The final gavel fell last week on the 2020 legislative session. Cut short by seven weeks due to the coronavirus, lawmakers were forced to take a backseat to Gov. Newsom, who made use of his wide-ranging emergency powers to lock down businesses to stop the spread of the virus and provide financial relief. Meantime, against the backdrop of riots and racial tension, Democrats made the most of advancing their progressive agenda. Here are just some of the bills that will do Californians more harm than good:
AB 979 Diversity in Corporate Boards
California will be the first state to require racial quotas on corporate boards if Newsom signs this bill into law. AB 979 mandates that at least one person from an “underrepresented community” is on the board of companies headquartered in California. This bill, along with Prop. 16 which would bring back racial preferences, is part of the war being waged against meritocracy in so many of America’s institutions. As I’ve written in Right by the Bay, a system of meritocracy is the only way a melting pot state like California can operate, succeed, and prosper.
SB 852 Health Care: Prescription Drugs
In another first, California will be the first state to get into the pharmaceutical business by negotiating with manufacturers to sell its own label of generic drugs. This move is supposed to increase competition and reduce prices. But PRI senior fellow Wayne Winegarden points out that 95 percent of prescriptions for generic drugs cost $25 or less, so there’s not much room for generic drug prices to fall further: “If Newsom’s new drugmaker is going to undercut existing generic prices, it will have to sell its wares at loss-inducing prices. These losses will be compounded by the additional costs the state will incur monitoring its new drug retailing entity.” Any reduction in drug prices will ultimately be subsidized by California taxpayers.
SB 1383 Unlawful Employment Practice: Family Leave
SB 1383 forces very small businesses to hold open a job for up to three months for employees who become new parents or who want to care for a sick family member. I’ve covered this bill in more detail here. Requiring small business owners to guarantee jobs will raise their costs and increase their exposure to lawsuits. One would think that with so many businesses forced by the state to shutter their doors because of the pandemic, lawmakers would give mom and pop business owners a break.
AB 3121 Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans
AB 3121 will create a nine-member task force to look into ways to pay reparations to African Americans despite the fact that California was a free state. Assemblyman Kevin Kiley’s (R-Rocklin) office said that that these issues are better handled at the federal level. We would go further and agree with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who believes that it would be hard to figure out who to compensate: “We’ve had waves of immigrants as well come to the country and experience dramatic discrimination of one kind or another so no, I don’t think reparations are a good idea.” Americans have fought a civil war, passed landmark civil rights legislation, and the courts have capably dealt with discrimination. America’s not perfect, but reparations could cause even more division in this country.
SB 793 Flavored Tobacco Products
This bill, which was already signed into law by Gov. Newsom, would ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products, mostly vaping products that help smokers break the deadly habit. Keeping these products out of the hands of children makes absolute sense, but education and enforcement is the better way to achieve it. As Steve Greenhut argues, this bill targets safer products and boosts the market share of the truly dangerous ones. “It’s far better for public health if a smoker relies on lower-risk products than higher-risk ones. That would seem obvious anywhere except the California Legislature.”
AB 1876 Extending Tax Credits to Illegal Immigrants
AB 1876 would allow illegal immigrants who file taxes to receive California’s tax refund for low-income residents. Previously, only taxpayers with a Social Security number could claim the California Earned Income Tax Credit. This bill further blurs the distinction between those who are here legally and those who aren’t and invites more illegal immigrants to settle in the state. When Newsom laments that there is no money left in the piggy bank to provide pandemic relief for Californians, it’s priorities like these that send Californians fleeing to states with more sensible policies.
Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific research Institute.