Gov. Jerry Brown sided with labor on the minimum-wage hike. (Rich Pedroncelli, AP )
SACRAMENTO — The California Chamber of Commerce may have the Capitol's deadliest aim when it comes to shooting down bills that its members don't like.
The giant lobbying group, which represents 13,500 large and small employers, posted a near-perfect score in efforts this year to defeat legislation it labeled "job killers."
This year, the chamber went gunning for 38 such bills. Only one made it through both the Democratic Party-dominated Legislature and landed on the governor's desk.
The one significant survivor was a 25% hike in the state's minimum wage by 2016 — a proposal that business groups had successfully fought for years. But it became a lost cause for the chamber when Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown announced he would sign the measure.
Organized labor figures its success with the minimum-wage increase far outweighs the chamber's efforts to kill bills.
It's easier to win battles by playing defense, argued Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation, an AFL-CIO umbrella group.
"We feel very good about what this Legislature delivered for workers," he said.
Business victories included the death of an anti-pollution bill by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles). The chamber said it would discourage investment in some low-income areas by doubling fines and penalties for air pollution and toxic substances discharges. The bill stalled on the Senate floor.
Another victim of the chamber was a bill by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis). It would have put a 10-year limit on all future tax credits. It went nowhere, along with controversial bills to put a moratorium on oil drilling "fracking" and to expand the paid family-leave program.
The "job killer" list "is giving the Legislature more information about the consequences of bills," said chamber President Allan Zaremberg.
It also acts as a tool for rating lawmakers, informing voters and giving companies a handy guide for making campaign contributions. So far this year, the chamber spent $1.8 million on lobbying and $75,000 on political contributions to legislators and candidates, according to official filings.
It's a clever public relations tool," said Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State. "I like looking at the chamber's list because it's an indicator of its clout."
The chamber's Capitol clout has been consistent throughout the administrations of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and Brown.
Speaking of bills
The governor has a slew of them on his desk. As of Friday, he had 171 measures that must be signed, vetoed or allowed to become law without his signature before an Oct. 13 deadline.
Brown, who says he reads and studies each bill individually, may need all that time. Aides say he mines his staff and outsiders for information and writes his own veto messages explaining his action.
So far this year, Brown has signed 327 bills and vetoed five.