Making our Voices Heard in Sacramento

As Republicans and Democrats in the State Legislature digest the Governor’s proposed $83 billion budget, the Chamber met with lawmakers in Sacramento this week to advocate on issues impacting San Francisco’s business climate. More than two dozen business leaders attended this year’s CityState trip meeting with lawmakers including: Senator Mark Leno, Senator Leland Yee, Assemblymember Fiona Ma, Labor & Workforce Development Secretary Victoria Bradshaw, Health and Human Services Secretary Kim Belshe and several others.

A common theme during our trip was the enormous challenge and sacrifice ahead in passing the state budget. Senators Leno and Yee voiced concerns over cuts to CalWORKs and Healthy Families, which would make California the only state without a social safety net for children. During his remarks at the 85th Annual Sacramento Host Breakfast, Governor Schwarzenegger responded by stating that that his budget proposal is merely a reflection of the flawed budgeting process. He noted that “coincidentally,” California is also the only state without a rainy day fund. Clearly, another long budget battle is underway in Sacramento.

During our meetings with lawmakers, the Chamber delegation cautioned against unnecessary regulations such as the Cellular Telephone SAR Disclosure bill, SB1212. This bill would require local merchants to post the specific absorption rates (SAR) of radio emissions from cell phones at the point of sale despite the fact that all phones sold are considered safe according to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) standards. Our group encouraged lawmakers to work with the FCC to improve consumer education on the safe use of cell phones rather than place additional burdens on local businesses.

Our delegation also spent a great deal of time discussing the state’s future with the Emergency Management Agency, the Air Resources Board and the High Speed Rail Authority. We talked about the need to coordinate regional recovery efforts following an earthquake or other disaster through the establishment of a Bay Area Disaster Recovery Authority. We talked about the importance of AB 32 – California’s Global Warming Solutions Act – on growing the green and clean technology sectors and their associated jobs. And we continued to talk about the implementation of voter-approved High Speed Rail in California.

Our most inspiring meeting, however, was with the Director of the Governor’s Office for Economic Development (GoED), Joel Ayala. Recently created by executive order from Governor Schwarzenegger, GoED leverages borrowed staff and resources from the 20 agencies and 100 programs already doing economic development and coordinates them into one group. The office is already showing signs of progress, both in terms of its efforts to attract new companies to our state and its actions to prevent businesses from leaving California. We were encouraged by Mr. Alaya’s enthusiasm, and the Chamber looks forward to partnering with GoED to expand economic development in San Francisco.

As the budget battle heats up in the weeks and months ahead, the Chamber will continue to weigh in on these and other legislative actions that will impact businesses – our state’s job creators, and our best opportunity for long-term growth and economic recovery. I thank the business leaders who took time out of their schedules to attend this year’s CityState to share their views and advocate on behalf of San Francisco businesses.

Click here to view photos from CityState 2010.