Ken Lund, Creative Commons via Flickr
A Tale of Two Bad Bills

A Tale of Two Bad Bills

California’s powerful unions had the state Assembly in its usual vise grip Monday as a legislative deadline loomed that made it do-or-die for some bills.

All eyes were on AB1400, the bill that would put the state government in charge of healthcare for every Californian. But Monday afternoon, the legislation’s sponsor, Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), surprised observers and pulled the bill that would have created “CalCare,” a single-payer healthcare system that would be run by the kinds of people who can’t manage the state’s employment department or DMV.

“We did not have the votes necessary for passage and I decided the best course of action is to not put AB 1400 for a vote today,” Kalra said in a statement.

Sane people everywhere celebrated the reprieve. Imagine handing over one of the most complicated industries in modern civilization to men and women like Ash Kalra, a besuited legislator with whom you would not entrust an electric toothbrush. Imagine handing over life-and-death decisions to the people whose recklessness around systems technology sent more than $20 billion in unemployment benefits to organized criminals.

Kalra’s last-minute move was a savvy act of political self-preservation for Assembly members facing re-election in November. But the union activists behind the bill, the California Nurses Association (CNA) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU), went ballistic. Even knowing the bill had more enemies than friends, they insisted on a kind of last stand. They wanted a vote so that, as one member of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party put it, they could get “names” to create their own enemies list.

In a press statement, the Progressive Caucus, which threatened to block the endorsements of any Democrat who voted against “CalCare,” declared it would hunt down defectors despite the lack of a vote: “Our delegates and volunteers have identified dozens of candidates who either indicated they opposed the measure or failed to support it. Our Caucus will continue with its plans to pull their endorsements.”

And so the unions and progressives will continue their political theatrics, punishing any legislator who has the audacity to suggest putting the brakes on a government-run healthcare system that would increase the top marginal tax rate on wage income to 18.05% and impose a 2.3% gross receipts tax on already beleaguered businesses, and only accelerate the massive California Exodus of people and businesses fleeing the state.

Kalra’s bill is dead for this year, but keep your wooden stakes ready: It’s likely to come back to life after the election.

Unions Twist Arms with Fast Food Bill

Despite their loss on CalCare, unions are celebrating a big Assembly win on AB257 – the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act, or “FAST Recovery Act.” Sponsored by SEIU, AB257 would create a government council that would take over labor “negotiations” with fast-food businesses, setting statewide minimums for wages, working hours, and working conditions for restaurants and workers in the state.

As Assemblyman Kelly Seyarto (R-Murrieta) correctly observed, the bill’s state-imposed contract would “just drive entire franchises and franchise brands away from California.” And while the unions are using McDonald’s as the face of the “evil corporation” they are up against, the reality is the bill, if it becomes law, will punish existing and potential minority owners of franchises as well as the low-income communities that rely on fast-food restaurants for food and jobs.

In fact, the greedy villain in this story isn’t fast-food chains. It’s the labor unions that are pouring buckets of cash into a bill they don’t actually want to pass. The unions’ real strategy is to use AB257 to strong-arm fast-food restaurants into unionizing.

The payoff? Over a half a million fast-food workers that union leaders hope will soon pay union dues in the hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

Don’t take our word for it. Former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the bill’s author, openly admits it. Gonzalez, who recently resigned her seat in the Assembly to head up the California Labor Federation, reportedly said that state government shouldn’t be in the business of bargaining and that she hopes to encourage more support for labor unions.

“Maybe an individual fast-food franchise or restaurant says ‘You know what, I’d rather have a conversation with my workers in my workplace, allow them if they so want to unionize, and provide them not what these people at the state level are bargaining for but what the workers in my workplace actually want,” Gonzalez said. “That would be a great solution.”

Translation: Your restaurants must unionize or we will have our politicians in Sacramento crush you.

Since Gonzalez is running the Labor Fed, AB257 is now being carried by Chris Holden (D-Pasadena). It heads next to the State Senate for a vote.

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