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CALIFORNIA | PREVIEW | CAPITOL MATTERS

It's Time to Consider How Bills Measured Up

June 13, 1997|Legi-Tech News Service

Business lobbyists are sifting through their legislative successes and failures and weighing their options now that the first year of the California legislative session is drawing to a close.

June 6 was the last day for bills to make it out of the legislative house in which they were introduced. But even those that failed to win approval may find new life as part of the budget-approval process now heating up. A proposed cut in bank and corporation tax rates, for instance, did not win approval in the Assembly but is expected to be a part of the budget-negotiation process.

In all, about 40% of the more than 3,000 bills introduced at the start of the 1997-98 session failed to clear the house in which they were first submitted. Of the bills left behind, many were high on the agenda of the mainstream business community.

At the same time, labor unions are enjoying some success as bills to maintain the eight-hour standard for overtime pay, expand sick leave and workers' compensation benefits continue to advance.

Bills for which the business community had high hopes--those limiting punitive damage awards on wrongful-termination lawsuits, also known as tort reform--were among the casualties in a Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Still other bills were left behind because of their high price tags. Novato Democrat Kerry Mazzoni's measure to give businesses up to $50,000 in annual write-offs for costs associated with establishing or constructing a school on their premises was one such example.

Lawmakers can do as Mazzoni plans and alter their bills to make them more amenable in the second year of the session.

As any legislator knows, no bill is ever really, truly dead. In a time-honored, Frankensteinian manner, provisions of a dead bill can be amended onto another piece of legislation that may have better prospects or grafted whole onto the final state budget.

Hot Bills

* Cal/OSHA Penalties

Bottom Line: Labor and district attorneys want to stiffen penalties for businesses whose state health and safety code violations lead to death or permanent injury of an employee. Under this bill, fines would range from $250,000 to $1 million. Offenses now classified as misdemeanors would become felonies.

Chances: Lobbyists for the California Manufacturers' Assn. say the bill is one of the worst they have seen recently for businesses. It passed the Assembly, 42-33. Supporters are optimistic about Senate approval.

Next Step: Senate Public Safety Committee hearing; no date yet.

Details: AB 1015 author Wally Knox (D-Los Angeles) can be reached at (916) 445-7440.

* High-Tech Theft

Bottom Line: Notebook computers, Pentium chips and other high-tech gear is being carried off assembly plant floors, hijacked from trucks and stolen from government offices and schools, in part, because they are so easily resold to computer dealers and resellers. This bill would subject anyone who resells such stolen goods to felony convictions, up from a misdemeanor, if they are found guilty of possessing more than $400 in stolen property without having made "reasonable inquiries" as to the legal ownership of the goods.

Chances: The bill, sponsored by a Silicon Valley trade association and endorsed by district attorneys, passed overwhelmingly in the Assembly. Opposition has come from the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, who object to the expansion of the laws dealing with the receipt of stolen property.

Next Step: Senate Public Safety Committee; Tuesday vote.

Details: AB 143 author Jim Cunneen (R-Cupertino) can be reached at (916) 445-8305.

* Illegal Telecommunications Devices

Bottom Line: The digital serial numbers in mobile phones and pagers are being stolen or changed by thieves who then run up calls and services on their victims' accounts. The Cellular Carriers Assn. wants to outlaw the sale or possession of the electronic devices used by the thieves to steal the numbers.

Chances: It received overwhelming Assembly support; the same is expected in the Senate.

Next Step: Senate hearing; no date set.

Details: AB 1127 author Wally Knox (D-Los Angeles) can be reached at (916) 445-7440.

*

Please send Capitol Matters comments via e-mail to cyndia.zwahlen@latimes.com

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