Good morning, California.

“If you’re not familiar with Esports, I encourage you to check it out.” — Pete Vlastelica, Santa Monica-based Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues’ chief executive, at a Milken Institute conference in Sacramento on Tuesday.

His stats: Major League Baseball’s fans’ average age: 63. National Football League fans’ average age: 50. Esports fans’ average age: 20-something, and he says there are 350 million of them.

Jane Fonda urges Jerry Brown to sign #MeToo legislation

Jennifer Siebel Newsom and actress Jane Fonda in Sacramento Tuesday.

Actress Jane Fonda and Jennifer Siebel Newsom, appearing on a panel in Sacramento Tuesday, offered support for legislation to limit forced workplace arbitration agreements.

Remind me: Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, a San Diego Democrat, is carrying legislation that would bar employers from refusing to hire people who decline to sign agreements requiring that they settle workplace disputes in secret arbitration hearings rather than in public lawsuits.

Con: The California Chamber of Commerce contends the bill would add to the cost of doing business.

Pro: Organized labor and plaintiff’s attorneys say secret arbitration allows sexual harassment to occur outside of the public view.

Fonda: “Because it’s all secret and the victims have no access to a court of law in the public sphere, you don’t get a sense of patterns, whether a particular workplace or a particular person in that workplace has a pattern of abuse.”

Fonda later met privately with Gov. Jerry Brown (their friendship dates to the 1970s), urging that he sign the bill, assuming it gets to his desk, which is likely.

Fonda also met with Siebel Newsom’s husband, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom. If Brown were to veto the bill, what would Newsom do with a similar measure?

Siebel Newsom: “He would do the opposite. … I’m not a policy person, but it sounds like this is good for women and families. He has a history of supporting and championing women and legislation that supports women and families.”


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California is tough on business

Business executives from Hollywood and Silicon Valley told a conference hosted by the Milken Institute in Sacramento Tuesday that high taxes, lousy transportation, and exorbitant housing costs make it tough to do business in California.

Sandra Stern, president of Lionsgate Television: California’s film tax credit, intended to encourage filming in the state, is so restrictive that Lionsgate has never received one.

Of Lionsgate’s 100 television shows, a half-dozen are filmed in California. Others are filmed in New York, Atlanta, New Mexico, Canada, and Europe, where there are more generous film tax credits-—and where housing is cheaper.

Jeff Maggioncalda, chief executive of Mountain View-based Coursera, which provides online higher education courses, said there is a “talent shortage” of engineers.

“We have an exodus of Californians leaving the state because they don’t have the most in-demand skills.”

Mary O’Hara of Blue Shield, which is moving its San Francisco headquarters to lower cost Oakland, said groceries in the Bay Area cost 125 percent of the national average, and housing costs 360 percent of the national average. And there were three homicides on BART in the past month.

Not all was negative.

Anne Hoskins of the solar power company Sunrun: California’s regulatory framework helped spur the solar power industry, employing 100,000 people in the state.

However, Hoskins, a Maryland transplant, is surprised at the lack of investment in mass transit, especially in Los Angeles.

What is an ‘employee’ in a gig economy?

A California Supreme Court ruling issued in April is the focus of a fierce, but so far largely unseen legislative fight between labor and business over who is and isn’t an employee.

Background: Dynamex Operations West, a delivery company, sought to save money in 2004 by converting its drivers to independent contractors. The drivers sued and the state Supreme Court ruled 7-0 in their favor.

The Sacramento Bee’s Alexei Koseff explained that the justices established the “ABC test”:

  • A) Are workers free from the company’s control when they’re on the job?
  • B) Does their work fall outside the company’s normal business?
  • C) Do workers have an independent business or trade beyond the job for which they were hired?

Why it matters: The decision calls into question the gig economy. A July 23 letter from Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit and other employers to Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration said 2 million workers would be affected:

“Businesses will curtail plans to expand in California … consumers will lose the convenience and affordability of the services on which they have come to rely, and millions of workers could lose the very thing they value most: flexible and independent work opportunities … ”

Companies requested that Brown step in by using his executive authority to block the ruling from taking full effect pending a legislative compromise. Such a use of executive power to suspend a Supreme Court ruling would be extraordinary. Organized labor almost surely would sue to challenge the legality of any such order.

Fires’ climate impacts mount

CALmatters’ Julie Cart writes that the wildfires burning across the state are spewing enough carbon into the air to undo some of the good done by the state’s climate policies.

What’s worse: Climate-warming compounds that will be released by the charred forests long after the fires are extinguished may do more to warm up the planet than the immediate harm from smoky air.

Walters: Beware of last-minute legislation

CALmatters commentator Dan Walters has seen more than his share of unintended consequences of well-meaning legislation. In the final four weeks of the legislative session, he warns about bills that would alter liability rules for utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and put California into a regional electricity grid with other western states.

Walters: Opponents “compare the regional plan to that disastrous 1996 ‘deregulation’ scheme as an example of what happens when big decisions are made at the last minute. They’ve got a very strong point.”

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See you tomorrow.