Over the weekend the Governor signed another bill that Sustainable Economies Law Center helped create! This bill, AB 569, will facilitate cooperative housing development in California, especially the creation of Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives (LEHCs). LEHCs provide residents with a unique form of equity stake in their home that restricts the resale value of shares to keep the prices low when regular market forces would otherwise drive them up.Read more
Over the weekend the Governor signed another bill that SELC helped create! This bill, AB 569, will facilitate cooperative housing development in California, especially the creation of Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives (LEHCs). LEHCs provide residents with a unique form of equity stake in their home that restricts the resale value of shares to keep the prices low when regular market forces would otherwise drive them up.Read more
On August 30, a bill that would have upended the ability of California communities to choose their electrical power sources was defeated in the state senate. AB 2145 was rejected thanks in large part to the outpour of grassroots opposition by a coalition of local governments, elected officials, and nonprofits like the Sustainable Economies Law Center, who pegged the bill as a power grab by utility companies.Read more
Sustainable Economies Law Center Submits Recommended Changes to CA Money Transmission Act Regulations
In 2010, the California legislature passed the Money Transmission Act (2010), a sweeping law intended to regulate the payments industry and other activities broadly defined as "money transmission." Though the law was written to “protect the interests of consumers of money transmission businesses . . . [and to] maintain public confidence in financial institutions,” the proposed regulations erect significant financial and compliance barriers for small-scale and cooperative enterprises whose services may include "money transmission."
In particular, community currencies, lending circles, online peer-to-peer distribution platforms, and other small-scale enterprises that involve sending money or stored value may be implicated by pending MTA regulations.Read more
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New Bill Promotes Food Security and Access Through Urban Agriculture
Sacramento, California – September 2, 2014 – On Wednesday, August 27, 2014, the California Legislature passed AB 2561, also known as the California Neighborhood Food Act. The Act guarantees tenants’ and members of homeowner’s associations’ rights to grow food for personal consumption by voiding contrary language in lease agreements or homeowner’s association agreements. Governor Jerry Brown must sign the bill in order for it to become law.Read more
On June 28th, California took a significant step toward further legitimizing the creation and circulation of community currencies and other innovative means of exchange. Signed into law by Gov. Brown, the California Alternative Currencies Act (AB 129) repeals the outdated and vague Section 107 of the California Corporations Code, thus removing a significant legal barrier to the continued growth of the community currencies movement.
On June 28th, California took a significant step toward further legitimizing the creation and circulation of community currencies and other innovative means of exchange. Signed into law by Gov. Brown, the California Alternative Currencies Act (AB 129) repeals the outdated and vague Section 107 of the California Corporations Code, thus removing a significant legal barrier to the continued growth of the community currencies movement.Read more
The California Labor Code is the set of laws that defines the employer-employee relationship as well as their respective responsibilities to ensure fair, safe, and healthy work arrangements. For the most part, the labor code provides important protections for employees by requiring, among other things, transparent record keeping by employers, workers compensation insurance, strict overtime pay rules, and protections against child exploitation. The Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) believes that these protections are necessary for many employees working for businesses in our current economic system and supports fair and consistent enforcement of these laws.
Yet, there are cases where application of the law results in unjust outcomes for employers. For example, the Labor Code applies a mandatory fine for incomplete wage statements, whether the mistake is intentional or not. As we realized during our representation of the Morgan Hill farmers, the mandatory nature of the fine resulted in unconstitutionally excessive fines for unintentional mistakes that threatened the farmers' ability to operate their businesses. The impact fell particularly on low-income farmers (who handle their own paperwork because they can't afford to hire payroll services) and immigrant farmers (some of whom have limited English capabilities). We believe that the Labor Commissioner should have the discretion to consider whether the employer's actions are the result of inadvertent non-compliance or whether the employer is a bad actor, whether the actions negatively impacted the worker in a substantial way, and tailor the penalty accordingly.
We also realized that the DLSE website offers very little information for small businesses regarding basic compliance with the Labor Code. This is especially true for business owners who do not speak or understand English well. Rural communities are especially vulnerable to being out of compliance because they lack access to legal resources.
Proposals for Change
SELC is proposing two solutions, and we have outlined these in a letter to the DLSE. First, we think DLSE can do a better job of informing small employers of their compliance responsibilities, particularly with wage statements and time records. Employers often purchase form wage statements and time records from office supply stores, and these forms are insufficient to comply with the Labor Code. This is unfair for employers who have made a good faith effort to comply with the law. In response to this problem, SELC has created a Wage Statement and Time Record Guide that explains and illustrates legally compliant wage statements and time records. We will send these documents to DLSE, requesting that they display them prominently on their websites as well as include them in any materials used during employer training and workshops.
Second, we think that Labor Code section 226.3 needs to be amended to prevent unconstitutionally excessive fines, like the ones originally placed on the Morgan Hill Farmers. To address this issue, SELC has drafted a legal memorandum that explains this issue and suggests amendments to section 226.3.
The Neighborhood Food Act is flying through the Senate, passing out of the Transportation and Housing Committee yesterday by a vote of 10-1. Though the opposition continues to push for narrowing the scope of the bill, we are grateful that Assemblymember Bradford is standing firm to maintain the important protections that exist for homeowners and tenants to grow their own food. We are also excited at the level of support AB 2561 is receiving in the Senate and are working to ensure this momentum stays with the bill as it continues through the legislative process.
Wasting no time, the bill will next be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, June 24th at 1:30pm in Room 112 at the State Capitol.
We continue to hear from legislator's offices that they are receiving calls in support of this bill so we know that all your calls are making a difference. You can keep the pressure on by calling in to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee before June 24th to let them know they need to show support. We've created a list of the committee members with their contact information. Remember to be polite and sincere. You can use the phone script below when you make the call.
"Hi, my name is (your name),
I am a (renter, member of an HOA, gardener, homeowner, landlord, etc.) and I wish for the State Legislature to pass AB 2561, the California Neighborhood Food Act.
Assemblymember Steven Bradford introduced the California Neighborhood Food Act (AB 2561), to increase access to fresh food throughout California. Many Californians NEED more access to fresh food. What better way than to grow it on their own? As a California resident seeking increased access to fresh, local food, I'm calling to urge (Senator's name) to vote YES on AB 2561 at Tuesday's Judiciary Committee hearing. Thank you!"
If you live in the Sacramento area and are interested in attending the hearing, please email neil (at) theselc (dot) org, for more information on joining us to advocate for the Neighborhood Food Act in committee.