The first year's activity of the 1995-1996 legislative session was less than activity seen in recent years: only one DIR-sponsored measure cleared both houses of the Legislature. Other DIR-sponsored bills were held for reconsideration in 1996, and just a handful of other bills in DIR's subject areas were approved.
The end of the session illustrated the change in activity. The final days of a legislative session are usually very active, with an average of 1,000-1,200 bills approved and sent to the Governor's desk. In 1995 only 500 bills were approved by the Legislature at the session's end.
The Legislature worked in a much different atmosphere this past year. Both the Senate and Assembly experienced changes in leadership. The 1994 elections had resulted in changes in membership and partisan composition. Both houses operated with close partisan splits.
After Democrats lost eight Assembly seats in the 1994 elections, Republicans gained a narrow majority in the house for the first time in 25 years. The changes brought about a focus on different legislative topics, and the closer partisan split in the Assembly made it more difficult to obtain a majority in support of the more controversial bills.
For much of the Assembly session, legislation on many bills was stalled on even party-line votes in committees. At that time, an agreement between the two parties' caucuses resulted in an even number of Republicans and Democrats on all committees. A later change in the Assembly's rules allowed a Republican majority on all committees.
The Assembly's attention was also diverted by lengthy and dramatic struggles over electing a Speaker. At another point near the end of the session, the Senate and then the Assembly refused to move the other house's legislation after complaining that the second house was too slow in moving the originating house's bills.
The single bill sponsored by DIR and signed by Governor Pete Wilson was Assembly Bill 1870 (Frusetta). This bill changed the appeals process for minimum wage citations issued by the Labor Commissioner to conform it with the appeals process for other types of citations: cash payment of wages without proper records, child labor noncompliance, unlicensed contractors, and lack of workers' compensation coverage. Effective January 1, 1996, AB 1870 provides for an appeal hearing to be conducted within a specified time period at the cited employer's request. A final citation will be entered as an enforceable judgment in court.
Other noteworthy bills on DIR-related subjects that were enacted in 1995 (and unless stated otherwise, effective January 1, 1996) were:
The California Mining Association sponsored this bill in response to a 1994 decision by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California- Labor Code Section 750.5 enacted in 1983 allowed employees at underground mines and smelters to work over eight hours in a day if a valid collective bargaining agreement existed between the parties, and the district court ruled that this statute was pre-empted by the National Labor Relations Act.
The decision in effect prohibited workers in these operations from working more than eight hours in a day, except where life and property are threatened or emergency repairs are necessary in aboveground operations.
AB 739 requires the Labor Commissioner to investigate any claims of election misconduct and to invalidate an election where misconduct affects the outcome. The bill also requires that a "neutral" party prepare a report which details the effects of working more than eight hours in one day in an underground mine or smelter.
A "sports official" includes acting as an umpire, referee, judge, scorekeeper, or timekeeper.
Among its provisions, SB 443 provides that violations of Labor Code 1308.1-concerning the minimum age and geographical limits for door-to-door sales-and violations of Labor Code 1295.5-relating to work in gasoline service stations-are Class A violations.
SB 443 also strikes the provision that minor musicians obtain permission of the mayor in the town in which they perform, and increases the maximum civil penalty for the pornographic use of children from $5,000 to $7,500.
AB 1968 clarifies that the Industrial Medical Council may terminate a Qualified Medical Examiner (QME) from the QME list without a hearing if the evaluator's license to practice in California is suspended, revoked or terminated, or under other specified conditions.
The bill also clarifies liability for payment for the report of a QME who has been disciplined, and when such a report is no longer admissible.
The bill also shifts responsibility for collecting assessments and penalties from insurance carriers to DIR and the Franchise Tax Board. SB 996 was urgency legislation effective June 30, 1995.
In addition, the bill deletes the requirement that the Division of Workers' Compensation retain files for 25 years. The bill requires the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board to specify the record retention requirement in a regulation.
DIR's legislative office has published 1995 Legislative Summary, which summarizes all legislation approved by the Legislature and followed by DIR this year. For a copy, please write to: Department of Industrial Relations, Public Information Office, P.O. Box 420603, San Francisco, CA 94142-0603-or call (415) 972-8844.