The Legislature has adjourned for a month long summer recess and will return on August 6th for the final four weeks of this legislative year. A month “off of work” is hardly the summer dream it sounds like. All statewide offices, Assembly seats and half of the Senate is up for election in November and the summer will be spent shaking hands, kissing babies, and negotiating the final compromises on the remaining 1,800 bills that can be voted on prior to the August 31 Final Recess.
The Assembly remains under the leadership of Speaker Anthony Rendon and the Senate is being captained by former Assembly Speaker turned President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, who recently replaced Kevin de León. After the special elections in June, both leaders enjoy near-supermajorities in their houses, with the Senate one Democrat short after the recall of Josh Newman. This ensures relative ease of passage for leadership priorities that require a simple majority vote. However, there remains a small handful of bills that would need to garner a two-thirds majority vote. Chief among those bills are tax measures SB 993 and SB 623.
Earlier this year, FBA legislative advocates and a coalition of employer groups were successful in temporarily stopping a huge tax increase proposed in SB 993 (Hertzberg). This bill would impose a tax on all services purchased by California businesses with gross receipts of more than $100,000 a year with limited exceptions. FBA Treasurer/Secretary Grant Deary provided key testimony in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on the significant competitive disadvantage this would force on family business employers at a time when we should be providing incentives for family businesses to continue to create jobs and invest in California. This bill was held in the committee but the fight continues as an informational hearing to discuss imposing taxes on services used by businesses has been scheduled for August 8.
This hearing is intended to provide a broad overview of our existing tax structure as well as discuss concerns with implementing and administering a tax on services. As an informational hearing, the committee does NOT plan to vote on SB 993 on August 8. Additional informational hearings may be scheduled during the legislative recess in Northern and Southern California. We will keep members apprised of related developments and will continue to lead efforts to stop this tax increase of tens of billions of dollars a year which would hurt working families by causing less economic growth, lower wages, and fewer jobs.
The other bill we’re keeping a close eye on is SB 623 (Monning), which would provide a monthly assessment on every water user in California. The legislation would create the Safe Drinking Water Account to provide grants and loans to water entities located in disadvantaged communities to clean up contaminated groundwater. The assessment would be $10 a year for residential customers and would not exceed $12 a month on commercial and industrial customers.
The bill also would includes an assessment on fertilizer and animal agriculture to address nitrate contamination but provides agricultural interests participating in the program a safe harbor from enforcement by the Water Resources Control Board. Many in agriculture are supporting the assessment due to aggressive enforcement actions being implemented by the current Water Board but many water districts oppose it because of the cost.