Gig economy, e-scooters, straws and tax breaks

Good morning, California.

“I fully intend to resume my position as an active member of these committees.”—Congressman Duncan Hunter, a San Diego County Republican, announcing he will relinquish his committee assignments while he fights charges that he used $250,000 in campaign money for personal expenses.

Gig firms plead for brakes on pro-labor ruling

Businesses want relief from a California Supreme Court decision on gig workers.

Business lobbyists are trying hard to delay a far-reaching California Supreme Court decision that would require gig economy firms to treat independent contractors as employees, CALmatters’ Antoinette Siu writes.

Remind me: Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon two weeks ago said the Legislature did not have time to sort out the issue before adjourning on Aug. 31.

Still, lobbyists for the California Chamber of Commerce, ridesharing apps, and other employers are pushing aggressively for legislation that would pause the ruling in a Los Angeles case involving the delivery company Dynamex. Gig economy firms say the new rules make it hard to rely on an independently contracted workforce and thus undermine their business model.

Labor wants lawmakers to stay out and sees an opportunity to organize many of the 2 million gig workers.

The California Labor Federation’s Caitlin Vega: “Companies have made so much money already at the expense of workers. We really see the Dynamex decision as core to rebuilding the middle class.”

Why the urgency: Since the ruling, gig economy workers have brought as many as 17 suits and have filed 1,200 arbitration claims. If legislation is going to emerge, it would most likely happen today.

E-scooter bill zips through Senate; straws are on the outs

Bird, the Santa Monica start-up that has disrupted pedestrians by placing motorized scooters in cities across the state, is close to getting its first legislative win.

Bird hired a Sacramento lobbyist to push one bill, exempting adults who rent the motorized scooters from having to comply with the state’s otherwise strict helmet law and allowing them to operate on city streets where the speed limit is 35 miles an hour.

The Senate approved the measure 33-2 Thursday. The Assembly approved an earlier version 74-1. Outside the Capitol, e-scooters have generated a backlash. Riders zip along at up to 15 mph, sometimes riding on sidewalks, prompting some cities to restrict them.

A legislative report on the bill by Assembly Republican Heath Flora of Ripon says the state’s helmet law, intended to prevent head injury, “is problematic for companies like Bird, who want consumers to be able to pick up one of their vehicles and go, and to not have to worry about getting ticketed for not wearing a helmet.”

Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat and pediatrician: “We’ve got to come up with some alternative that doesn’t involve people breaking their heads.”

Bird’s chief counsel David Estrada noted the company has given away 40,000 free helmets this year: “Bird strongly encourages all riders to wear helmets and ride safely.”

Meanwhile: The Assembly approved and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown legislation decreeing that restaurants provide plastic straws only if patrons request them. The movement to restrict straws began after a marine biologist filmed the removal of a straw from a sea turtle’s nostril.

A graphic depiction of California’s housing crisis

The numbers are staggering: 134,000 Californians are homeless; a fourth of the state’s renters pay at least half of their income for rent, and the state has built less than half of the housing it needs to keep up with demand.

CALmatters’ Victoria Cabales connects the dots in this graphic presentation of the housing crisis. It’s part of our California Dream project, done in collaboration with public radio stations.

UCLA economics professor William Yu: “A state with higher housing costs, higher rental costs, and lower household income has a higher homelessness rate.”

A step toward more housing

Officials at the Bay Area Rapid Transit district soon could get into the housing business.

The Senate approved legislation Thursday authorizing BART to develop housing on its parking lots. The bill by Assemblyman David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat, would permit as many as 20,000 homes on 250 acres, and allow BART to bypass certain development-slowing regulations.

Backers include several Bay Area legislators, who say the measure will help relieve the housing crisis.

Sen. Scott Wiener, San Francisco Democrat: “This is about the future of our state. It’s about our kids and our grandkids and whether they are going to have a place to live.”

The League of California Cities, and the cities of Berkeley, Orinda, Walnut Creek and Brentwood worry the measure will strip them of power.

Sen. Steve Glazer, a Democrat from Orinda, warned that it could be used to bypass local regulation and that BART “can’t even do their main job” of running trains ontime.

What’s next: After the Assembly votes, the bill heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature or veto. Brown and legislators have advocated more housing near transit stops as a way to get people out of their cars and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Gimme Shelter: Inheriting your parents' property tax break

Actor Jeff Bridges at the Sacramento Press Club.

Kids who inherit their parents’ homes are eligible for a special property tax break under a 1986 ballot measure.

Among the beneficiaries: actor Jeff Bridges and his siblings, who pay $5,700 a year in property taxes on the Malibu home they inherited from their parents and rent out for more than $15,000 a month.

On this week’s Gimme Shelter podcast, CALmatters’ Matt Levin and The Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon talk about Dillon’s investigation into that measure.

On Thursday, Dillon caught up to Bridges, who spoke to the Sacramento Press Club about his personal cause, the No Kid Hungry campaign, and creation of a legislative childhood hunger caucus. Hear what the Oscar-winning actor told him.

Paying attention? Take our quiz and see

Democratic congressional candidate Katie Porter broke with her party on what issue? How did Congressman Duncan Hunter spend his campaign money? Kimberly Guilfoyle put her boyfriend, Donald Trump Jr., on the phone with her ex, Gavin Newsom. What did they discuss? Our multiple guess quiz is here.

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See you on Monday.

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