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California Democrats promise changes to business regulations

Bills proposed by legislative Democrats would make regulators consider a rule's economic effects and create an economic development office.

September 02, 2011|By Nicholas Riccardi, Los Angeles Times
  • Allan Zaremberg, president and chief executive officer of the California Chamber of Commerce, discusses his group's support for a package of bills designed to make California's regulatory environment friendlier to businesses. The changes have been proposed by legislative Democrats, including state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, left, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski middle back, and Assemblyman Steven Bradford, right.
Allan Zaremberg, president and chief executive officer of the California… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

Reporting from Sacramento -- The state's Democratic legislative leaders on Thursday vowed to change California regulations to account for their impact on businesses, co-opting an issue that usually belongs to the Republican Party.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez of Los Angeles and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento announced the reforms at a Capitol news conference, flanked by leaders of business groups that often oppose the Democratic Party's agenda. The package of bills would require regulators to consider rules' economic impact in the future and would create an office of economic development to lure businesses to the state.

The proposal, expected to easily clear the Democratic-majority Legislature, was developed with input from Gov. Jerry Brown's staff. It is a response to the widespread perception that California's bevy of regulations — from environmental restrictions to labor protections — chase away business.

Steinberg said the bills "send a message to investors and employers that California is serious about improving its business climate."

Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, quipped that he doesn't get invited to many Democratic news conferences but praised the bills. "The number one issue we hear from business across the country is the uncertainty of doing business in California," he said. The bills would "create that certainty."

But Jim Metropulos of the Sierra Club noted that the language of the complex legislation has not been released, with just five more business days before the session ends Sept. 9. On Thursday, he said that he didn't know the details well enough to make a judgment — which is the main problem.

"I'm leery of any sort of reform that's going to be crammed down in the last five to six days of session," he said. "If they want reform, why don't they do it through the process, having legislative hearings, transparency?"

Brown and other Democrats have been talking about the need for business-friendly changes to the state's regulatory process for months. Thursday's all-Democrat lineup showed how the majority party has marginalized the GOP, which is normally business' main advocate here.

Republicans sought to push tougher pro-business regulatory changes during budget negotiations, when their vote was needed to put proposed tax increases on the ballot. But after those talks broke down, Democrats passed the budget on a party-line vote and no longer needed the GOP to pass laws like the ones proposed Thursday.

Republicans were quick to damn the Democrats' ideas with faint praise. "While I am pleased to see Democrats finally expressing some interest on the issue of over-regulation, the proposals they put forward are a drop in the bucket of what must be done to attract employers and jobs back to California," said Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Linda) in a statement.

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