August 10, 2013

California Legislature 

  • California closer to raising minimum wage - - California employers who pay workers the state minimum wage of $8 an hour may have to reach a bit deeper in their pockets to come up with the money to meet a new minimum, if legislation that has already passed the Assembly makes it into law. Assembly Bill 10, approved May 30 in the Assembly by a 45-27-7 vote, would increase the state minimum wage over a five-year period from $8.00 to $10.00. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 and in California the minimum wage is $8.00.The bill is in the state Senate Appropriations Committee with a hearing scheduled for Aug. 12.  California’s minimum wage has remained at $8.00 an hour since 2008. It is not tied to the cost of living and any changes require legislative action. Two efforts to raise it since 2008 failed to get out of the Legislature. AB 10 would increase the hourly minimum pay to $8.25 in 2014, to $8.75 in 2015 and to $9.25 in 2016. <more> July 15, 2013 Central Valley Business Times  

  • Calif. groups worry over environmental law reform -- A coalition of business, housing and local government leaders is warning California legislative leaders that a plan to rewrite the state's landmark environmental law could lead to more lawsuits and make it harder to approve responsible projects - the opposite of what lawmakers hope to achieve with the overhaul. The group outlined its concerns to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, in a letter obtained by The Associated Press. The group includes powerful organizations such as the California Chamber of Commerce, the Southern California Association of Governments, and the California Association of Realtors. The coalition is among many environmental, business and labor groups that have been privately working with the Democratic Senate leader to reform the four-decade-old California Environmental Quality Act. Critics say the law, which was intended to protect the state's air and water, has been abused to block projects and gain costly concessions from developers. Steinberg's legislation, SB731, aims to cut the number of lawsuits and the resulting delays in construction that can drag on for years when opponents object to a project.

  • Measure seeks to tighten California chemical warning law - - Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, Assembly Bill 227 attempts to shield businesses from what Gatto called "unintended consequences to an otherwise righteous law." The purpose of Proposition 65, passed by voters in 1986, was twofold: to prohibit businesses from dumping chemicals into water supplies, and to ensure that no one could knowingly sell a product containing hazardous chemicals without notifying consumers. The list of 782 chemicals mandating a warning includes alcohol and substances that can be byproducts of roasting coffee (acrylamide) or grilling hamburgers (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Protecting consumers is a laudable goal, Gatto said, and he insisted that his bill would be tailored to inoculate retailers against lawsuits brought on by opportunistic attorneys. As currently written, the bill gives businesses a 14-day window to post the necessary warnings and avoid penalties. He argued that it applies only to posting signs in retail establishments and would not affect the imperative to label products, and stressed that he is still working to craft the bill's language to ensure it is narrowly focused and leaves Proposition 65's core intact. Lawmakers who voted the bill out of committee did so with the caveat that they wanted to see the language tightened. April 28, 2013 Sacramento Bee

  • Assembly narrowly passes Steinberg's farm worker contract bill - - A controversial bill to change mandatory mediation procedures in farm labor contract disputes narrowly cleared the Assembly Monday. The United Farmworkers Union says Senate Bill 25 is needed to avoid lengthy delays in contract disputes by forcing agricultural employers into mediation. Farmers that oppose the bill have argued that it limits the ability of farm workers to vote on contracts and hurts relations between management and agricultural employees. Assemblyman Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) said SB 25 would create an advantage for unions during collective bargaining. "Giving one side more leverage in the collective bargaining process is not fairness," Dahle said. "It's a power grab." Steinberg's bill received the minimum needed to pass Thursday as 10 Democrats did not vote, including Salinas Assemblyman Luis Alejo, Alejo said he didn't see a compelling case to alter the current mediation system. The bill now heads back to the Senate for concurrence in Assembly amendments. 


  • Turlock farmer appointed to California Air Board - - John Eisenhut of Turlock will represent agribusiness and the San Joaquin Valley as Gov. Jerry Brown's appointee to the California Air Resources Board, the governor's office announced Aug. 21, 2013. Eisenhut, 67, replaces Dorene "DeeDee" D'Adamo, also of Turlock, who was named to the State Water Resources Control Board in March. "When she departed, I knew there would be big shoes to fill," Eisenhut said, "and I look forward to taking that position." He was chosen for his expertise in agriculture and joins one other man from the San Joaquin Valley on the 12-member air board. He has owned Eisenhut Farms since 1975, has managed Hilltop Ranch Inc.'s grower relations since 1994 and previously worked in other farming related business. Eisenhut formerly served on the Turlock Unified School District Board of Education. He narrowly lost a 2008 bid for California Assembly to Bill Berryhill. Eisenhut is a Democrat. The Air Resources Board meets monthly. The position requires Senate confirmation and pays $41,889 per year.




California Senate



  • Orth named to California Water Commission - -  David Orth, general manager of the Kings River Conservation District, has been appointed to a four-year term on the California Water Commission, which advises the Department of Water Resources on many issues. Orth, 55, of Clovis, is well-known in the farm water community after holding several positions, including general manager, with Westlands Water District from 1986 through 2000. He has been general manager at the conservation district since 2002. The water commission position must be confirmed by the Senate. Compensation is $100 per diem.

  • Dianne Feinstein supports fracking regulation bill - - U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday endorsed a controversial state bill that would regulate but allow “fracking” and another new means of extracting oil and gas. “The discovery that fracking and acidization of oil and gas formations could produce approximately 23.9 billion barrels of petroleum in the continental United States — 64 percent of which is estimated to lie within the Monterey Shale formation underlying portions of Central and Southern California — points to the need for action to ensure protection of the state’s natural resources,” said Feinstein, D-Calif. SB 4 by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas, would require the state Secretary of Natural Resources to work with state and regional water boards and the state air board to create regulations governing “well stimulation” treatments, which includes hydraulic fracturing – commonly known as “fracking” – and acidization. <more> Sept. 4, 2013 Political Blotter




  • Legislation to Support Ag Research Introduced - - A group of lawmakers Friday introduced legislation to amend the tax code to hopefully spur new agricultural research by creating charitable partnerships between universities and private entities, sponsors said. The legislation was offered by Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and John Thune, R-S.D.; and Reps. Devin Nenes, R-Calif., and Ron Kind, D-Wis.The Charitable Agricultural Research Act – S. 1280. and H.R. 2671 – would allow for the creation of new charitable, tax-exempt agricultural research organizations that would collaborate with agricultural and land-grant colleges and universities to conduct ag research. The establishment of ag research organizations could complement existing public and private research and also create the opportunity for previously under-funded projects to be fully funded, such as projects addressing specialty crops or specific diseases, sponsors noted. <more> July 15, 2013 California Farmer


Air Quality


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