Even before California's 2016 session gets underway in January, legislative committees have been scheduling bills for hearing next month.  So far, hearings on bills of interest to California private-sector employers include the following:

  • SB 368. This is a bill backed by the business community and the Republican legislative minority, and has been proposed in previous sessions.  The bill would permit an individual, nonexempt employee to request an employee-selected flexible work schedule providing for workdays up to 10 hours per day, within a 40-hour workweek, and would allow the employer to implement this schedule without the obligation to pay overtime compensation for those additional hours in a workday. To be heard in Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, January 13, 2016, 9:30 a.m.
  • AB 326. This bill would require the Department of Industrial Relations to quickly release employer funds, plus interest earned, deposited in escrow as security for possible liquidated damages, to those found to be entitled to those funds, following the conclusion of all administrative and judicial review of proceedings.   To be heard in Assembly Labor and Employment Committee, January 6, 2016, 1:30 p.m.
  • SB 702. This bill would require temporary services agencies to include in their Workplace Theft Prevention (WTPA) notices (also known as “Labor Code section 2810.5 notices”) the email address, if one is on file with the temporary services employer, of the legal entity for whom an employee will perform work. To be heard in Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, January 13, 2016, 9:30 a.m.

Bills can be tracked through the California Legislature’s website at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov. This site includes committee reports on individual bills, normally issued at least one legislative day before a bill is heard in committee, or on the floor.  If a committee’s hearings are streamed live online, they can be accessed through http://www.calchannel.com/live-webcast.

Look for the appearance, perhaps from spot bills,1 of the following proposed policy changes in 2016:

  • Expansion of the California Family Leave Act's (CFLA) scope of coverage.
  • Prohibition on mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements as a condition of hiring or continued employment.
  • Limitations on a hiring employer's ability to request an applicant's previous salary history.
  • Expansion of penalties and lowering of the employee threshold that would trigger the imposition of various violations of the Labor Code.

2016 Ballot Initiatives

Other new laws in 2016 will stem from general election ballot initiatives.  So far, according to the California Attorney General’s website, only three measures have qualified for the November 2016 general election ballot: a school bond measure, a revenue bond measure, and a measure requiring healthy practices in the making of adult films. 

However, at this writing, 113 proposed ballot initiatives have been submitted to the AG’s office for review, titling, summarizing, and fiscal analysis.  The subjects of these proposed laws run the public-policy subject gamut, from abortion to increasing the minimum wage to reforming the Legislature and its practices (including making all legislative votes secret). Other topics for consideration include the death penalty and other criminal justice reform, water conservation, compensation of hospital executives, halting construction of the high-speed train between Northern and Southern California, public assistance, and control and possession of ferrets.  Notably, nearly one in five measures submitted to the AG’s office for vetting were on the subjects of legalization and marketing of marijuana.  The “green wave” will undoubtedly be a major issue in the 2016 general election in California.

The vast majority of these 113 proposals will not qualify for the November 2016 ballot due to lack of support or financing, or loss of interest by their proponents – but some of them will qualify, and might even be passed. Political observers believe the November 2016 ballot could have 15 to 20 initiatives on it. If it were the latter total, this would be the most initiatives California has had on the ballot since March 2000. 

2016 Leadership

Lastly, there will be new leaders in both chambers in 2016.  In the Assembly, term limits spurred two upcoming replacements: Anthony Rendon of Lakewood will replace Speaker Toni Atkins of San Diego, and Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley will replace Kristin Olsen of Modesto as minority leader.  In the Senate, Jean Fuller of Bakersfield last August succeeded the then-minority leader, Bob Huff of San Dimas, who is running for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.