Moving Steadily Forward

We are nearing the halfway point in the 120-day legislative session. Sen. President Leroy Garcia has resigned to take a job with the Department of Defense, with Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg filling in as Senate President. Sen. Fenberg has sponsored much of the environmental legislation we have seen over the past two years. The Majority Leader’s role is now filled by Sen. Domenic Moreno, who left the Joint Budget Committee to take on his new responsibility, opening that slot for Sen. Rachel Zenzinger to return to the JBC.

After a slow start, hearings on legislative proposals are now in full swing, with mixed results. Several non-controversial bills with bi-partisan sponsorship have moved forward. Other bills have met a swift death. HB 1138, which burdened employers to survey and incentivize their employees to change commuter practices and avoid solo driving, was killed in its first committee hearing. Also on the cutting floor is SB 131, which removed state pre-emption on pesticides and prohibited certain uses. That bill was killed in a contentious hearing following nine hours of testimony before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. HB 1244, a broad-brush bill to collect ambient air data and regulate air toxics by setting health-based standards enforced by re-opening permit is generating widespread opposition; CMA is collaborating with a broad coalition of businesses to oppose it. As currently introduced, the bill threatens existing industry and would be a significant deterrent to future economic development.

The ongoing issue of marijuana use and its impact in the workplace is back before the legislature in the form of HB 1152, which prohibits an employer from taking adverse action against an employee who uses marijuana, whether for medical reasons in the workplace or off site during non-working hours. The bill also prohibits an employer from disciplining an employee for using recreational marijuana off site during non-working hours. If passed, the bill would overturn the results of Dish Network v. Coats, which CMA participated in in 2015 upholding the employer’s right to dismiss an employee who used medical marijuana notwithstanding state statute that protects legal activities. CMA plans to testify against HB 1152 on March 10.

While things appear relative quiet at present, more contentious legislation is typically introduced in the latter half of the session, leaving CMA members wondering what may pop up next. CMA’s Government Affairs Committee meets weekly to share information and devise strategy to address any challenge that may arise.