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California Farm Bureau Federation Friday Review

August 22, 2008

AB 844 (Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto) passed the Senate 34-1 this week.  This Farm Bureau sponsored bill will require scrap metal recyclers to implement a three day waiting period before paying for scrap metal, take a picture of scrap metal being recycled, obtain current identification and a thumbprint from sellers, obtain a disclosure of the origin of the scrap metal, and report the information obtained to local law enforcement on a monthly basis.  The bill also increases penalties against recyclers found in violation of the provisions and requires convicted metal thieves to pay restitution to victims of metal theft.  Unfortunately, the Senate is holding all Assembly bills, to ensure it gets all of its bills back from the Assembly before the session ends.  Once the Senate begins releasing bills, AB 844 will return to the Assembly for a concurrence vote.    

Farm Bureau is also supporting AB 1107 (Juan Arambula, D-Fresno) that would allow agricultural workers in drought-affected counties to supplement their unemployment benefits to a reasonable level without losing their eligibility for those benefits.  This will lessen the negative impact on the incomes of farm workers who have suffered the loss of their jobs due to the devastating drought this spring and summer.  AB 1107 will help agriculture in California retain a trained workforce vital to cultivation and harvesting of our crops, while helping agriculture avoid a labor shortage in the near future.  AB 1107 will also minimize disruption of farmworkers’ families.  The Senate passed AB 1107 on August 14th and it is pending Assembly concurrence in Senate amendments.

AB 1634 (Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys) was heard on the Senate Floor this week.  This is the bill that originally required all dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered.  However, the bill has been amended numerous times to try to gain the necessary votes for passage.  The current version of the bill requires discounts in licensing fees for licensed dogs and cats that are micro chipped, spayed, or neutered.  It increases penalties against intact animals impounded and requires dogs that are impounded three times to be spayed or neutered.  It also requires all dogs to be licensed and allows animal control to cite dogs “at large” and require them to be spayed or neutered if cited three times.  The bill does not include a definition of “at large,” which raises concerns about working dogs on ranches that animal control could cite despite their being on their own property.  Farm Bureau remains opposed to the bill due to the statewide licensing requirement and the “at large” provision in the bill.  A wide majority of Senators agreed with our concerns and the bill failed passage, only receiving five of the necessary 21 votes needed to pass.

AB 2076 (Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar) is pending Assembly concurrence in Senate amendments.  AB 2076 would prohibit counties or municipalities from requiring employers to use the federal E-Verify system for employment eligibility verification, if use of that system is for the purpose of obtaining a contract or business license.  Farm Bureau has supported AB 2076 in the hope of discouraging legislation to require California farmers to use the E-Verify system, which could leave farmers in a very difficult position trying to secure adequate numbers of legal workers.   

Farm Bureau’s sponsored bill, AB 2168 (Dave Jones, D-Sacramento), passed off the Assembly Floor this week.  This bill will allow farmers to sell processed agricultural products, such as jams, dried fruits, olive oil, etc. at their farm stands without being classified as Retail Food Facilities and therefore, subject to all of the requirements under the California Retail Food Code.  The bill is now in enrollment, where it will remain until a budget is signed and the Governor begins acting on bills again.    

AB 2175 (John Laird, D-Santa Cruz and Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles), as amended August 18, would require all agricultural water suppliers supplying more than 10,000 acre-feet of water or serving more that 10,000 acres of agricultural land to implement water use efficiency best management practices (BMPs) by July 31, 2012. The measure would require agricultural water suppliers to submit a report to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) on which BMPs have been implemented and plan to be implemented, an estimate of water savings that have occurred since the last report, and an estimate of the water savings to occur in next five and 10 years. DWR will develop a methodology to quantify on-farm water use efficiency and report to the Legislature on the methodology and an implementation plan, including costs to implement, by December 31, 2010. Agricultural water suppliers will also be required to develop and implement agricultural water management plans every five years. This bill was re-referred August 20 to the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, passed out of the committee again August 22 with the understanding it will be amended as agreed upon on the Senate Floor. Farm Bureau opposes this bill.

The Senate passed AB 2386, (Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles), is eligible for floor consideration at any time.  August 18 on a 23-15 vote. It was then referred to the Assembly for concurrence in the August 4 Senate Appropriations Committee amendments. These amendments convert AB 2386 from its original form into a farmworker unionization bill.  When considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 4, the Committee radically altered an underlying bill concerning a farmworkers compensation fund administered by the Ag Labor Relations Board. 

As amended, AB 2386 would create a new, completely unsupervised process called a “mediated election.” This process would allow union agents to give employees ballots; tell employees to mark their ballots; tell employees to put their marked ballots in envelopes and to seal and sign those envelopes, and, collect and deliver the envelopes to the ALRB.  All this would occur with no supervision by the ALRB or the so-called “mediator.”  The union would need only file a simple petition requesting such an “election,” where the only choices open to voting employees are immediate unionization or an ALRB-supervised on-site election.  Additionally, AB 2386 would severely restrict a farm employer’s First Amendment right to discuss his or her views of unionization with employees.

On August 21, the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee referred AB 2386 back to the Senate for concurrence in with a further amendment to supposedly protect farmworkers from intimidation and prevent union fraud in a mediated election.  However, these amendments fail to meaningfully address this potential problem because it relies on intimidated farm workers to report union misdeeds to the ALRB.  The Senate is expected to take up concurrence with the further-amended version of AB 2386 next week.

A broad coalition of California agricultural organizations is engaged in efforts to defeat AB 2386 in the Senate.  Please consult the CFBF Farm Team webpage for more information to help defeat AB 2386.  

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