September 21, 2020

Santa Clara County Worse Than the State?

Written by Mark Turner, President & CEO, Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chair, Silicon Valley Coalition of Chambers

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA – On Monday, September 14, the Silicon Valley Coalition of Chambers, an organization made up of Chambers of Commerce from in and around Silicon Valley, held a press conference to express their concerns over the restrictive measures in place by the County of Santa Clara due to COVID-19. Six months into what was intended be a short-term shelter in place order, local businesses are suffering to the point of extinction because Santa Clara County officials have not created an environment where businesses can safely reopen and have a fighting chance to survive.

Adam McCann, a financial writer for WalletHub, reports on a survey done by that organization to determine the states with the fewest C-19 restrictions. WalletHub compared all 50 states and the District of Colombia. They used 17 key metrics to conclude their findings. California ranked #50 out of 51. Worse yet, Santa Clara County is more restrictive than the state. Not only is the smoke from the various fires around the region wreaking havoc on outdoor dining and other activities, the overly restrictive regulations by the County Health Department are choking small businesses beyond their ability to recover. With the onset of winter, operating outside will not be viable. The only solution is one that includes resumption of indoor activities.

The National Restaurant Associations reports that 1 in 6 restaurants are closed either permanently or for the long term. 3 million restaurant workers are still out of work. The National Restaurant Association also indicates that restaurant sales are down on average by 34% and that that a majority of restaurant operators say their operational costs are higher now than before the pandemic.

Staying closed is not a sustainable strategy, nor is opening too soon with insufficient direction or safeguards. The Silicon Valley Coalition of Chambers strongly urges the County leaders to follow this 5-Point Plan to safely reopen the economy.

  1. Allow the business community a seat at the table when making decisions regarding reopening the economy
  2. Clearly communicate what protocols and procedures businesses can implement to create safe environments in order to reopen.
  3. Provide direction and support for what needs to happen within the County infrastructure.
  4. Identify the goals and objectives for a safe reopening without moving the targets.
  5. Provide financial assistance if businesses are to remain closed.

Reopening the economy and keeping the County’s residents safe is an objective that can be achieved simultaneously. Achieving one at the cost of the other is a short-sighted answer to the long-term challenge we face.

Businesses cannot remain closed and expect to survive. Poverty is increasing and is in itself a health emergency. Local businesses employ residents, pay local taxes, contribute to local non-profits, support local schools, and help local causes. It is time to help our businesses to get back to work and restore a healthy community.

Most Job Killer Bills Bite the Dust Again

Each legislative cycle, the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce partners with the California Chamber of Commerce to defeat bills considered to be “job killers.” This year, like years past, these combined efforts found good success. The article written below by Dan Waters (Cal Matters), highlights that success.

As COVID-19 slammed into California a half-year ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a partial shutdown of what had been a high-flying economy to combat the deadly virus, plunging the state into its worst recession since the Great Depression.

In turn, the pandemic and the recession spawned a flurry of legislative bills aimed, their sponsors said, at ameliorating the effects on the lives of ordinary Californians, especially those who suddenly saw their jobs vanish.

They included expansions of support programs such as workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance, limiting or suspending evictions for nonpayment of rent, blocking mortgage foreclosures, requiring employers to provide more family leave, and making it easier for laid-off workers to regain their jobs.

Inevitably, several of those crisis-related bills found their way onto the California Chamber of Commerce’s annual “job killer” list of measures that business and employer groups consider to be the most onerous or costly.

Just 10 measures were placed on the initial list in March, but it later grew to 19, many sponsored by the chamber’s traditional foes — unions, personal injury attorneys, environmental groups and consumer advocates.

Between 1997, when the program began, and 2019, the “job killer” label was applied to 761 bills and just 62 had become law, a 92% kill ratio. But with the heightened tension of pandemic and recession, and with Democrats holding three-fourths of the Legislature’s seats, it was unclear whether the chamber and allied groups could continue that winning streak.

When the Legislature adjourned this month after a truncated, often chaotic session, the chamber’s record was still intact. Just two of the list’s targeted measures had been sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom, one aimed at protecting return rights for furloughed workers (Assembly Bill 3216) and another expanding family leave (Senate Bill 1383).

Some of those that failed were simply shunted aside without decisive votes and some were watered down sufficiently to escape the “job killer” designation.

The eviction and foreclosure measures were replaced by legislation granting temporary reprieves and the workers’ compensation measures were set aside as Newsom issued executive orders temporarily granting benefits to workers deemed to be “essential” if they were infected.

Measures on the list not directly related to the health and economic crisis, particularly those calling for new taxes on employers or wealthy Californians, were among the casualties. Although liberal, pro-spending groups loudly demanded tax increases to fill holes in state, school district and local government budgets, there was only token support among legislators.

That reluctance reflected a sense that in a severe recession, Californians are leery about new taxes, and a concern that legislative action could undermine passage of Proposition 15, a November ballot measure that would boost taxes on commercial property by as much as $12 billion a year. After the session ended, Newsom endorsed Proposition 15, whose prospects are iffy at best, but pointedly rejected new income or wealth taxes.

The Legislature will reconvene in December, Democrats will still be dominant, and their nominal allies will have their agendas of bills introduced again. The state Chamber of Commerce will once again choose some of the new measures for its “job killer” list and the annual jousting of competing interests will begin anew.

As predictable as the exercise may be, we don’t know whether COVID-19 will still be a threat or whether the state’s economy will have begun to recover. Thus, we don’t know whether the twin crises will still preoccupy the 2021 legislative session.

Small Businesses will be Devastated!

 

Supreme Court Makes Local Tax Hike Easier

Written by Dan Walters, Cal Matters

In a roundabout, passive way, the California Supreme Court last week handed a big victory to the advocates of higher taxes.

Without comment, the justices declined to take up a state appellate court decision that would allow specialized local government taxes to be increased by a simple majority of voters, if they are placed on the ballot by initiative petitions rather than by the governments themselves.

The victory for tax proponents, especially government worker unions, was an equally large defeat for anti-tax organizations such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. However, it also may bring more ballot box budgeting and indirectly weaken the role of city councils and other locally elected boards.

Proposition 218, approved by California voters in 1996, declares that local governments seeking more revenue must win voter approval. Proposals for general purpose revenue through increases in sales taxes or other levies need only simple-majority approval. However, if cities, counties and other local governments seek new taxes for specific purposes, Proposition 218 requires two-thirds votes.

Three years ago, the state Supreme Court issued a decision called “Upland” because it dealt with a ballot measure on taxing marijuana in that Southern California city.

Writing the 5-2 majority opinion, Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar declared, “Multiple provisions of the state constitution explicitly constrain the power of local governments to raise taxes. But we will not lightly apply such restrictions on local governments to voter initiatives.”

He thus implied that special purpose taxes placed before voters via initiative may not be affected by the two-thirds vote requirement for taxes sought by governments themselves.

Quickly, special purpose taxes placed on the ballot via initiative that garnered less that two-thirds votes were challenged by the Jarvis organization and other taxpayer groups, but trial court judges differed sharply on whether Cuéllar’s opinion did, indeed, validate them.

Two of the tests were San Francisco taxes placed on the ballot via initiatives personally sponsored by members of the city’s Board of Supervisors, one for early childhood education, the other to battle homelessness. Both received less than two-thirds votes, but a local judge, Ethan Schulman, validated them anyway.

In June, a San Francisco-based appellate court upheld Schulman on the homelessness taxes and the Jarvis organization appealed to the state Supreme Court, which last week validated the appellate court ruling by refusing to take it up.

The tax on business gross receipts for homelessness services will raise as much as $300 million a year. “San Francisco voters have the right to direct democracy and self-government,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement. “We’re pleased that this legal victory will free up millions of dollars to provide services, housing and mental health treatment for those who most desperately need it in our city.”

The Supreme Court’s action, or non-action, also may validate other disputed special purpose taxes, including another for early childhood education in San Francisco, an Oakland parcel tax for education and a Fresno sales tax for parks. Local judges had blocked the Oakland and Fresno taxes, declaring that Proposition 218 required them to have two-thirds votes.

Local government officials prefer to ask voters for general revenues because they are more flexible. But advocates for particular causes prefer special purpose taxes to prevent revenues from being diverted elsewhere.

The way is now clear for interests with the wherewithal to qualify and pass ballot measures, such as unions, to push for taxes that benefit their members, thus reducing the authority of local elected officials to set budget priorities.

Gig Workers Like and Want Flexibility, That’s Why They Became Gig Workers

Editorial written by, Jeff Joseph, Professor, George Washington University School of Business

Are gig workers ⁠— think Uber drivers or Door Dashers ⁠— seeking to trade their flexible occupations for a full-time, 40-hour-week job?

Two recent surveys suggest they’re not interested. A survey of 1,000 on-demand drivers, commissioned by Uber and conducted by a duo of polling firms representing clients on the political left and right, finds that 85 percent prefer some version of their current flexible arrangement. Another survey ⁠— this one of 1,000 independent contractors, and commissioned by Lyft ⁠— concluded that 71 percent want to retain their current status.

Both surveys suggest that workers are happy with their “gig.” Don’t tell that to labor unions and their allies. To bolster their opposition to Proposition 22 ⁠— an initiative on the fall ballot that would solidify on-demand drivers’ and shoppers’ status ⁠— labor has pointed to a handful of comforting studies suggesting that gig workers are exploited.

The first, released through a San Francisco city commission, claimed that most gig workers work full-time schedules and earn poverty-level wages while doing so. But records requests, reported by the Washington Free Beacon, discovered that this conclusion was based on a convenience survey of respondents identified by a labor group–many of whom were paid for their answers. The study organizer acknowledged that the survey–which was drafted to “support organizing” ⁠— was “not representative” of gig workers’ experiences.

Speaking of unrepresentative: Labor and its allies have also hinged their case on a 2019 working paper from Veena Dubal, a law professor at the University of California-Hastings. In her paper, Dubal dismisses the numerous statistical surveys showing that on-demand drivers don’t want to be employees. Her own conclusions are based on “unstructured conversations with drivers in driver organizing meetings” ⁠— among other unrepresentative sources.

Got that? Having sought out the unhappy few among the on-demand shopper and driver community, Dubal concludes that all drivers in the state must feel similarly.

This anti-empirical stance by labor and its academic allies, and their unwillingness to acknowledge that shoppers and drivers prefer their “gigs,” has dangerous consequences. In a recent legal brief, rideshare company Uber described in damning detail what would happen should it be forced to convert its independent drivers into full-time employees.

An estimated 75 percent of current drivers would lose access to the Uber employment model–resulting in one million lost employment opportunities. (The legal brief notes that these facts are undisputed by the company’s opponents.) Prices would increase for riders by anywhere from 20 to 120 percent; the company further explains that “at least a quarter of rides would no longer be available, with certain cities experiencing a decrease of 40-60 percent.”
The stories behind these statistics are heartbreaking. The Uber brief recites the story of one driver who uses the app to support her two children. One of her children has special needs, which means she can’t work a traditional schedule. If Uber in its current form was no longer available, she wouldn’t be able to support herself.

Another driver is the caregiver for her ailing husband and uses the on-demand app to earn extra income. Yet another has a wife in poor health and couldn’t work a 40-hour-per-week job even if he wanted to. The brief cites several other stories, noting that hundreds of thousands of other drivers have their own personal reasons for working in the gig economy.

The data are clear: For gig workers, flexibility is a perk of the job, not a bug. California legislators, and their constituents, should base their decisions about the future of the gig economy based on robust surveys that reflect this opinion ⁠— rather than flawed reports that tell their funders what they want to hear.

Chamber Board Seeks Nominations for the 2021 Spice of Life Awards

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors invites the community to nominate individuals and businesses for the 2021 Spice of Life awards. Applications are available online at gilroy.org and at the Gilroy Chamber office with the deadline to submit Friday, October 9, 2021. Categories include:

2021 Man and Woman of the Year – designed to acknowledge those persons who have a history of unselfish service to the community, contributing to Gilroy’s welfare and betterment.

2021 Small and Large Business of the Year – designed to recognize an outstanding Gilroy Chamber of Commerce business which has demonstrated an extraordinary level of excellence and success in areas such as management skills, innovation, personal commitment, community involvement and support, and a contribution to the entrepreneurial spirit. Separate categories are presented based on business size with small businesses being 25 full or part-time employees or less and large businesses with 26 and above full or part-time employees.

2021 Gilroy Educator of the Year – designed to recognize an outstanding individual who has made a significant contribution within the educational community of Gilroy.

2021 Firman B. Voorhies Volunteer of the Year – designed to recognize an outstanding Gilroy Chamber of Commerce volunteer.

2021 Non-Profit of the Year – designed to recognize an outstanding non-profit organization in Gilroy.

2021 Young Professional of the Year – designed to recognize the accomplishments of a highly motivated young professional who works or lives in South County. Nominees for this award must be between the ages of 21-40 years old.

2021 Susan Valenta Youth Leadership Award – Awarded to young leaders in the community who inspire others through their service and dedication

 

 

September 14, 2020

Business Leaders and Faith Leaders Call on County to Reopen

A diverse coalition of 15 Chambers of Commerce, 50+ Bay Area faith organizations, elected officials, and numerous small businesses hoste a press conference calling upon the Santa Clara County leadership to proactively and collaboratively find solutions to safely reopen the economy.

Speakers highlighted the economic devastation to small businesses and the specific impacts to low income families, the need for the County to provide more and clearer guidelines for businesses, as well as increase local support for small businesses/working families. The speakers also provided ideas and examples of how to safely reopen the economy.

Nearly 70% of companies in Silicon Valley are classified as small businesses and represent the majority of economically challenged employees. Due to the pandemic, nearly 30% of these businesses have permanently closed or are on the verge of closing. Additionally, more than 45,000 families have been driven into poverty in Santa Clara County and another 14,000 families are at-risk unless we provide immediate local solutions to restart the economy and slow the spread of COVID-19.

CineLux To Debut Drive-In Theater in Gilroy

REMODELED THEATER AWAITS COUNTY’S OK TO REOPEN

Article By Erik Chalhoub, The Gilroy Dispatch

For nearly two years, Gilroy residents anxiously awaited the city’s only movie theater to reopen while it underwent an extensive renovation.

The CineLux Gilroy Cafe and Lounge at 6851 Monterey St. was ready to reopen its doors in March, inviting the community to gander at its various upgrades and view the latest Hollywood releases in luxury reclining chairs.

However, just before the corn kernels started popping, the country went on lockdown to fight the growing Covid-19 threat, and indoor activities, such as movie theaters, were among the first to be prohibited.

But CineLux Theatres is bringing back an experience thought at one time in the not-so-distant past to be a dying relic, but now is undergoing a revival: drive-in theater.

The CineLux Pop-Up Drive-In will make its debut Sept. 10 at 8pm in the Gilroy theater’s parking lot, with “The Goonies” being the evening’s entertainment shown on a 40-foot inflatable screen.

CineLux Area Manager Christopher Gunsky said the event will mark the first time the company has hosted a pop-up drive-in theater.

“We’re really excited to open it up,” he said. “There’s not a lot of options to get out of the house anymore. This is definitely a really cool option that we can provide for our community here in Gilroy.”

Capacity is limited to 50 vehicles. Tickets can be purchased at CineLux’s website at tinyurl.com/y5bfplfk.

CineLux also debuted its Take-Home Concessions event on Sept. 3, where people could purchase popcorn and other theater snack staples inside the remodeled lobby and take them home. More such events are scheduled at the Gilroy theater on Sept. 11 and 12 from 5-8pm.

The first take-home event was successful, Gunsky said.

“I was really blown away by how supportive everyone was,” he said. “We have some awesome support from our community. It was so much fun.”

California officials moved Santa Clara County into the “Red Tier” as part of the state’s new Covid-19 reopening plan on Sept. 8. Under that tier, movie theaters can reopen. However, the county’s Risk Reduction Order prohibits movie theaters to reopen indoor operations, and the stricter of the state or local order takes priority.

Whenever movie theaters are allowed to open in the county, Gilroy cinephiles will at long last be able to experience the upgrades CineLux put into the former Platinum Theaters.


California Adopts New Exemptions from AB 5 Independent Contractor Classification

Article by Caroline Dickey, Barnes and Thornburg, LLP

Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill intended to exempt certain workers from the strict requirements of the ABC test for independent contractor classification. The law took effect immediately when Newsom signed AB 2257 on Sept. 4, 2020. 

California adopted AB 5 last year, which requires that businesses treat workers as employees unless they pass the ABC test: (A) the worker is free from the company’s control and direction; (B) the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and (C) the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed. 

The law has been widely criticized by business groups and freelancers, who argued that the new standard was too strict and made it more difficult for them to earn a living. AB 2257 aims to address some of these criticisms by exempting various occupations from the requirements of AB 5. The list of newly exempted occupations include: 

  • Animal services including dog groomers and walkers
  • Caddies
  • Competition judges
  • Consultants
  • Feedback aggregators
  • Furniture assemblers
  • Graphic designers
  • Handypersons
  • Home inspectors
  • Insurance underwriters
  • Interpreters
  • Licensed landscape architects
  • Manufactured housing salespersons
  • Movers
  • Musicians
  • People engaged by an international exchange visitor program
  • Performance artists
  • Photo editors
  • Photojournalists
  • Pool cleaners
  • Real estate appraisers
  • Registered professional foresters
  • Specialized performers teaching master classes
  • Still photographers
  • Translators
  • Tutors
  • Videographers
  • Web designers
  • Wedding and event planners and vendors
  • Workers who run errands
  • Youth sports coaches

These new categories are in addition to the 47 categories of workers identified for special treatment under the original formulation of AB 5. Like with those original categories of workers, the categories exempted under AB 2257 each have their own special hurdles that, once met, allow them to be assessed pursuant to the less-stringent, multifactor test for independent contractor classification previously adopted in S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations (1989).

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who authored both AB 5 and AB 2257, said the clean-up bill aims to address the needs of people who are legitimate freelancers while making sure that companies don’t exploit workers. Gig economy tech companies such as Uber and Lyft remain subject to the original AB 5 formulation and have been lobbying for the passage of a voter initiative addressing their businesses that is on the ballot this November.  

© 2020 BARNES & THORNBURG LLP

More Local Tax Initiatives on the Horizon

Editorial By Joel Fox, Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Many government officials have detested the initiative process, but maybe a non-action by the California Supreme Court will change that attitude. The Court decided not to take up a case challenging a tax increase for a specific purpose that garnered a majority vote but not the two-thirds that was thought to be required for earmarked taxes. A lower court declared the two-thirds requirement only applies to local governments raising taxes. If the tax increase comes via direct democracy, then the restriction doesn’t apply.

By the Supreme Court refusing to take up a challenge to the lower court ruling, for now the door has been opened for initiative generated earmarked special taxes to be passed with a majority vote. In this instance, the City of San Francisco raised gross receipts taxes on certain businesses to fund homeless services.

With the constant clamoring for more revenue for all sorts of government functions, you can bet that many local initiatives will be launched to raise revenues. Earmarked taxes usually have stronger pull with voters because arguments can be made specifically on how the revenue will be used. Rarely discussed is the downside of requiring taxes to be spent only for specific purposes. This binds the governing bodies of jurisdictions and can tie local budgets into knots.

As reported here before, the issue of whether initiative tax increases had to follow the same rules as local governments as constitutionally established by Proposition 218 in 1996 came out of a marijuana case in Upland. 

The issue before the court in California Cannabis Coalition vs. City of Upland was whether a measure dealing with fees and taxes related to medical marijuana dispensaries could appear on a special election ballot when Proposition 218 expressly calls for tax measures to be voted on in general elections. However, in making its decision, the court potentially allowed for much more than changes in the timing of votes. It broadly declared that Proposition 218’s restrictions on taxation only applied to local governments.

 Immediately speculation arose that the ruling would allow local tax measures placed on the ballot by initiative could pass with a majority vote. It was unclear if that was the court’s intention. The matter is not totally closed with the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal in the San Francisco case because other cases involving special taxes proposed by initiative but unable to secure a two-thirds vote are still being contested. If a different District Court comes up with a ruling that declares the two-thirds mandate must be followed, then the Supreme Court will get another opportunity to rule specifically on the issue.

However, by refusing to take up the San Francisco tax case, the Supreme Court has given a good indication where it might come down on a direct challenge to Proposition 218’s effect on initiatives.

The opportunity now exists for advocates of more government spending that have financial power—think public employee unions—to go the initiative route to raise taxes with lower standards to prevent the tax increase. This becomes more likely as local budgets are squeezed even tighter by pension and other benefit obligations owed public workers.

Updated EEOC COVID-19 Guidance … Again

Article By Matthew J. Robert, Esq., Employment Law Counsel

As we reach the half-year mark of the pandemic state of emergency, government agencies continue to regularly add new and updated COVID-19-related guidance for employers to follow as they navigate keeping businesses open during these unprecedented times. This week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its COVID-19-related guidance. This update is significant as the EEOC chose to add to or update 20 of its frequently asked questions, focusing mainly on questions employers may ask their employees as employers continue their infection control measures while providing additional guidance on COVID-19 testing.

Testing

In previous guidance, the EEOC advised that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) permits employers to administer COVID-19 testing to its employees if the employer determines that an employee’s presence in the workplace poses a direct threat of harm to the workforce. The updated guidance reiterates this position but also provides additional flexibility to employers. The EEOC states that the ADA doesn’t prohibit an employer from following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, emphasizing how important it is for employers to stay up to date on CDC testing guidance.

Asking Questions

The EEOC provides a series of scenarios addressing what questions an employer may ask related to COVID-19 and advises that under the ADA, employers may:

  • Ask all employees that are physically entering a workplace if they have COVID-19; have symptoms of COVID-19; or have been tested for COVID-19. Employers may not ask these same questions of employees teleworking and isolated from other employees.
  • Ask individual employees if they have COVID-19 symptoms; or ask individual employees to undergo temperature or testing screening only if they have a reasonable belief the employee may have the disease.
  • Not ask an employee medical questions about the employee’s family members, but may ask general questions about potential exposure to COVID-19.
  • Ask an employee why the employee was absent from work.
  • Ask employees returning from travel whether the employee is returning from a location that the CDC, or state or local public health officials, determine requires a period of isolation.

Policies and Procedures Regarding Receiving and Storing Employee Medical Information 

Because COVID-19 has created competing privacy and health and safety issues, the EEOC provides some guidance to employers on how to approach different difficult workplace scenarios. For instance, the EEOC advises that the ADA doesn’t prohibit an employer from disciplining or excluding an employee from the workplace because the employee refused to submit to symptom screening. However, the EEOC encourages employers to ask for further general information from the employee as to why they’re refusing because the employee may request a reasonable accommodation.

The EEOC also provides additional guidance on disclosing medical information within the workplace. For example, although the ADA requires that an employer keep all medical information private regardless of whether it’s a disability, supervisors and employees who learn of an employee’s COVID-19 symptoms or diagnosis may still disclose that to the appropriate employer official who needs to know so that the employer can take infection control measures. The EEOC reiterates that this information should be kept strictly confidential to the maximum extent possible and only those with a need to know to implement infection control measures should know this information.

Lastly, because many are working remotely, a lot of private information is being passed digitally. Employers need to ensure the security of this information so that only those with a need to know the medical information has access to it, and that any medical information the employer receives about an employee is stored away from an employee’s personnel file.

Reasonable Accommodations

The EEOC addresses some new issues in reasonable accommodations that have arisen since the pandemic started. One of the key questions is whether employers will be required to provide telework as a reasonable accommodation moving forward if an employer provided a temporary teleworking arrangement during COVID-19.

The EEOC advises that an employer will not be automatically required to do so but will need to evaluate whether the individual circumstances make it such that it’s reasonable and that it doesn’t cause an undue hardship. The temporary teleworking arrangement created by COVID-19 could serve as a means for an employer to evaluate whether certain positions can be performed remotely when, in the past, an employer believed a position was not suitable for remote working. The EEOC reminds employers to continue to engage in good faith interactive processes and lean toward being as flexible as possible during the pandemic, and beyond.

Media Advisory - Anderson Dam

Santa Clara County recreation areas around Anderson Dam and Reservoir set to close Oct. 1, 2020

Starting Oct. 1, Valley Water will begin draining Anderson Reservoir to the lowest level using the existing outlet in response to an order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reduce the risk to the public should Anderson Dam fail during a major earthquake. 

Draining the reservoir is the first in a series of activities aimed at making the dam earthquake safe. Currently, if a catastrophic failure of Anderson Dam were to happen during the rainy season when the reservoir is full, an area extending more than 30 miles north to San Francisco Bay and 40 miles south to Monterey Bay could see disastrous flooding. 

To keep the public safe during construction, Valley Water is closing many recreation areas around Anderson Dam and Reservoir for several years, until the dam is entirely replaced with a new dam. Consequently, starting Oct. 1, 2020, the following recreation areas will be closed:

  • Toyon Group Picnic and Parking Areas; Serpentine Trail; Dam Crest
  • Woodchoppers Flat 
  • Anderson Lake Park’s boating and fishing, boat and vehicle parking areas, and boat ramp; Coyote Road from the toe of the dam to the boat and vehicle parking areas; and Lakeview Trail is closed from the Anderson Launch Ramp parking lot trailhead to the westernmost junction with the Rancho Laguna Seca Trail.
  • Fishing will be closed for the entire reservoir shoreline

The Live Oak Picnic Area will remain open to the public and can be accessed from Cochrane Road.

For project updates and to learn more about the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project: https://www.valleywater.org/anderson-dam-project

September 8, 2020

GilPAC Endorses Mayoral and Council Candidates

Gilroy needs leaders who can navigate through the economic challenges facing our community with the ability to focus on becoming a recreation destination, attract good paying jobs, tackle homelessness, maintain safety for its residents, revitalize downtown and address housing and transportation issues.

After careful consideration, GilPAC, the political action arm of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, has chosen to endorse the following candidates to lead our community through the economic recovery process, to overcome the most pressing challenges and capitalize on the opportunities that lie ahead. 

Marie Blankley – Mayor

Carol Marques – City Council

Fred Tovar – City Council

Danny Mitchell – City Council

 

Legislature and Governor and County, Oh My!

As the 2020 California State Legislature adjourned its session on August 31, the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce was reviewing legislation and taking positions on bills up until the last minute.

Over the last several months, the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce took positions on more than 20 bills, most of which would have negative impacts on our local economy and businesses. These bills ranged from increased costs and liability on employers, the expansion of CEQA, employment leave mandate, headcount tax on businesses, legislation detrimental to law enforcement and other issues.

The Chamber also lobbied the Governor Newsom to defer the January 1, 2021 minimum wage increase and asked the Governor to withhold support for Prop 15 (split roll tax). The Chamber also lobbied the State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology to allow barbershops and salon to reopen.

The Chamber communicated with Senator Monning asking him to take our fight to the State Senate providing relief for local small businesses regarding the next increase in the minimum wage. On numerous occasions, the Chamber spoke with Assemblymember Rivas regarding bills that would hurt our local economy asking him to oppose such legislation.

Since April of this year, the Chamber has been in constant communication with our County Supervisor, Mike Wasserman; County Executive Jeff Smith; and County Health Officer, Sara Cody petitioning them to open our economy in a safe manner allowing businesses to get back to work. On two separate occasions, the Chamber rallied the business community and the community at large to contact our county officials demanding action on their part.

The Chamber recently presented information on behalf of the Gilroy Economic Development Partnership to the City Council and secured a 7-0 vote by the council to make Gilroy a recreation destination.

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce is committed to creating a strong local economy and representing the interests of business with government. In short, the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce is a champion for our community.

 

Prop. 15 Threatens Jobs

By Emilie Cameron, 2nd Vice President, California Downtown Association

California is in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis, and yet another threat is on the horizon. Proposition 15 on the November 2020 ballot could be the largest property tax increase in state history at $11.5 billion per year.

Unless defeated by voters, the measure shreds long-standing Prop 13 protections that have kept property taxes affordable and provided every taxpayer that buys a home or operates a business with certainty that they can afford their property tax bills in the future. Prop 15 repeals these protections for a business property by requiring reassessment at the current market value at least every three years. Prop15 will create an unprecedented restructuring of tax policy in California, creating a two-tiered taxing structure that will create bureaucratic challenges and significantly increase costs of implementation—estimated at over $1 billion in just the first three years. More specifically, Prop 15 would:

Threaten jobs. An estimated 120,000 jobs will be lost during what has already been a time of record unemployment. 

Raise prices for consumers. Higher taxes on businesses will ultimately get passed on to consumers in the form of increased costs on just about everything people buy and use, including groceries, fuel, utilities, daycare, and health care. 

Hurt small businesses. Prop 15 will result in higher property taxes that landlords will have no choice but to pass onto tenants.  

Create uncertainty for taxpayers. Revenue will no longer be consistent for local governments and schools while taxes will become unpredictable for taxpayers.   

Everyone should be concerned. Prop 15’s higher property taxes will cause rents to skyrocket for small businesses and the cost of living to increase for all Californians. Prop 15 is particularly a threat to urban centers that have already been decimated by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why the California Downtown Association has joined small businesses, farmers, and tax advocates across California to oppose Prop 15.

 

They Never Miss a Trick, Do They?

Grab Your Wallet: Public Employee Unions Want California to Tax “Unrealized Capital Gains”

Written by Mark Calvey, Senior Reporter, San Francisco Business Times

California’s public-employee unions and other groups are pushing state lawmakers to quickly adopt a new tax on unrealized capital gains.

Like the recently introduced wealth tax, the proposed tax on unrealized capital gains would be a first in the nation. Already under consideration are an income tax hike, AB 1253, in addition to the wealth tax, AB 2088, both part of bills under consideration in the California Legislature. The proposed tax on unrealized capital gains doesn’t appear to be in a formal bill yet, and the current legislative session ended Aug. 31. But that doesn’t mean the idea is not already raising alarm in Bay Area business circles.

“There’s obviously a major campaign afoot to raise taxes on anyone perceived to be wealthy. They’re playing a very dangerous game,” Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council told me Monday. Wunderman expects the efforts to raise taxes will extend beyond the end of the current legislative session, perhaps in a special session or next year. That promises national headlines on California’s efforts to fix its finances by coming up with new taxes in addition to raising the nation’s highest individual income tax rate even higher.

“The world of taxpayers is listening. They’re very attentive to these efforts and with good reason,” Wunderman said. “People are watching. There is such a thing as going too far. 

“We want California to succeed, and you can’t succeed with a tax system like this, with an insatiable appetite to just go up, up and up and tax more, more and more,” Wunderman said. “Individuals and businesses have alternatives  — at some point you push them out.”

Previously, Wunderman said California may be surprised to see how many wealthy taxpayers the state has already lost this year. He also says public pensions could become a flashpoint as state and local governments scramble for tax revenue.

Supporters of boosting California tax revenues include several organizations that have signed an Aug. 20 letter under the name “Commit to Equity Coalition” that was addressed to every member of the legislature. Signers of the letter include the Service Employees International Union California, California Federation of Teachers and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees California. A call was placed Monday to SEIU California for further comment, but was not immediately returned.

“We are asking you to call for a public hearing on these revenue proposals and pass new revenue this year,” according to the letter, also signed by the ACLU California and environmental groups. “We cannot wait until next year to address the budget crisis and racial inequality caused by Covid-19 without devastating cuts to essential services further exacerbating levels of poverty and suffering in the state.”

The letter’s discussion of the idea of taxing unrealized capital gains provided few details on who would be hit by the levy and how it would be applied. Under existing federal and state law, taxes are due on capital gains only after gains have been received.

“An unrealized capital gains tax could be applied to the value of securities portfolios owned by the ultra wealthy,” according to the letter. “This tax is designed as a prepayment on future capital gains taxes that are already required in California when a stock is sold.

“Billionaires would pay taxes on unrealized gains in their assets now and when they sell those assets in the future, they would receive a credit for any withholding that they had already paid against the taxes they owe once their assets are sold, or “realized.” 

The letter doesn’t discuss whether those taxes prepaid on unrealized capital gains would be refunded if the investor later sells the asset at a loss. Having to issue refunds on investment losses could put California on the hook for billions of dollars in givebacks following a stock market crash, just as the state would be struggling with the costs that come with an economic downturn.  As it is, the top 5% of the state’s income earners accounted for two-thirds of personal income taxes in 2016, according to the California Taxpayers Association.  A significant portion of that income is based on profits received on the sale of stock options and investments.

Based on the amount of “prepayment” applied under a tax on unrealized capital gains, the proposed tax would generate about $10 billion annually over a decade or more than $62 billion if applied on a one-time basis, according to the letter signed by California’s public unions and others. The letter doesn’t

address whether the proposed tax would only apply to stocks held in publicly traded companies. Valuation of securities portfolios representing private companies would create a need for costly valuations to determine unrealized gains.

No doubt many of California’s wealthy residents will agree with one accountant’s assessment on Monday.

“Every day seems to bring a new proposal to raise taxes,” said Paul Bleeg, a partner with accounting firm EisnerAmper in San Francisco. “All these new tax proposals that are popping up remind me of whack-a-mole.”

 

Deadline Approaches

California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, CPA – News Release

Deadline Approaches: Businesses With More Than 100 Employees that Do Not Sponsor a Retirement Plan Must Register for CalSavers By September 30th

Sacramento – California State Treasurer Fiona Ma reminds employers with more than 100 employees that they are required by state law to register for CalSavers by September 30th if they don’t already sponsor a retirement plan.

CalSavers is California’s new retirement savings program that will offer millions of workers in California the opportunity to get on track for the future. CalSavers is available to California workers whose employers don’t offer a workplace retirement plan, self-employed individuals, and others who want to save extra. Participants contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) that belongs to them and is completely portable. Employers that don’t offer their own plan and have at least five employees must register for CalSavers by their deadline and facilitate their employees’ access to the program.

“Financial resilience has never been more important for working people,” said Treasurer Ma. “CalSavers is here to help underserved workers save for their futures.”

“Even with the pandemic conditions and well before the first compliance deadline, thousands of California employers are already registered and their employees have saved $9 million for their futures,” said CalSavers Executive Director Katie Selenski. “Every day we hear that it’s easy for employers to facilitate and our support team is here to help employers as they get started.”

Last April, the CalSavers Retirement Savings Board, chaired by Treasurer Ma, extended the registration deadline for employers in the state with more than 100 employees to Sept. 30 from June 30. “Business owners are facing unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 emergency,” Ma said at the time. “We hope this action will help employers as they navigate through this difficult time.” Deadlines for employers with more than 50 employees and five or more employees are June 30, 2021 and June 30, 2022, respectively. More information is available at www.calsavers.com.

Fiona Ma is California’s 34th State Treasurer. She was elected on November 6, 2018 with more votes (7,825,587) than any other candidate for treasurer in the state’s history. She is the first woman of color and the first woman Certified Public Accountant (CPA) elected to the position. The State Treasurer’s Office was created in the California Constitution in 1849. It provides financing for schools, roads, housing, recycling and waste management, hospitals, public facilities, and other crucial infrastructure projects that better the lives of residents. California is the world’s fifth-largest economy and Treasurer Ma is the state’s primary banker. Her office processes more than $2 trillion in transactions within a typical year. She provides transparency and oversight for the government’s investment portfolio and accounts, as well as for the state’s surplus funds. Treasurer Ma oversees an investment portfolio of about $113.5 billion, more than $31.6 billion of which are local government funds. She serves as agent of sale for all State bonds, and is trustee on outstanding debt of $94 billion.