Newsom vetoes FBA’s family business definition bill

We are deeply disappointed by the Governor’s veto of our sponsored bill, AB 2611 (Daly). The legislation would have created a definition of a family business in state law. As we may be the only organization working to keep family businesses in California, we thought that such recognition in state law would be a good foundation for our efforts. We did have plans to expand on the legislation, but unfortunately, before vetoing the bill, the Governor did not ask us about that.

There seems to be denial at the State Capitol about family businesses and family business owners leaving the state, but we know it is happening. When last we surveyed our members, 50% of those responding said they were either planning to move to a friendlier, more affordable state with less onerous regulations, or were at least considering it. On most national business surveys, California comes up as the most difficult state in the nation in which to do business. Our family business members find it very difficult to deal with the onslaught of new regulations that are signed into law every year.

We want to thank each of our members that have stayed the difficult course of keeping Californians employed, keeping the lights on and families and the world fed. Though this administration did not recognize your contributions, we always will. You are the real heart and backbone of our economy. You are great employers who value your employees and are very philanthropic within your communities.

While the veto of our bill feels like just one more nail in the coffin of family businesses in California, be encouraged that this bill made it to the Governor’s desk with unanimous, bipartisan support and zero opposition. This is a foundation we look forward to building upon.

Repealing Death Tax will help family businesses stay afloat

Ballot measure would help parents pass their family business along to their childre

The COVID-19 pandemic hit many family-owned businesses hard. Now as California emerges from the crisis, those businesses are still struggling to stay afloat.

There are 1.4 million family businesses in California. They provide jobs for seven million Californians. These businesses improvised, innovated and gave their blood, sweat and tears to keep their doors open during the height of the pandemic.

It’s now been four months since Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted pandemic executive orders and reopened the state. Yet despite what we all hoped would be a return to normal, California family businesses continue to face more uncertainty.

First, the labor shortage is causing many businesses to cut operating hours or delay expansions that could grow their business. Then the Delta variant hit — spreading throughout the state and causing renewed alarm. And supply chain shortages that are so frustrating for consumers are squeezing businesses who are already under strain and now are unable to restock shelves.

Through all this, family businesses have been learning the full effects of Prop 19, which narrowly passed in November 2020 and brought the Death Tax back to California.

Prop. 19 had some good elements, but it took away voter-approved constitutional protections that allowed families to keep a business or home they worked so hard to acquire.

Now when a parent passes away and leaves behind a family business or home, their children are hit with the Death Tax — reassessment to current market value, triggering a massive property tax increase in the midst of grieving a parent’s death.

The Death Tax is cruel and unfair. When the children can’t come up with the cash to pay the new annual property tax bill, they are forced into an unwanted sale. Lost are California family businesses that took decades of hard work to build along with the dream of passing on a legacy to children and grandchildren.

California can’t afford to lose more family businesses who are uniquely connected and invested in the success of their local community.

That’s why it is so important that we pass the Repeal the Death Tax Act, which will soon be gathering signatures for the November 2022 statewide ballot.

The Repeal the Death Tax Act will restore the constitutional taxpayer protections that California family businesses relied on for nearly 35 years.

The measure brings back the ability of Californians to transfer a family business, farm or other non-primary residential property, valued up to $2.4 million and indexed for inflation, to their children upon the property owner’s death without triggering reassessment and a huge property tax increase.

The measure will also allow parents and grandparents to again transfer their homes to their children and grandchildren upon death and maintain the property taxes at current level.

In essence, the Repeal the Death Tax Act will help to preserve the long-term wishes of parents to pass on their family business or home to their children.

Please think of the family businesses that you rely on. They may have been in operation for generations, not only serving customers but giving back to the entire community. We need these family-owned businesses in California. So when you see signature gatherers in front of stores, please sign the petition for the Repeal the Death Tax Act or visit HJTA.org/RepealTheDeathTax to learn how you can help.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Mercury News. 

FBA offers recommendations on moving economy forward

FBA Executive Director Robert Rivinius was invited by Assembly Member Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Laguna Beach, to be on a panel at today’s Select Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing. Following is a letter sent to committee members afterwards summing up FBA’s views.

Dear Assembly Member Petrie-Norris

Thank you for the opportunity to participate on the California Comeback: Pandemic Recovery for Small Business panel today. Many excellent points were raised and discussed by you and the panelists. I will summarize my recommendations here for the committee members not attending the hearing:

  1. A most critical problem facing family businesses is workforce development. Due to federal and state programs, many workers can make more money not working than they make working. Our members report that when employees are called to ask them to come back to work, the reply often is that they are making more money not working and might consider coming back when the benefits end. It is important not to implement new programs or extend existing programs that create this outcome.
  2. The regulatory system in California is crushing many small businesses. The large California Labor Law Digest published by the Cal Chamber contains over 1,000 pages of fine print. How can anyone be expected to comply with that? And this is just one form of the massive and costly regulatory system in California.
  3. Something must be done to curb Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) lawsuits. This allows employees to sue on behalf of the state. PAGA was originally enacted to help the state regulate its underground economy – those businesses that operate unlawfully outside of tax and licensing requirements. But PAGA also allows employees to sue for almost every Labor Code violation, not just serious violations or those dealing with health and safety — even something as innocuous as listing the corporate name on a pay stub instead of a company name. The average settlement in these cases is a staggering $1.2 million and attorney’s fees average more than $405,000 per case.
  4. CTE funding is critical to create and fund vocational training programs at the K-12 and community college levels to teach skills that will help graduates get better jobs.
  5. Due to the COVID crisis, the state now has a UI fund debt to the federal government of about $22 billion. Nothing has been put in the state budget to begin paying off this debt. This could result in a dramatic increase in unemployment insurance fees to California’s employers.

Thanks again for the opportunity to comment. We always stand ready to provide input from California’s family businesses.

California lawmakers must protect family businesses in 2021

This op-ed appeared on the California Globe website

These days, it is hard to avoid headlines about the latest businesses going under and more lost jobs due to COVID-19 in California. But not only are California’s businesses suffering like most across the country, we have it even worse for one reason: lawmakers did virtually nothing last session to protect our businesses against California’s worsening lawsuit abuse problem. With everyone back in Sacramento, my hope is that issue will seriously be considered this year.

Let’s start with California lawmakers’ failure to curb the oncoming wave of COVID-19-related frivolous lawsuit, while in fact creating more ways in which businesses can be sued. Did you know that businesses must actually prove they did not give a customer or employee COVID-19 instead of plaintiffs providing any evidence of their own? They are required to spend precious resources on discovering who may have gotten sick and where, even if they were following all appropriate public health guidelines. If this seems backwards, it is. And it’s the perfect storm for lawyers looking to turn a buck via lawsuit settlements – a recipe for disaster for our state’s struggling family business owners. And this is only one of the ways that our lawmakers let our business community down during this past session.

Then there is the issue of California’s notorious Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), which allows any “aggrieved employee” to sue on behalf of the state for the most trivial “violations” imaginable, such as a typo in an employee’s paystub or a clerical error on a timesheet. Why are these utterly useless lawsuits continuously filed in the Golden State? Because under PAGA, there is the potential for a huge payout, which – as usual – attracts the state’s aggressive trial attorneys.

Under PAGA, 75 percent of penalties paid by non-compliant employers goes to the state. Therefore, the employees who bring the suit are left with 25 percent, a third or more of which goes to the lawyers. In the most classic example of why this needs to be changed, a 2019 PAGA lawsuit against Uber resulted in a $7.75 million settlement – $2.3 million of which went to the plaintiff’s counsel. This left a little over $1 to the average Uber driver.

In addition, the threat of PAGA lawsuits prevents employers from working with their employee’s need. As an example, Jim comes to work at 6:00am, so is required by state law to have lunch at 11:00am. All of Jim’s friends at the business have their lunch at noon, so Jim would like to put his lunch off an hour so he can join them. The employer must say no, the law won’t allow that and you could sue me if I OK it. Another example, Sue would like to skip her afternoon break so she can be there for the start of her son’s little league game. Again, the employer must say no, for the same reasons.

It’s senseless laws like this like this that allow trial attorneys to reap the benefits of our broken legal system, while leaving our businesses owners to suffer the consequences. As the Executive Director of the Family Business Association of California, I know that our lawsuit abuse problem is hurting struggling, family-owned businesses. If we want to ensure we actually have an economy to come back to once this crisis is over, lawmakers must prioritize protecting, rather than harming, the employers in this state, and ending these unwarranted lawsuits.

FBA ‘Disappointed’ Newsom Backs Proposition 15

Contact: Robert Rivinius, Executive Director

robert@myfba.org, 916-847-2700

The Family Business Association of California today issued the following statement expressing disappointment in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to support Proposition 15, the measure on the November ballot that would create an $11.5 billion tax increase on businesses.

“The Family Business Association is composed of family-owned businesses that have been investing in California for decades. Our members have a long-term view. We create jobs and opportunities for thousands of Californians. COVID-19 has hit us hard. Global, offshore competition has narrowed our margins. Asking us to now pay in many cases two or three times the amount in property taxes that we have historically paid means higher wages will be deferred and what limited job growth there is will stop and any new jobs likely will be created in other states. Proposition 15 is a terrible idea, especially during these difficult times. We are very disappointed by Governor Newsom’s endorsement of this proposition that will seriously harm our businesses and our employees’ job security.”