CSAC Bulletin Article

New Laws Impacting Counties: Government, Finance & Administration

October 15, 2020

Governor Newsom met the September 30 deadline to take action on measures approved by the Legislature and delivered to his desk. To keep counties informed of new laws that impact them, CSAC will be publishing a series of articles to spotlight those laws in each policy area. This week, the Government, Finance & Administration policy area provides information on new laws impaction California’s counties.

Workers’ Compensation

SB 1159 (Hill) – COVID-19 Presumption for frontline workers.

This bill, signed by the Governor, creates a presumption for specific classifications of police officers, fire fighters, health care workers, IHSS workers, and home health workers who contract COVID-19 from July 6, 2020 until January 1, 2023. All other employees would be eligible for an outbreak-based presumption, with outbreak defined as either four employees or four percent of employees, depending on the number of employees at a worksite based upon a positive test within a 14-calendar day period. Additionally, the bill creates a reporting mechanism for employers and subjects employers to a maximum $10,000 penalty for failing to report specified information or who intentionally submits false or misleading information. CSAC opposed this bill, but worked to mitigate impacts to counties.

Leave & Benefits

AB 1867 (Budget) – Supplemental  COVID-19 sick leave.

AB 1867 provides paid supplemental COVID-19 sick leave to many employees who are ineligible for leave under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The bill applies to employees who are either a) employed by a private employer with 500 or more employees or b) are health care providers or emergency responders who have been excluded from the federal leave. Eligible employees who work full time will be entitled to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave, and eligible employees who work less than full time will be entitled to leave equivalent to their normal working hours.

SB 1383 (Jackson) – Paid family leave expansion.

SB 1383 is an expansion of family leave laws, which will now extend to employers with 5 or more employees, including local governments. The bill will entitle employees, who meet certain work requirements, up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, protected leave to bond with a new child, care for family members, and assist with any qualifying exigency resulting from active duty deployment of the employee or a family member. If both parents of a child needing care are employed by the same employer, under SB 1383 each parent will be eligible for the full 12 week leave.

Labor Relations

AB 685 (Reyes) – COVID-19 worksite exposure notification.

The policy at the heart of SB 685—that employers should notify workers and public health authorities if there has been exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite—is one with potential to improve public health by slowing the spread of the virus. As with many bills with laudable goals, some of the bill’s provisions would have caused significant implementation problems for those who would have to implement it. However, the final version of the bill included amendments to help mitigate many of those concerns including exempting many health facilities, allowing for notification in the way an employer usually communicates with employees including by email or text, and changing the notification period form 24 hours to one business day. The bill was signed by the Governor and it goes into effect on January 1.

AB 2143 (Stone) – Settlement agreements: Employment Disputes.

AB 2143 amends AB 749 (2019) to address employer concerns by expanding the legitimate reasons upon which an employer may include a provision in a settlement agreement that precludes a person from seeking reemployment. CSAC supported this bill.

AB 2967 (O’Donnell) – Public agency contracting.

AB 2967 reduces the authority of contracting public agencies to amend their contracts with CalPERS. The bill was written in response to a unique situation in the City of Placentia in Orange County. After years of contracting with Orange County Fire Authority, the city decided to start its own fire department but not offer CalPERS membership as a retirement option for the new members.

Elections

AB 860 (Berman) – Mail-in ballots for 2020 election.

AB 860 largely codifies an Executive Order requiring county elections officials to mail a ballot to every registered voter for this year’s election. In addition to sending ballots, the new law requires county elections officials to use a tracking system to allow a voter to track their vote by mail ballot, however, it leaves it up to the county’s discretion if they would like to use the Secretary of State’s system, or a system that meets the same specifications. The law extends the deadline for mail ballots to be received for this year’s election by two weeks, so that all ballots must be received by the 17th day after Election Day. The law also permits counties to begin processing ballots on the 29th day before the election, which is 19 days earlier than was previously allowed, though maintains existing requirements that a vote count cannot be accessed or released until 8 p.m. on the day of the election.

SB 423 (Umberg) – 2020 election vote center requirements.

SB 423 makes changes to election procedures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and codifies much of Executive Order N-67-20. The bill allows counties that do not participate in the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) to reduce the number of polling places, recognizing that fewer polling places will be needed due to the increase in voting by mail. It also sets requirements for counties that exercise that option for the days and hours that vote centers must operate and sets standards around ballot drop-off locations.

Property Tax

AB 2013 (Irwin) – Disaster victims property tax.

AB 2013 allows disaster victims whose property has been destroyed to maintain their property tax base-year value for new construction on the same site if the new construction is no more than 120% of the destroyed home’s value or square footage. An identical bill was introduced last year and passed the legislature before it was vetoed by Governor Newsom. The Governor had concerns that the bill should be narrowed to minimize “negative impacts on local revenues.” The Governor’s concerns were addressed with amendments in this version.

AB 107 (Budget) – Assessment appeals extension.

The General Government trailer bill included, among other items, language to extend the deadline for decisions in pending assessment appeals cases to March 31, 2021, two months longer than allowed by the Governor’s recent Executive Order, and explicit statutory authority to conduct assessment appeals hearings remotely. These important provisions will allow counties to safely conduct assessment appeals hearings and ensure that boards are able to finalize rulings on appeals that are nearing the statutory deadline. CSAC advocated for the inclusion of this language.

Taxes

SB 1441 (McGuire) – Extension of the Local Prepaid Mobile Telephony Services Collection Act.

SB 1441 removes the sunset provision in the Local Prepaid Mobile Telephony Services Collection Act and improves administration of the program. Without SB 1441, counties and cities that have a local Utility User Tax (UUT) for prepaid mobile services would lose their ability to collect revenue at the end of the year. CSAC supported the bill.

Public Records Act

AB 992 (Mullin) – Social media use by elected officials.

With the rise of social media as a means for elected officials to communicate with constituents, questions have raised about whether the Brown Act could be interpreted to disallow this type of engagement. AB 992 clarifies that local officials may participate in discussions on social media platforms, while retaining limits on officials coming to decisions outside of agendized meetings, so members of the public will still be able to observe and influence their deliberations and actions. CSAC supported this bill.

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