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March 11, 2011 California Farm Bureau Federation Friday Review of bills and laws

CDFA’s Certified Farmers’ Market Advisory Committee met this week to discuss a proposal to increase certified farmers’ market participant fees. Currently, operators of certified farmers’ markets pay $0.60 per day for each agricultural producer selling at the market. The committee’s proposal could increase that fee to $4 per day to cover the costs of increased state and county inspections of farmers markets and to expand education of certified farmers’ market managers. There was not unified support of the proposal by committee members, but a significant majority voted to accept the concept. CDFA plans to do further outreach to gather input from interested parties on this proposal. Increasing the fee would require legislative action and without unified support from the farmers’ market community, passage of legislation to increase fees is unlikely.

The Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee passed card-check legislation (SB 104, Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento) on March 9. Farm Bureau and several agriculture and business groups testified in opposition; several unions including the United Farm Workers testified in support. Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) testified in support. SB 104 has been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. No hearing date has been set.

In other committee action on legislation of interest to agricultural employers:

AB 26 (Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia), legislation to require California employers to use the federal E-Verify system when verifying employee eligibility, is scheduled for hearing before the Assembly Judiciary Committee on March 22; this hearing was originally scheduled for March 15.

SB 129, (Mark Leno, D-San Francisco), would impose numerous restrictions on employers’ disciplinary actions against employees under the influence of medical marijuana in the workplace. SB 129 is scheduled for a hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 22.

AB 10 (Luis Alejo, D-Salinas), legislation to raise the California minimum wage to $8 per hour and index it to inflation thereafter; AB 59, (Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland), legislation to expand the qualifying family members an employee may take family and medical leave for in order to render care; and AB 243 (Luis Alejo, D-Salinas), to facilitate lawsuits against farmers for the errors of farm labor contractors, will be heard at the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee on March 30.

AB 197, legislation to allow employees to recover double the amount of unpaid wages as punitive damages in an unpaid wage claims case; and AB 553, legislation to require Cal/OSHA to significantly tighten it’s Permissible Exposure Standards for certain hazardous substances will both be heard by the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee on April 14. Both bills are offered by Santa Cruz Assemblyman Bill Monning (D).

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