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Entries in California Law (19)

Thursday
Jul062017

Tomato Tweaking: Genetically Engineered Crops May Be Safe for Consumption, Environment

Litigation AttorneyEnvironmental Litigation

Stephen T. Holzer

818.907.3299

 

Most of us remember the Jack and the Beanstalk story. In this 18th century fairy tale, a young, poor, every-day Jack trades an old cow for magic beans which makes his mother very angry. But in the end, Jack manages to bring home untold riches, ending all of their worries – barring a potential blood feud with a murdered giant’s wife – all because of these special beans. (Never mind that Jack was technically a housebreaker. That’s another area of law entirely.)

Worker weeding farm fieldGenetically-engineered crops (or GECs) may very well be like Jack’s magic beans, based on the fear and anger they seem to sprout among environmentalists and the health conscious.

But before we get into that, let’s narrow the field of villains by first defining GECs, which should be distinguished from genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Some experts contend that GECs are actually a type of GMO. Genetic modification has been going on since the dawn of agriculture – almost all of our food has been modified over the centuries. Such modifications allow for corn digestible by human stomachs, or the thousands of known varieties of tomatoes cropping up globally.

Engineered agriculture on the other hand, was first developed in the 1990s and has a specific goal of adding new traits to an organism. These traits might include making a papaya virus-resistant, or rice harvests more nutrient-rich. If we believed in castles in the sky, scientists might engineer a beanstalk to get there, making it grow taller and sturdier.

So how safe are GECs?

Try the Beans. They’re Not Bad.

Researchers published a report last year that may allay some of the aforementioned fear-based anger.

The study released in May, was conducted by members of the Board of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Division on Earth and Life Studies, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. (Click this link to read: Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects.) The authors drew conclusions based on “the National Academies consensus-study-process”: relying on field studies conducted since the 1990s, input from over 700 experts and organizations, and both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed literature.

They contend that scientists have been developing GECs “to express novel traits” since the 1980s, though they weren’t available for commercial use until the 1990s. But at the conclusion of their data gathering in 2015, only two varieties of GECs were in wide-spread use: those that have been engineered for insect resistance, and those engineered for herbicide resistance. 

Based on their research, the authors concluded that these engineered plants are safe for both human and livestock use and consumption:

. . . long-term data on livestock health before and after the introduction of GE crops showed no adverse effects associated with GE crops. The committee also examined epidemiological data on incidence of cancers and other human-health problems over time and found no substantiated evidence that foods from GE crops were less safe than foods from non-GE crops.

GEC Agronomy and the Environment

Further, the research committee also indicated there is no conclusive proof that GECs have negative effects on the environment – though the authors do amend that conclusion with a warning that measuring long term environmental effects is a complicated process.

There have been strong claims made about the purported benefits and adverse effects of GE crops. The committee found little evidence to connect GE crops and their associated technologies with adverse agronomic or environmental problems. 

The research cites mixed evidence regarding increased or decreased crop yields and biodiversity. For example, “The quantitative contribution of GE crop traits themselves to yield in experimental plots was sometimes difficult to determine because the GE and non-GE varieties could differ in other yield-associated traits.”

Agri-industry Commercial farm field

Additionally, further studies need to be conducted to account for differences in soil characteristics, irrigation and tilling frequency, and a host of other factors like the use of glyphosates or a farmer’s financial resources. Over a decade of research was available to the authors – but they conclude more targeted testing is needed.

Lettuce Legislate GM Labeling

It seems GECs may not be as bad as some environmentalists believe. So why then, have six counties in California, most recently Sonoma County in the November election, banned genetically engineered agriculture? Our state has the largest GEC-free growing zone in the country.

It seems that despite the National Academies of Science study, the giants of environmental concern are still feeling threatened by GM agronomy.

Last July, President Barack Obama signed a law that modifies the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 – it directs the Secretary of Agriculture to devise a system for labeling food that had its DNA modified by scientists (as opposed through conventional breeding or by nature).

The US Department of Agriculture had two years as of the enactment of the law to establish the rules, and the Department recently posted 30 questions for interested parties to answer to facilitate in drafting those GMO labeling rules. The USDA says there will be an additional period for comments once the Department compiles input acquired via the questions and proposes a labeling rule.

 

Stephen T. Holzer is the Chair of our Environmental Practice Group and a business litigation attorney. 

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.

Tuesday
Jan032017

Prop 65 Update: The Rules They Are a Changin'

Litigation AttorneyEnvironmental Litigation

 

Stephen T. Holzer

818.907.3299

 

Proposition 65, known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, among other things requires businesses employing ten or more people to warn consumers if the business’ products contain a chemical scientifically shown to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.

Prop 65 LawyerThe State maintains a list of such chemicals. Such warnings are delivered by placing “clear and reasonable” warning statements on the products, on product packaging, or on signs at retail establishments selling the products. Historically, the warnings were usually sufficient even if they were somewhat generic – e.g., “This product contains a chemical [our emphasis, for illustrative purposes only] known to the State of California to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.”

New Prop 65 Rules

After 30 years of living under regulations implementing Proposition 65, the Office of Emergency Health Hazard Assessment (“OEHHA”) has promulgated a whole new set of regulations re clear and reasonable warnings designed in part to “make warnings more meaningful to the public.” 

The new regulations require, among other things, the warning specifically to identify the chemical(s) in question – e.g., “This product can expose you to lead [our emphasis] which is known to the State of California to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.” The new regulations also provide for specialized warnings for certain industries. The specific warning language listed in the new regulations need not be used if affected businesses can show other language provides a “clear and reasonable” warning; but the safest thing for a business to do is to adopt the language in the regulations.

Businesses have until August 30, 2018 until the new regulations become effective but can operate under the new regulations immediately if desired.

Enforcement Actions

Proposition 65 can be enforced by the government, but if the state chooses not to take action after being notified that adequate warnings were not given, individuals may do so by acting as “private attorneys generals.” Businesses in violation of the warning requirements may face a civil penalty of up to $2,500 a day for the period of violation. Typically though, settlements are much smaller than this draconian amount.

A Prop 65 claim is a particularly difficult claim for a business to defend. The most common defense is to show that people exposed during a course of a lifetime to the chemical(s) at issue would not become ill because the levels of the chemical(s) are too low to do any harm. It is expensive to mount such a scientific defense, requiring the testimony of experts. Small to medium-sized businesses generally choose to settle because the financial burden of litigation is too great.

Although case law suggested that a litigation settlement would protect a party from further Prop 65 claims re the same products and associated chemicals placed at issue by the claim, the law was arguably not completely settled in this regard. The new regulations specify that court-approved warnings will shield the businesses involved in a particular claim from future claims over the same issues.

OEHHA provides extensive information about Proposition 65. Additionally, you can contact us with any questions.

Stephen T. Holzer is the Chair of our Environmental Practice Group and a business litigation attorney. 

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.

Tuesday
Dec202016

California Employer Compliance 2017

Lawyers for Employers

by: Lewitt Hackman's Employment Practice Group

818-990-2120

 

There have been significant changes to state and federal laws in 2016 affecting employers of all sizes and in many industries. We'd like to help our clients stay apprised of some of the more critical changes by reminding all of the important dates below. Except where otherwise indicated, new laws and regulations go into effect as of January 1, 2017.

 

Federal Minimum Salary Threshold

A federal court blocked the Department of Labor's Final Rule with an injunction in late November. As a result, the minimum salary threshold required for overtime exemptions that was to be met December 1, 2016 no longer applies. This may be a temporary reprieve for employers, as the DOL recently filed a Notice of Appeal.

In the meantime, employers should ensure they meet all state and local overtime exemption requirements.


Affordable Care Act

IRS Affordable Care ActUnder the Affordable Care Act, employers must provide employees forms 1094-B (Health Coverage) and 1094-C (Employer-provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage to Employees) by March 2, 2017.

Information reporting via Forms 1094 and 1095 with the IRS is February 28, 2017 (hard copies) or March 31, 2017 (electronic filing). 

 

New I-9 and Immigration Protections

Employment I-9A new I-9 Form (Employment Eligibility Verification) was released in November. Employers must begin using the new form for new hires by January 22, 2017

Federal law prohibits employers from asking for additional documents other than those required by the I-9. A new California law (Senate Bill 1001) prohibits this practice as well -- violations may incur penalties of up to $10,000. 


California Fair Pay Act

Fair Pay EthnicityThe Fair Pay Act prohibits employers from paying employees of opposite sex different wages for substantially similar work. Any pay differentials must be based on seniority, merit system, quantity or quality of production, or other bona fide factors such as education or experience. Additionally:

Senate Bill 1063 amends and expands the different rates of pay prohibitions to employees of another race or ethnicity.

Assembly Bill 1676 clarifies that prior salary history cannot justify compensation disparities. 


Criminal Background Checks

Background Checks in CaliforniaCalifornia: Employers are prohibited from asking about arrests or detentions that did not result in a conviction, or about those incidents that have been judicially sealed or dismissed. Assembly Bill 1843 expands protections to protect job applicants with juvenile criminal histories as well. 

Los Angeles: Ban the Box, or the Second Chance Initiative, prohibits employers with ten or more employees from including questions about criminal history on job applications. Employers may ask about criminal history AFTER a conditional offer of employment is made to the applicant. There is a process involved regarding the consideration of such information, written notices, maintaining records; and notifications that must be included on all job posts. Read our Ban the Box blog for more information. 


Payroll, Wage Statements & Notices

Employee NoticesCurrently, employers cannot discriminate or retaliate against employees who are victims of domestic violence, sex assault or stalking – and cannot prohibit employees from taking time off to seek treatment or legal actions for these crimes. Assembly Bill 2337 now requires employers to provide written notice of their employment rights should they become victims of these crimes to all new hires and to other employees as requested. Employers are required to comply with the notice requirements when the Labor Commissioner develops a form notice, on or before July 1, 2017.

Employers who must notify employees of eligibility for federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs) must also notify employees of California EITCs per Assembly Bill 1847.

Employers are not required to track hours worked for exempt employees on itemized wage statements. The clarification comes under Assembly Bill 2535.

Employees of Temporary Staffing Agencies must be paid weekly. Assembly Bill 1311 makes this law applicable to security personnel employed by private patrol operators who are also temp service employers, as of July 2016.


Single User Restroom Facilities

Restroom LawAs of March 1, 2017, single-occupant toilet facilities in any business or public building must be identified as "all gender" facilities with signage compliant with Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations. Single-occupant bathrooms have no more than one stall and one urinal. See Assembly Bill 1732.

 

Minimum Wage Hikes

Minimum Wage HikeCalifornia: Businesses with 26 or more employees must pay a minimum wage of $10.50 per hour as of January 1, 2017. Employers with 25 or fewer employers must raise minimum wages to this rate on January 1, 2018

Local Ordinances: In unincorporated Los Angeles County, Los Angeles City, Pasadena and Santa Monica, employers with 25 or fewer employees must begin paying minimums of $10.50 per hour as of July 1, 2017. Employers with 26 or more employees were required to start paying a rate of $10.50 per hour as of July 1, 2016; and will be required to pay $12.00 per hour as of July 1, 2017. (Click: Cty and County Wage Rates for more specific information.) 

 

Sick Time

Sick Leave CaliforniaCalifornia: As of 2015, employers in California must provide 24 hours of paid leave per year for employees who work at least 30 days per year. 

Local Ordinances: In Los Angeles County, employers must provide 48 hours of paid sick leave annually. The time can be front-loaded every 12 months or accrued at the rate of one hour paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. This requirement is part of the Los Angeles Minimum Wage Ordinance, and went into effect last July for employers with 26 or more employees. For employers with 25 or fewer employees, the requirements must be implemented as of July 1, 2017


Arbitration Clauses

Senate Bill 1241 prohibits employers from requiring employees, as a prerequisite of employment, to arbitrate employment disputes under the laws of another state or in another state. This protection applies to all employees who primarily live and work in California. 

An exception to the new law applies to employees represented by an attorney when negotiating terms of an employment contract, including those containing forum selection and choice of law provisions. 


New California Employment Laws: Industry Specific Legislation

 

Janitorial Services

Janitor LawPer Assembly Bill 1978, employers of property service workers (janitorial) must keep records of all employees to include: employee names and addresses; start/stop times and all hours worked; wage rates for each pay period; ages of any minor employees; and conditions of employment – for three years. The law applies to janitorial employees, independent contractors and franchisees. 

Employers in this industry must register with the Labor Commissioner each year as of July 1, 2018. Cost of registration is $500.00.

The new legislation also requires janitorial staff and supervisors to undergo sexual violence and harassment prevention training every two years as of January 1, 2019


Agricultural Workers

Farm Worker LawAssembly Bill 1066 eliminates the one day of rest per seven days worked exemption for California's agricultural industry. Employers cannot require agricultural employees to work more than six days per week.

As of January 1, 2019, agricultural employers must provide overtime wages for more than 9.5 hours worked (or more than 8 hours starting January 2022); meal breaks; and meet other wage and working condition requirements.

Employers with 25 or fewer employees have an additional three years to comply with the criteria above. 


Private Education

Private School Minimum Salary ThresholdAssembly Bill 2230 requires a new minimum earnings test for private school teachers to be exempt from overtime:  salaries for these employees must be comparable to those offered to public schools in the same district or county. The new test is effective as of July 1, 2017

 

 

Salon Services

Salon Worker LawBusinesses licensed by the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (BBC) are required to post notices regarding wage and hour laws and workplace rights as of July 1, 2017, under Assembly Bill 2437.

Another new law (Assembly Bill 2025) will require BBC schools to provide basic labor law education to license applicants.

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
Oct242016

Employer Guide for Election Season

 

by Nicole Kamm & Tal Burnovski Yeyni

 

The 2016 presidential election season has provided fodder for often impassioned conversations among friends, family and co-workers.  While we may not always agree with all points of view, it is important to remember that conduct and discussion tolerated among friends or family may not be suitable in the workplace.

Employers should be mindful of the principal “dos and don’ts” when addressing political speech in the workplace

  • Do not encourage or discipline employees for their political activities.  California law prohibits employers from adopting or enforcing any policy that tends to control or direct employees’ political activities or affiliations. Employers further cannot coerce or influence employees to follow, or refrain from following, any particular line of political activity by threatening a loss of employment. Labor Code §§ 1101-1102.  

  • If heated discussions are an issue, remind employees about what constitutes acceptable conduct in the workplace.  Remind employees that all perspectives are entitled to respect, and that use of derogatory or abusive language will not be tolerated in a workplace setting.   

  • Comply with “time off to vote” rules in California. California law allows employees to take paid time off to vote (up to two hours) if employees do not have sufficient time outside of work hours to do so. Note, employees are allowed to take more than two hours to vote, but only two hours need be paid. 

Generally, time off to vote can be restricted to the beginning or end of an employee’s shift, whichever allows the most free time for voting and the least time off from the regular working shift (unless employee and employer agree otherwise). Finally, if employees know, or have reason to believe that time off to vote will be necessary, they are required to give notice to the employer at least two working days prior to the election.   

  • Post “time off to vote” notices. If not already in place (many pre-printed workplace postings reference time off to vote), employers must post an employee notice at least 10 days before a state-wide election – either in the workplace or where it can easily be seen by employees as they enter or exit their place of work. You can find a list of upcoming elections here, and sample notices here.   

 

Nicole Kamm and Tal Burnovski Yeyni are Employment Defense attorneys

 

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.

 

Wednesday
Aug242016

California Ballot 2016: Pros and Cons of Props 51-56

Litigation Los AngelesEnvironmental Litigation  

Stephen T. Holzer
818.907.3299

 

Californians must decide on 17 initiatives in the November election this year, and those are just the proposed measures of state-wide concern. Never mind the many local initiatives affecting counties and neighborhoods. The state props cover a range of topics like porn, drugs, guns, and death. Then there are the more tedious but still critical initiatives regarding bonds, legislative transparency, education, etc.

That’s a lot to think about, so we thought we’d break it down with a quick ballot reference guide. You’ll find a brief description of each measure, and then a who’s for, who’s against, and why section – with reference links for more information. (If you want the full text of each prop, click on the title for each measure.)

We begin the first segment in our 2016 Election Guide series: California Propositions 51-56, below. (Click Props 57-61 or Props 62- 67 to read about the others.)

Proposition 51: California Public Education Facilities Bond Initiative 

Should the state issue $9 billion in bonds for constructing or improving public schools educating students from Kindergarten through community college? The proposed funds generated would be allocated as follows: 

  • $3 billion to build new schools
  • $3 billion to modernize existing schools
  • $2 billion to buy, build, and improve community colleges
  • $500 million for charter schools
  • $500 million for technical education facilities 

Who’s Voting Yes on Prop 51?

Proponents of Prop 51 claim the state’s schools are deteriorating to the point of becoming unhealthy and unsafe for students; and that California’s last school bond initiated 10 years ago is now out of money. They also claim a current $2 billion backlog of improvement projects for seismic renovations, other safety concerns and technology needs.

Both the California Democratic and Republican parties, the California Chamber of Commerce, numerous school districts and state elected officials have endorsed this bill.

Who’s Voting No on Prop 51?

The opposition to Prop 51 describes its organization as a coalition of supporters of California taxpayers and educators opposed to sprawl and developer abuse. Their Facebook page posts links to more opposition from The Mercury News, East Bay Times, among others. Both articles cite Governor Jerry Brown who calls the referendum a “blunderbuss effort that promotes sprawl and squanders money that would be far better spent in low-income communities.”

The opponents also cite a need for better planning by local school districts, and for developers to foot their fair shares of the costs, noting that this initiative was bankrolled by the construction industry. 

Proposition 52: California Medi-Cal Hospital Reimbursement Initiative 

In order to receive federal Medicaid funding, the states must contribute their own money. California does this partly through the Hospital Quality Assurance Fee (HQAF) assessed on both public and private hospitals since 2009 – resulting in about $3 billion in federal funds disbursed annually for Medi-Cal programs. Some of the HQAF monies however, have been diverted into California’s general fund over the years. Prop 52 aims to make it harder for the state to divert hospital fees by requiring 2/3 voter approval before doing so.

Who’s Voting Yes on Prop 52?

The Yes on 52 Campaign says the hospital fee program is set to expire in 2018. The program generates about $3 billion in federal money for Medi-Cal (about $18 billion over seven years), which primarily benefits children, seniors and working families. Citing the Legislative Analyst’s Office, Yes on 52 further claims the program will save California $1.5 billion in costs for children’s health care by 2020, and increases support to local public hospitals. The state legislature will need voter approval to dip into the program.

Support for Prop 52 include the California Children’s Hospital Association, the California Association for Nurse Practitioners, both the Los Angeles and California Chambers of Commerce and various elected officials of both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Who’s Voting No on Prop 52?

Those who oppose Proposition 52 seem to be less organized but include the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, according to Kaiser Health News. The post cites SEIU-UHW’s director of governmental relations:

…SEIU-UHW supports the arrangement in principle but that the legislature is the most appropriate venue for deciding how to use the money raised. Lawmakers can respond to an evolving health care system, but if Californians vote directly on the hospital proposal, their decision would be harder to undo later…

Proposition 53: No Blank Checks Initiative 

Should bond projects that cost more than $2 billion require voter approval? Government projects of that amount or more that are billed to the state’s general fund already require voter approval – but revenue bonds do not. This initiative targets state over-spending by giving voters the right to greenlight or stop big ticket projects, and prevents large projects from being broken down into smaller jobs to get around voter approval requirements.

Who’s Voting Yes on Prop 53?

The Stop Blank Checks’ first priority is to keep elected officials from creating new debt to pay for multi-billion dollar projects, at the cost of California taxpayers. The Pro-Proposition 53 website says California’s debt exceeds $330 billion – the third worst of all the states. It also cites the cost of California’s high-speed bullet train: nearly $10 billion was approved by voters for the project, but costs are now estimated at $68 billion, which may be paid for through revenue bonds.

Dean and Joan Cortopassi – owners of large food and agri-businesses based in Central California, are the initiative’s primary supporters.

Who’s Voting No on Prop 53?

The opposition is much bigger than the support so far. The No on Prop 53 faction claims the initiative will take away local government’s ability to issue revenue bonds to make improvements. For example, voters in Northern and Central California could theoretically vote against raising funds to improve the sewer system in Encino, if it comes with a price tag of over $2 billion. On a larger scale, can Los Angelenos wait up to two years to vote on I-405/US 101 interchange repairs after a devastating earthquake? (Presumably the federal or state governments would provide emergency funding in such a scenario.)

The opposition to Prop 53 include the Association of California Water Agencies, State Sheriff’s Association, League of California Cities, California Chamber of Commerce, California Hospital Association and others. 

Proposition 54: California Legislature Transparency Act 

If this initiative is approved, the legislature would be required to publish every bill (except some regarding emergency measures) in print and online at least 72 hours before a legislative vote; and to record public proceedings to be posted online within 24 hours of the proceedings. Members of the public may also record these public proceedings. All recordings, whether made by legislators or private persons, may be used for any legitimate purpose.

Who’s Voting Yes on Prop 54?

This one gets bipartisan support. The Yes on Prop 54 coalition cites a need to rein in special interest groups who have a history of getting 11th hour revisions made to bills benefitting themselves – without giving lawmakers an opportunity to read, or the public an opportunity to comment on those changes. The audiovisual recordings stipulations provide a record of proceedings, since most members of the public are unable to attend those proceedings and thus have no opportunity to comment.

The bill is supported by the California Chamber of Commerce, the California State Conference of the NAACP, and the state’s League of Women Voters, among others.

Who’s Voting No on Prop 54?

There is a group pushing for a no vote, for the same reason, believe it or not: to deny special interest groups. The No On Proposition 54 alliance says the bill will hinder legislators in developing bipartisan solutions; 72 hours gives special interest groups more time to launch a counter-attack, and it will be more difficult for lawmakers to take action in emergencies.

The group counts the state’s Democratic Party, Labor Federation and others among those who want to defeat the initiative. 

Proposition 55: California Children’s Education and Health Care Protection Act of 2016 

About $6 billion per year was raised when voters approved Proposition 30 back in 2012, through increased taxes imposed on those earning more than $250,000 per year, and through an increased sales tax. The money benefitted K-14 education (11 percent to community colleges; the remaining to grade, middle and high schools). Under Prop 30, the personal income tax increase will expire in 2019, and the increased sales taxes will expire the end of this year.

Prop 55 maintains the current tax rate on high-income individuals and couples for an additional 12 years. (The sales tax is not addressed in this measure and will presumably sunset on December 31st.) Additionally, the measure will allocate up to $2 billion to healthcare programs for children and their families in certain years.

Who’s Voting Yes on Prop 55?

The Yes on 55 Help Our Children Thrive website claims the reversion to a lower income tax rate on high earners will cost California schools about $4 billion per year, and that all taxpayers will benefit when the sale tax increase (0.25 percent) expires.

Yes on 55 is chiefly supported by the Association of California School Administrators, California Federation of Teachers, and the California Medical Association.

Who’s Voting No on Prop 55?

An organized opposition force doesn’t seem to exist at this time, but the California Chamber of Commerce recommended a no vote on Prop 55 last May. The Chamber doesn’t like the virtual permanency of what was supposed to be a temporary tax increase, and cites a state surplus of $3 billion, a proposed balanced budget by Governor Jerry Brown, and the volatile nature of personal income tax revenues. In short, the Cal Chamber characterizes the higher taxes as unnecessary. 

Proposition 56: California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016 

This is a proposal to raise cigarette taxes by $2.00 per pack to fund healthcare, tobacco use prevention, tobacco-related medical research and law enforcement. Other tobacco products and nicotine e-cigarettes will be similarly taxed. The current tax on tobacco is $0.87 per pack – the lowest in the nation.

Who’s Voting Yes on Prop 56?

The Yes on 56 organization says the tax will reduce youth smoking, help fight cancer, and only target tobacco and nicotine users. Citing studies, they claim 90 percent of smokers start using tobacco as teenagers, and that flavored e-cigarettes are targeting that age group. Additionally, Yes on 56 says every ten percent increase on cigarette costs has a direct correlation to reduced teen smoking – a seven percent drop.

Yes on 56 is endorsed by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, as well as various other health, dental and business groups.

Who’s Voting No on Prop 56?

A few websites by tobacco and vaping, or e-cigarette concerns are showing opposition to this measure, and a Sacramento Bee article reports a $17 million effort to defeat Prop 56. An organization called Not Blowing Smoke has taken to social media, particularly Instagram, to make their points, including: 

  • Government and pharmaceuticals will lose money when smoking rates decline;
  • The bill is full of loopholes – revenues could be used to fund other projects not related to tobacco use;
  • Over 9 million smokers in the U.S. have traded in their cigarettes for less harmful vape products – but a nearly 70 percent tax increase could hinder those transitions. 

A seemingly more organized effort to defeat the tobacco tax encourages voters to “follow the money” – claiming it’s the health insurance companies and special interest groups will benefit financially. The Stop the Special Interest Tax Grab is fronted by Phillip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and a “coalition of taxpayers, educators, healthcare professionals, law enforcement, labor and small businesses.”

Check back with us: we’ll tackle initiatives to regulate felony parole, bilingual education, campaign finance, pornography and prescription drugs – Props 57-61 next.

Stephen T. Holzer is the Chair of our Environmental Practice Group and a business litigation attorney. 

 

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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