocacy work.

WATER

AB 2201 (Bennett) – Groundwater well permit requirements

Under AB 2201, counties must forward groundwater permit requests to the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) for approval of new, enlarged, or reactivated groundwater wells.

Amendments were adopted in the Senate Appropriations Committee, including the following (not comprehensive of all amendments):

  • Deleting the requirement that a technical report conclude the proposed well is not likely to cause subsidence and not likely to interfere with nearby wells;
  • Changing the requirement for technical report to indicate—rather than conclude—that the proposed well extraction is unlikely to cause well interference;
  • Exemptions added to the bill: – maintenance of a well; – alterations, replacement, or maintenance to a well pump

The amendments taken in committee do not go far enough, and Ag Council remains concerned the intent of the measure is to pave the way for lawsuits against well permits.

Simply put, AB 2201 is not needed given Governor Newsom’s March 2022 Executive Order addresses groundwater and requires more transparency during the drought emergency, as well as authority provided to GSAs under current law.

For these and other reasons, Ag Council remains opposed to AB 2201.  The measure is pending consideration on the Senate floor.

LABOR

AB 2183 (Stone) – Ag labor relations – card check

This measure eliminates the right to a secret ballot for farmworkers in a vote regarding whether to unionize.

AB 2183 was approved out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and is now before the full Senate.  Ag Council continues to oppose the bill.  Three governors have vetoed similar bills, including Governor Newsom in 2021.

Ag Council is aware of negotiations between the proponents of this measure, United Farmworkers (UFW), and the governor to potentially come to an agreement on a bill before the end of the legislative session.

SB 1162 (Limon) – Pay data reports

In a substantial change, the Assembly Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to remove the mandate in SB 1162 that pay data reports – listed by each employer’s business name – be publicly posted onto a state website.

Ag Council lobbied with a coalition to urge this critical amendment be adopted and is pleased with the outcome to eliminate the publication of pay data reports from the bill.

Our association continues to oppose the measure given it requires the release of employee pay data to other employees upon request for businesses with 15 or more employees, in addition to other provisions.  Such information will likely sow discord among employees without truly alleviating pay discrepancies.

AB 2243 (Garcia, E.) Cal/OSHA wildfire smoke and heat illness standards

This measure requires changes to Cal/OSHA wildfire smoke and heat illness regulations that are not needed.  Regarding wildfire smoke, a regulation became permanent in 2020. The same goes for heat illness where an outdoor standard already exists in California and a thorough stakeholder process has taken place for a soon-to-be released indoor heat illness standard.

Ag Council continues to oppose AB 2243 because it is unnecessary and would subvert the existing regulatory process.  The bill is pending consideration in the Senate.

SB 1044 (Durazo) Employers: emergency condition

Under this bill, an employee can leave work or refuse to come to work if the employee feels unsafe during a condition of disaster or extreme peril or where there is an order to evacuate a workplace/worksite, home, or the school of a worker’s child due to a natural disaster or criminal act.

SB 1044 will lead to more costly lawsuits because it contains a private right of action.

Ag Council opposes the bill, which is awaiting a vote in the Assembly.

PESTICIDES

AB 2146 (Bauer-Kahan – D) Neonicotinoid pesticides,prohibited nonagricultural use

By January 1, 2024, AB 2146 requires the director of Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to prohibit the sale, possession, or use of these pesticides, except for use on an agricultural plant, as defined.  The bill allows DPR to authorize the use of these pesticides if the director finds that it would address a valid environmental emergency and there are no other, less harmful alternatives.

Though Ag Council appreciates that agricultural use can continue under the bill, Ag Council is opposing AB 2146 because it will make it more difficult to fight pests in California and leave agriculture more vulnerable.

The measure passed the Senate Appropriations Committee and awaits a Senate floor vote.

CLIMATE

SB 260 (Wiener) – Climate Corporate Accountability Act

Businesses subject to SB 260 would be mandated to report greenhouse gas emissions data from throughout the entire supply chain, known as scope three emissions, which are emissions not controlled by the business itself.

Scope three emissions comprise business travel, employee commutes, waste, water use and other activities.  For agriculture, scope three captures on-farm emissions given that farmers are within the supply chain of a food processor.

Ag Council worked with other organizations to seek the elimination of scope three emissions from the bill because there is not yet an accurate method of reporting such emissions, so the quality of data reported will be poor.  However, the provision remains in the bill.  Given this, SB 260 sets an unworkable and costly mandate.

Further, the litigation threat is real because the bill allows the State Attorney General to file a civil lawsuit against those in violation of SB 260.

Ag Council remains opposed given the inclusion of scope three emissions reporting in the bill, the civil lawsuit provision, and California already has the most aggressive climate goals in the nation.

AB 2550 (Arambula) San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD)

This bill mandates CARB to hold at least one public hearing regarding SJVAPCD’s attainment plan, data, enforcement practices and requires CARB to create a report and intervene and develop regulations the SJVAPCD must follow to meet federal air standards.

AB 2550 creates new process and bureaucracy at the state level without reducing any emissions or benefitting human health.

Ag Council opposes AB 2550.  Instead, our association urges legislators to continue incentivizing emissions reductions through existing programs, rather than creating more obstacles and red tape within regional and state entities.

The bill was approved in Senate Appropriations Committee and is pending on the Senate floor.

AB 2649 (Garcia, C.) Natural and working lands emissions goals

Proponents of AB 2649 believe CARB was not ambitious enough in its draft scoping plan and sought to set a goal to push more aggressive action.  AB 2649 would have required natural and working lands to achieve 60 to 75 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2e) removal goals by 2030 and 2035, respectively.

Ag Council and others in the ag community opposed this measure because the proposed standard is unattainable.

In a positive outcome, AB 2649 was HELD in Appropriations Committee and is not moving forward.

PACKAGING

SB 54 (Allen – D) Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act

SB 54 passed the Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Newsom.  For Ag Council’s overview of this significant new law, please go to Ag Council’s July 1, 2022 blog post, or paste the following in your web browser: https://agriculturalcouncil.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/SB-54-Overview-June-30-2022.pdf  

AB 2784 (Ting – D) Thermoform plastic containers, postconsumer thermoform recycled plastic

Commencing on January 1, 2025, the bill requires thermoform plastic containers to contain specified amounts of postconsumer thermoform recycled plastic.  The measure includes a tiered plan to require the total thermoform plastic containers to contain, depending upon the recycling rate, no less than 20 percent or 30 percent postconsumer recycled plastic per year by July 1, 2030.

Ag Council opposes this measure given SB 54 – the statewide single-use packaging measure – was recently signed into law in June.  The state should focus implementation of SB 54, which is a substantial piece of legislation, and not add new mandates, such as those in AB 2784.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved AB 2784, and it awaits consideration by the Senate.

SUPPLY CHAIN

AB 2406(Aguiar-Curry – D) Protection against excessive detention/demurrage fees

This bill protects California businesses from being charged excessive and unfair fees (detention/demurrage) by intermodal marine equipment providers (Equipment Providers authorizing delivery or receipt of a container) for reasons outside the control of the business by clarifying and modernizing current state law.

Specifically, the bill expands state law to protect against unfair demurrage fees by: modernizing the reference of “intermodal marine terminal” to include Equipment Providers who rent out export containers, extends protections to new types of fees being imposed by Equipment Providers, adds canceled vessels and unilaterally delayed early return dates to conditions for waiving late return charges (per diem/demurrage), and adds lack of appointments and appointment restrictions to conditions late return charges (per diem/demurrage).

Ag Council supports this bill to address unfair and costly detention and demurrage fees given the impacts on our members who export.  AB 2406 is pending a vote on the Senate floor.

TAX CREDIT

AB 1951 (Grayson) – Manufacturing tax credit

Ag Council supports AB 1951 to implement a sales and use tax exemption for the purchase of manufacturing and R&D equipment.  The measure would help expand investment and production opportunities in California by broadening the current partial exemption, which is narrow and currently provides only a minimal exemption.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved AB 1951, and it is awaiting consideration by the Senate.

*Please note, this is a snapshot of bills and is not a comprehensive overview of all bills pending in the State Legislature.