March 23, 2017

2017: The Year Ahead in Sacramento

The California Legislature descended on Sacramento in January to begin the 2017-2018 session. This is a challenging and busy time for Western Growers staff as we meet with the new members of the Assembly and Senate to introduce them to WG and to the myriad of daily challenges that our industry faces.

These meetings serve an important role in allowing us an opportunity early in the legislative process to identify and discuss specific problems we face on crop protection, labor, water supply and quality, and other issues. WG staff also provides information on recommended legislative and regulatory changes that would best help the industry. These meetings are also helpful in gaining insight into the legislative priorities that are likely to come to the forefront throughout the session. Indeed, Assembly and Senate members often ask for our thoughts and perspectives on a particular legislative idea. Over the years several proposals have been scuttled before ever seeing the light of day because of the concerns expressed early by WG’s advocates in Sacramento.

Early speculation has it that 2017 will be a uniquely-challenging year for the entire state business community in Sacramento. There are several signs that this could very well prove to be true. The Legislature has introduced 500 more bills this year than last, totaling 2,495 bills. The greater bill load will allow members to pursue a larger number of policy and political goals, and paves the legislative pathway for them to do that more aggressively.

Most notably, the election of President Donald Trump has ignited a groundswell of opposition to his presidency by a large number of key Democratic legislators, and this opposition has already found its way into some of the legislative priorities for 2017. Both the legislative leadership and Governor Jerry Brown have made it clear on numerous occasions that they will not hesitate to move aggressively to defend existing California policies against Trump Administration actions that may either seek to repeal or significantly alter those policies. Although it is expected that many of these battles will take place in the courts, legislators have also said that defending the state’s positions means doubling down on California’s progressive policies on important topics such as the environment, climate change and labor.

These statements are of great concern for our industry and for the larger business community. Especially since these progressive policy agendas are very difficult to defeat without a robust moderate Democratic caucus that is willing to take a hard stand, make their voice heard and either abstain or vote against such legislation. Last year on the ag overtime issue, we witnessed what can happen when the moderate Democratic caucus loses its determination. The larger business community needs to learn from this and continue reaching out to both educate and build a larger and stronger moderate Democratic caucus.

WG staff expects that there will be substantial focus on these topics in the weeks and months ahead and we remain committed to engage as aggressively as ever to fight actions that threaten the profitability and sustainability of our members and their employees and their families.