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Oct032014

Cutting the BS(A): California's Prop 2 Re the Budget Stabilization Account

Litigation Los AngelesEnvironmental Litigation  

Stephen T. Holzer
818.907.3299

 

In our second blog examining the propositions we'll be seeing on the election ballot November 4th, we'll take a look at California's Proposition 2, or the Rainy Day Budget Stabilization Fund Act (formerly known as Proposition 44).

If you haven't guessed already, this prop is about the state's money, and the serious lack thereof.

Back in 2004, Californians voted to establish a Budget Stabilization Account (BSA), in which the government was expected to allot three percent of revenues from the general fund. The BSA was supposed to be a savings account for those years in which California experienced budget shortfalls. In retrospect, given the consistent downward spiral into debt, the BSA proved to be a tad optimistic.

California's Proposition 2 may be an acknowledgement of reality.  Among other things, the primary goals of this measure are to: 

  1. California Rainy Day FundCut the 2004 BSA deposit requirement in half. The state will be required to put 1.5 percent of revenues into the fund;

  2. Increase the funding with capital gains taxes if tax revenues exceed eight percent of general fund revenues;

  3. Require annual deposits to the BSA to begin no later than October 1, 2015; and to continue annually until the total BSA equals 10 percent of general fund revenues;

  4. Starting next fiscal year and ending fiscal year 2029-30, 1.5 percent of state revenues  must be used to pay for other obligations such as budgetary loans and unfunded state-level pension plans. (Essentially, of the three percent initially allotted to the BSA in 2004, half continues to be deposited into the BSA while the other 1.5 percent is allotted to other state debts.)

  5. Require the governor to declare a fiscal emergency before allowing the state to suspend or reduce annual BSA deposits

  6. Establish the Public School System Stabilization Account (PSSSA) – funding would come from capital gains tax revenues if they exceed eight percent of general fund revenues. The PSSSA is meant to fund K-14 education needs when the state runs out of educational funding from other revenue sources.

There seems to be wide support for Prop 2, and it transcends the usual party lines. Groups for include Governor Jerry Brown (who signed the bill August 11th), the California Chamber of Commerce and both the state's Democratic and Republican Parties.

Opposition to Proposition 2 seems to be spearheaded primarily by educational groups. Members of the opposition argue that it limits local school districts to saving their own funding down to a few weeks of district expenses. Additionally, the state regularly skims $5B or more annually from school-allocated property taxes, which California officials have yet to pay back. In fact, $10B in deferred payments from the state have forced school districts to cut programs and dip into their local financial reserves.

President of the California State Board of Education, Dr. Michael Kirst, rebuts with the argument that stabilizing the state economy is the best way to protect schools from further drains on the education budget.

The heart of the matter is this: It seems almost everyone wants a bigger Rainy Day Fund for California – the question is whether or not the cost for this will be borne by our schools.

 

Stephen T. Holzer is an Environmental and Business Litigation Attorney. Contact him via email: sholzer@lewitthackman.com, or by phone: 818.907.3224. 

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Friday
Sep262014

Bridging Troubled Water: Yes or No on California Prop 1?

Litigation Los AngelesEnvironmental Litigation  

Stephen T. Holzer
818.907.3299

 

Fall is here. Most of us can't tell, given the soaring temperatures outside. A better thermometer might be the onslaught of political commercials we're now seeing on television.

California Elections 2014

To prepare for the elections in November, we thought now would be a good time to take a look at the new propositions and bills Californians will have to decide on in the voting booth November 4th. First up:  Proposition 1 (Assembly Bill 1471), to enact the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014.

Governor Jerry Brown approved the measure August 13, but it's up to the voters to decide if this will go any further.

Proposition 1 aims to: 

  1. Improve water reliability and management: $810M,

  2. Provide safer drinking water: $520M,

  3. Initiate and improve water recycling projects: $725M,

  4. Ensure safer groundwater: $900M,

  5. Protect and restore the state's watershed: $1.495B,

  6. Store more water: $2.7B, and

  7. Improve and initiate flood management projects: $395M

As with most ballot measures, there are both opposition and support groups for Prop 1. Unlike most ballot measures, the battle lines aren't drawn by party lines.

The opposition argues that: 

  1. Environmental Business Litigation AttorneyOnly special interest groups, i.e. farmers and certain industrialists, will benefit though all Californians will foot the bill.

  2. The bills projects are geared to repairing the damage caused by previous water improvement projects initiated by the same special interest groups noted above.

  3. The cost is too high, considering California is already $777B in debt.

  4. Enacting this plan does nothing to cure our immediate, drought-driven needs for more water.

Supporters disagree of course, claiming that: 

  1. Long-term projects will help Californians capitalize on "wet" years to store more water for the drier years.

  2. Some funds in the bill are allocated to cleaning up much-needed contaminated drinking water.

  3. The special interest groups cited by the opposition (particularly the agriculturalists) are critical to California's economy.

  4. The bill would not substantially increase state debt – some of the needed funding will be reallocated from unused bonds.

So which groups support Proposition 1, and which do not? There's a mixed bag on each side.

Prop 1 supporters include Governor Brown, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both the California Democratic and Republican parties, the state and Los Angeles Chambers of Commerce, and environmental groups like The Nature Conservancy, Audubon California and Delta Counties Coalition.

Prop 1 opponents include environmental groups like Friends of the River, Restore the Delta and various fishing associations.

 

Stephen T. Holzer is an Environmental and Business Litigation Attorney. Contact him via email: sholzer@lewitthackman.com, or by phone: 818.907.3299.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Monday
Sep152014

Paid Sick Leave Now Required by Law

Lawyer for EmployerWage and Hour Defense

by Nicole Kamm

818.907.3235

On Wednesday, Sept. 10th, Governor Jerry Brown signed the paid sick leave bill (Assembly Bill 1522) into law. This means that, effective July 1, 2015, California employers, regardless of size, must provide most employees paid sick leave. Eligible employees will be entitled to at least three paid sick leave days per year.

California Employment LawCalifornia is the second state to enact such a law (Connecticut was the first), but AB 1522 – the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act 2014 – is even more expansive, according to the bill's author, Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego):

We become the first state in the nation to guarantee paid sick days for every single private-sector worker in the state — no matter what industry they work in, no matter if they are part-time or seasonal, and regardless of the size of their employer…This means more than 6.5 million more workers in this state will be able to take up to three days off when they or their child is sick without fearing the loss of income, hours or their job.

Paid Sick Days – Employer Responsibilities

Employees who work 30 or more days in a year are now entitled to one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. (Employers in San Francisco and San Diego may have to award more days, under certain city ordinances.) Employers may cap annual sick leave use at three days (24 hours) per year; however unused, accrued sick leave must roll over from year to year. The rollover may be capped at six days (48 hours).

Employees may use accrued sick days as of the 90th day of their employment, after which time employees may use paid sick days as they are accrued.

Employers will be able to set a minimum increment for use of sick leave, however the minimum increment cannot be greater than two hours (e.g., employers may not require employees take sick leave in increments of four hours or more).

Employees will not be entitled to pay for unused sick leave on separation of employment. However, a separated employee who is rehired within one year from the date of separation will be entitled to have any accrued, unused sick days reinstated.

Employees will be able to use sick leave for their own illness or preventive care, to care for a sick family member, and/or to recover from certain crimes.

Employers are required to provide written statements of accrued, available sick time on the employee's pay stub, or on a separate written statement provided at the same time as wages. Pursuant to the new law, records documenting hours worked and sick days accrued or used, must be maintained for at least three years; however, we generally recommend employers maintain employment records for at least four years.

Employers will be required to post a paid sick leave poster, to be prepared by the Labor Commissioner. The Labor Commissioner will also issue a revised Wage Theft Notice (Labor Code §2810.5) for all non-exempt employees, which will include information about paid sick leave.

The new law prohibits retaliation against an employee for using sick leave and establishes a rebuttable presumption of retaliation if adverse action is taken against an employee within 30 days of the filing of a complaint with the Labor Commissioner, cooperation with an investigation, or opposition by an employee to a policy, practice or prohibited by this bill.

Employer Take Away

Employers who already provide paid sick leave should review their policies in view of these new requirements to ensure compliance. And employers who currently do not provide paid sick leave will need to review the new law and implement a compliant sick leave policy. Please let us know how we can help you with this process.

Nicole Kamm is an attorney focused on protecting and defending employers.  Contact her via email: nkamm@lewitthackman.com, or via phone: 818.907.3235 for more information regarding sick leave.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Friday
Sep122014

Beer Bills: New Laws & Legislation on Tap

Craft Beer LawyerChair, Franchise & Distribution Practice Group

 

by Barry Kurtz
818.907.3006

 

There are a number of bills and new laws that craft brewers should have on the radar – legislation that could affect operations and distribution.

Craft Brew Distribution AttorneyIn California, two of these bills became law, while one is still pending state senate approvals.

Assembly Bill 2004:  This bill could allow craft beer makers to sell brew at farmers' markets. Brewers would need to apply for a sales permit from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. If passed, the bill would allow the licensee or an employee of the licensee to sell up to 5,000 gallons of beer per year at these venues.  AB 2004 was last amended in the Senate June 25th.

Assembly Bill 2203: Meant to reduce keg theft, it is now a crime to obliterate or mark out a beer manufacturer's name/labeling on metal kegs, returnable beer containers, and wood or fiber board cartons – without the manufacturer's written permission. The law was adopted August 21st.

Assembly Bill 1928:  Beer makers may not produce or offer, and sellers cannot accept or redeem, coupons for beer. This forbids giving premiums, gifts or free goods as incentives to sell or distribute alcoholic beverages. The new law was approved July 18th, and affects all beer manufacturers, distributors or wholesalers, and retailers.

Beer Distribution Lawyer

Brewing in Other States

For those making or selling beer in the rest of the country, some new laws have gone into effect:

Hawaii Senate Bill 3042: Signed by Governor Neil Abercrombie on July 3rd, this law removed a 30,000 barrel per year production limit on brew pubs. There is also a new license class for smaller craft brewers.

Delaware House Bill 299: Movie-goers in Delaware can now see their favorite blockbusters in Beer-D. The term movie theater is defined in this new law, as a facility that hosts at least 250 movies per year, and is open at least five days per week.

Rhode Island House Bill 7133: This law reduces the excise tax on all beer produced in the state.

Maryland House Bill 132: This one loosens the controlling grip of Montgomery County – the only jurisdiction in the U.S. that had absolute control of the distribution of beer, wine and liquor since 1933. But as of July 1st, properly licensed brewers whether based in or outside of Maryland, can now sell or deliver beer directly to liquor dispensaries, restaurants and retailers.

 

Barry Kurtz is a Certified Specialist in Franchise & Distribution Law (State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization) and the Chair of our Franchise & Distribution Practice Group. Contact him via email: bkurtz@lewitthackman.com or by phone: 818.907.3006 for more information.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Thursday
Sep042014

Employers: Governor Expected to Sign Off on Paid Sick Time for Most Employees

Wage and Hour DefenseEmployee Leave of Absence Claim Defense

by Sue M. Bendavid

818.907.3220

 

California lawmakers voted 52-25 to pass Assembly Bill 1522. Written by Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), the bill would entitle most employees in California three days of paid sick leave to care for themselves, or for a family member. Governor Jerry Brown will more than likely sign the bill, given his official statement:

Tonight, the Legislature took historic action to help hardworking Californians. This bill guarantees that millions of workers – from Eureka to San Diego – won't lose their jobs or pay just because they get sick.

Wage and Hour Law: Sick Time

If or when Governor Brown does sign, the new law enacts the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act, and will go into effect on July 1, 2015. Here's how it will affect California employers:

  1. Employees who work 30 or more days within a year (part-time employees are also covered) of commencement of employment is entitled to one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.

  2. Employees will accrue this time beginning on the 90th day of employment.

  3. Employers can minimize paid sick time to 24 hours (or three days) per year.

  4. Employers cannot retaliate against employees who request paid sick days.

  5. Employers must post notices regarding this change in Labor Code.

 

Given that many employers already provide paid sick time, most will just have to post the appropriate notices and update their employee handbooks. But, for those employers who did not provide paid sick leave, this law represents a substantial change. If signed into law, California will be one of the first states to pass a paid sick leave law (Connecticut already has such a law).

The soon-to-be law would exclude some employees (e.g., employees covered under certain collective bargaining agreements). But it will affect restaurants, retailers and other businesses, including those that tend to hire more part-time employees.

Supporters for AB 1522 say about 40 percent of employees in California do not currently earn paid sick leave.

Sue M. Bendavid is the Chair of our Employment Practice Group. Contact her via email: sbendavid@lewitthackman.com or via telephone: 818.907.3220. 

 

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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