Tag Archive for Assembly Bill 1948 (2012)

“The vast majority of Californians have an unfavorable view of their state legislature – and for good reason.”

In today’s FlashReport on California’s Most Significant Political News, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) gives her concise perspective on the quick defeat of her three “good government” bills to address what she called “malpractice” in the California State Legislature. The bills were Assembly Bill 1946, Assembly Bill 1947, and Assembly Bill 1948. As reported on this web site, I submitted letters to legislative committees in support of these three bills and testified in committee hearings for two of them. All three bills were defeated on party-line votes: Republicans in support, Democrats opposed.

See the opinion piece here: California Democrats Oppose Open and Transparent Government.

Read my letter in support of Assembly Bill 1946, my letter in support of Assembly Bill 1947, and my letter in support of Assembly Bill 1948.

I would like to believe that Republicans would run the state legislature differently if they were in control. And maybe it would be run differently if someone with solid principles was selected to be Assembly Speaker. But the experience of Republicans winning control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 after 40 years out of power does not build a lot of confidence. (I was a legislative assistant working in the House at the time of the 1994 election.)

Upon taking control, Republicans proposed getting rid of the 10 elevator operators in the House office buildings (out of 22 total in the U.S. Capitol complex) who pushed the buttons for members of Congress and sometimes for the staff and the public. This would have saved taxpayers $263,000 annually and eliminated an obvious symbol of elitist pomp.

On June 22, 1995, Congressman Jon Christensen (R-Nebraska) irked many of his peers by offering an amendment to eliminate the House elevator operators, saying the following: “The time has come for Members of Congress to start pushing their own buttons. Yes, that grievous, arduous task of pushing your own elevator button. No, my amendment does not propose to eliminate elevators, nor does my amendment require the Members to take the steps from here out. All my amendment requires is that we begin pushing our own elevator button.”

The subsequent debate on the House floor appears to take place in an alternative universe. See page H6222 of the June 22, 1995 Congressional Record, here.

As you might guess, many Republicans joined Democrats to defeat the amendment solidly, on a 177-246 vote. Business as usual was already taking effect, almost eight months after the elections. The button pushing (in the elevators) continues today at the U.S. Capitol complex.

Hijacking of Legislative Reform Bill: “I Haven’t Seen Anything Like This Since West Wing”

On Wednesday, April 18, the California State Assembly’s Labor and Employment Committee used rude, underhanded tactics to thwart a proposal by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) to require the California State Legislature to abide by the same wage and hour laws that it imposes on private employers in the state.

These wage and hour laws include standard overtime after eight hours in a day, meal and rest periods, vacation and sick pay, and other terms and conditions of work regulated through the state’s 17 Industrial Wage Orders. Business groups in California such as the California Chamber of Commerce often note that California hurts its competitiveness by setting a standard eight-hour day before overtime for private employees, while 47 other states and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act set a standard 40-hour week before overtime. (Nevada and Alaska set eight-hour days before overtime for private employees in certain circumstances.) See a chart compiled by law firms of state overtime laws here or here.

“I haven’t seen anything like this since West Wing,” said someone who was sitting in the audience when the committee proposed and approved on a party-line 5-2 vote a hostile amendment to Assembly Bill 1948 without the approval of Assemblywoman Grove. That amendment reflected suggestions in the official bill analysis written by Democrat committee staff to require the state’s private employers to provide paid sick leave and paid bereavement days and allow legislative employees to organize into unions by signing union authorization cards (card check). Assemblyman Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga/Redlands) declared that the amendment broke Assembly parliamentary rules, but Chairman Sandré Swanson (D-Oakland) rebuffed his contention.

Committee Democrats never addressed the rationale behind the legislative exemption itself from the state’s wage and hour laws. As the only person who dared to speak as a witness in support of Assembly Bill 1948, I asked that question and then suggested an answer: the legislature enjoys having the flexibility to establish its own working relationships with employees.

The Sacramento Bee reported on the action:

Shannon Grove Says Dems Hijacked Her “Good Government” Bill – Sacramento Bee – posted April 19, 2012

See the video of the hearing here (go to 03:42:30 of the video):

California State Assembly Labor & Employment Committee April 18, 2012 05h 01m     Video

The Democrat majority’s handling of Assembly Bill 1948 is a metaphor for everything that is wrong with the entrenched majority at the Capitol. Is this any way to run an airline?

How Does the California State Legislature Justify Exempting Itself from the Laws It Imposes on Private Businesses? It Uses Logical Fallacies.

I’ve always enjoyed the thorough but concise bill analyses written by Ben Ebbink, consultant for the Democrat majority on the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee, although he and I would probably disagree on almost every issue concerning labor and employment policies. (For example, he is a member of the Assembly Speaker’s Commission on Labor Education, while I would be on the opposing commission, if it existed.)

His analyses are generally fair and accurate and would be good sources for anyone writing a report on California labor laws.

Mr. Ebbink wrote a wide-ranging analysis of numerous provisions in the California Labor Code for Assembly Bill 2052, the Labor Law Reform Act of 2004, a bill introduced by former Assemblyman Ray Haynes (R-Temecula) that I prepared for sponsorship by my former employer, Associated Builders and Contractors of California. He also wrote an excellent analysis of various provisions concerning prevailing wage determinations and public works definitions for Assembly Bill 987 and Assembly Bill 988, two companion bills introduced in 2011 by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) that I also prepared for sponsorship by Associated Builders and Contractors of California.

These were two ambitious bills that took a comprehensive view of the state’s labor laws and amended or repealed numerous provisions that were ambiguous, costly, and unfair. All of these bills were defeated on party-line votes, of course: Democrats opposed, Republicans in support.

Now, Mr. Ebbink recently was dealt with a difficult task: analyzing Assembly Bill 1948, a bill introduced by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) that extends the state’s wage and hour laws that now apply to private employers to the California State Legislature as an employer. The Assembly Labor and Employment Committee will meet tomorrow (Wednesday, April 18, 2012) at 1:30 p.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol to consider this bill and numerous other bills.

California’s extensive wage and hour laws produce a lot of confusion and a lot of litigation. While I acknowledge there are employers who willfully take advantage of their California employees and fail to follow the state’s laws concerning overtime, meal and rest periods, vacations and holidays, sick pay, working conditions, and all the other provisions of the state’s 17 regulatory Industrial Wage Orders, employers can easily misinterpret these laws, and unions and trial lawyers can easily exploit them for ulterior motives. One California law firm that represents unions even produces a guidebook called Using the California Labor Laws Offensively: Organizing Through Enforcement of State Employment Laws.

For 15 years, I’ve heard legislators and lobbyists declare that the California State Legislature is exempt from these same wage and hour laws that sometimes cause such misery for employers. Pointing this out always elicits groans and grumbles from business owners. People assume – probably correctly – that the legislature does not apply those laws to itself because those laws can interfere with a smooth and flexible relationship between reputable employers and employees.

My own letter in support of Assembly Bill 1948 (the only submission made about the bill) takes that assumption and mocks the unabashed hypocrisy of the legislature and the pitfalls that can result from the state’s wage and hour laws:

Dayton Letter in Support of Assembly Bill 1948

Assuming there is no documented legislative history explaining the rationale behind exempting the California State Legislature from wage and hour laws, what would an analysis of Assembly Bill 1948 contain?

The tone of the official committee analysis of Assembly Bill 1948 seems to assume that Assemblywoman Grove is using this bill as a weapon to trap the legislature in a Catch-22: either the legislature believes in the wage and hour laws it imposes on private businesses and therefore places itself under those same laws, or else it continues the legislative exemption and confirms that it is not desirable for an employer to be covered by these laws.

Circumventing this dilemma, Ebbink instead uses a rhetorical counter thrust, pointing out that to be consistent, Assemblywoman Grove needs to amend the bill to apply certain employment policies of the legislature to private employers, including paid sick leave and paid bereavement leave. He also states that Assemblywoman Grove should amend the bill to impose card check union recognition policies on private employers (similar to the proposed Employee Free Choice Act from the 111th Congress on the federal level) that already apply to some state and local government employees. These issues have been hotly contested at the state legislature in recent years.

But this rhetorical argument includes three logical fallacies that are closely-related:

1. First, the analysis presumes that because Assemblywoman Grove isn’t seeking complete consistency between the employment laws of the legislature and the employment laws of private businesses, she is wrong to seek partial consistency. I believe this could be classified as a variation on the tu quoque argument, where an argument is deemed to be wrong because the proponent doesn’t act consistently with that position. The argument can be rebutted by pointing out that the bill is strictly and deliberately limited to applying wage and hour laws imposed on the private sector to the California State Legislature, and not about creating exact and complete consistency between all laws of the legislature and laws imposed on private employer-employee relations.

2. The second logical fallacy is what I believe could be classified as a red herring argument: the claim that Assemblywoman Grove is failing to make private businesses operate by the same rules adopted for the legislature or for certain state and local government employees. The argument can be rebutted by pointing out that the bill is about applying wage and hour laws imposed on the private sector to the California State Legislature, and not about applying new laws to private businesses.

3. Third, when the analysis insinuates that the legislature can’t make itself follow laws it applies to private businesses because the legislature has adopted policies that aren’t imposed on private employers, it sets up a non sequitur. How did the discussion about Assembly Bill 1948 suddenly turn to whether or not private employers should automatically be unionized if a certain percentage of employees sign union authorization cards? The two issues may be related on a general level, but rejecting Assembly Bill 1948 is not a conclusion that rightfully follows from the observation that private businesses aren’t subject to a state-imposed Employee Free Choice Act.

The Assembly Labor and Employment Committee will meet tomorrow (Wednesday, April 18, 2012) at 1:30 p.m. in Room 447 of the State Capitol to discuss Assembly Bill 1948.

California Legislative Committee to Again Consider Putting Legislature Under Same Fair Contracting Laws as Other State Agencies

UPDATE: The committee analysis for Assembly Bill 1947 has been issued, and the Dayton Public Policy Institute (a project of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC) is the sole party in the universe that bothered (or dared?) to submit a comment. I’ll be at the committee meeting tomorrow to testify as a witness. Perhaps there will even be some committee members there besides the chairperson to hear it.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) has introduced a package of three bills (Assembly Bill 1946, Assembly Bill 1947, and Assembly Bill 1948) that would eliminate some of the special privileges of the California State Legislature. I call these bills the “Glass Houses” package because they reveal how the state legislature hypocritically enacts laws to control the activities of businesses and government entities, but makes sure to exempt itself from those same laws.

On Tuesday, April 17, the Assembly Business, Professions & Consumer Protection Committee will meet at 9:00 a.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol and at that hearing will consider Assembly Bill 1947. This bill changes state law to require the California State Legislature to bid its contracts under fair and open competitive bidding, for the purpose of stimulating competition in a manner conducive to sound fiscal practices and for eliminating favoritism, fraud, and corruption. AB 1947 also creates transparency in the development and execution of bid specifications, so that the legislature is accountable to the people for its policy decisions concerning contracts funded by the people. A preliminary fact sheet explaining this bill, the need for this bill, and the inspiration for this bill is here:

Assembly Bill 1947 – Preliminary Fact Sheet

My letter in support of Assembly Bill 1947 is here:

Dayton Letter in Support of Assembly Bill 1947

Posted NEW on April 16: Assembly Business, Professions, and Consumer Protection Committee Analysis of Assembly Bill 1947

To express your support for Assembly Bill 1947, go to Shannon Grove’s My Legislation, select “AB 1947 – Competitive Bidding for Legislative Contracts” – and then select Support/Oppose AB 1947.

What Are the Chances of Assembly Bill 1947 Becoming Law?

Based on past history, the Democrat leadership will NOT let this bill pass out of committee.

In a shameful vote on April 23, 2007, the Assembly Business and Professions Committee rejected Assembly Bill 1070, a bill introduced by Assemblyman Paul Cook (R-Yucaipa) that would have subjected the state legislature to the same competitive bidding requirements as state agencies and local governments in California. One Democrat, Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter (D-Rialto), joined committee Republicans to vote in support of the bill, reportedly because she recognized the historic legacy of racial discrimination in awarding government contracts.

A freshman legislator at the time, Assemblyman Cook learned through frustrating experience about how Democrat legislative leaders control their fiefdom. The Legislative Counsel’s office, which drafts bills, included an unnecessary provision in the bill that Cook could not manage to get removed despite his efforts. The Democrat committee analyst used the provision as the basis for an argument against the bill. Even though Assemblyman Cook received no letters of opposition, and not a single speaker at the committee hearing testified against the bill, the bill was rejected without comments.

Following the vote, the May 11, 2007 Orange County Register published a column by the newspaper’s “Capitol Watchdog” Brian Joseph entitled “Committee Quashes Contract Rules: Bill Would Have Required Legislature to Follow Fair Play Rules in Awarding its Projects.” The column reported on the committee rejection of Assembly Bill 1070. It also reported that in 2005 an unknown person or persons in the legislature unilaterally decided to insert a provision in bid specifications for the Capitol Safety and Security Improvements Project to require all contractors to use an “all-union workforce.” Such a requirement would not be allowed under the state’s competitive bidding laws, but the state legislature has exempted itself from those laws.

The column also referred to a court case – The Zumbrun Law Firm v. California Legislature – in which the legislature was accused of illegally using that union-only bidding requirement and also accused of illegally withholding documents from the public that would reveal which legislator initiated this behind-the-scenes bidding scheme. That lawsuit lost in Sacramento County Superior Court in 2006 and lost on appeal in the California Third District Court of Appeals in 2008. The California Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal. The courts ruled that the legislature could indeed and was indeed exempt from the State Contracts Act when bidding construction contracts.

In 2009, Assemblyman Curt Hagman (R-Chino Hills) introduced Assembly Bill 641, which would have required the legislature to abide by competitive bidding laws. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association sponsored the bill in response to the two court decisions in The Zumbrun Law Firm v. California Legislature. The Assembly Business and Professions Committee defeated Assembly Bill 641 on a party-line vote (Republicans in support; Democrats opposed).

Will the third time be the charm for competitive bidding? The California State Legislature may want to heed the advice of Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanack:

Don’t throw Stones at your Neighbours’, if your own Windows are Glass.