Visalia Chamber opposes five of the 12 statewide propositions on the November ballot; takes no position on six others
VISALIA – Propositions can be tricky. What does a yes or no vote mean? Who supports or opposes it and why? How will this affect my community? All great questions, but where do local residents turn to find the answers from sources they trust? The Visalia Chamber of Commerce offered its opinion on six of the dozen propositions on the November ballot.
Chamber President and CEO Gail Zurek said the chamber went through a lengthy process to determine which propositions affect local businesses, either positively or negatively. The process began with a review by the chamber’s Government Affairs Committee, which then made a recommendation to the chamber’s board of directors.
“Some of these are very easily classified as antibusiness,” Zurek said.
Topping the chamber’s list of antibusiness initiatives is Proposition 15. If approved by voters, Prop. 15 would repeal portions of Proposition 13, the landmark property tax protection, for commercial and industrial property. If approved, any commercial or industrial property worth more than $3 million would be taxed and current market value instead of the purchase price. The measure is projected to generate $12.5 billion a year in property tax increases—the largest in state history—and use the money to fund public schools.
“This isn’t a way to save schools, this is punishing businesses,” Zurek said.
The $3 million threshold to enact the law is an extremely low bar for commercial property. Even in Tulare County, where property values are among the lowest in the state, commercial property is often worth $1 million just for the land prior to constructing a building. Properties in that range often lease space to owner/operators for niche retail shops, hair salons and local craftsmen. Small businesses employ more than half of all California employees.
“We aren’t talking about giant corporations and their ability to swallow the extra cost,” Zurek said. “We are talking about the people with under 15 employees. We are talking about legacy businesses who have always supported this community not being there anymore.”
The California Farm Bureau has also come out against this proposition due to concerns over its effect on agriculture-related property. Although its proponents claim agriculture would be exempt, the measure would allow reassessment of agricultural facilities and improvements such as barns, dairies, orchards, vineyards and processing plants.
“It’s going to affect family farms, and mom and pops,” she said.
The chamber also opposes Proposition 21, which would allow local governments to establish rent control on residential properties over 15 years old. This would also allow local limits on annual rent increases to differ from the current statewide limit. There is an exemption for individuals who own no more than two single-family dwellings.
“I could put my house up for rent for $4,000 per month, but I wouldn’t get anyone willing to pay that,” Zurek said. “There is a cap in what you can charge for rent and it is what the market can bear.”
Economic research and the Legislative Analyst’s Office conclude that rent control depresses new residential construction, decreases affordability of most units, encourages gentrification and creates spillover effects into surrounding neighborhoods, according to the chamber. By discouraging new construction, rent control exacerbates the housing shortage that is the underlying cause of the state’s high housing costs.
The chamber argues the ballot measure is also unnecessary in the wake of legislation signed last year (AB 1482), which caps annual rent increases at 5% plus inflation for tenants, and requires that a landlord have a just cause, as defined in the law, to evict tenants that had occupied the rental for at least one year. AB 1482 included exemptions for housing built in the last 15 years and some single-family homes and duplexes. It was designed to sunset after 10 years.
Zurek said the initiative forces a one-size-fits-all approach to an extremely diverse state. She said there are many laws exacting costly requirements on home builders. If those could be lifted on low income housing, more builders would be able to build more affordable housing in a more cost effective way and without the government inserting itself into the private market.
“The situation in Tulare County is dramatically different than the situation in Marin County and trying to legislate a one-size fits all is crazy,” Zurek said. “How can we create offramps where a community that hasn’t reached a threshold of Marin County and we can allow them to function in a place that still has local control. We aren’t even 50 years from where Marin County is going to be.”
Props. 20, 23 & 25
The chamber opposed three other propositions. Prop. 23 would require kidney dialysis clinics to have an on-site medical professional and prohibits clinics from reducing services without state approval and for refusing to treat patients based on their ability to pay. As most dialysis clinics are privately run, the chamber argues the initiative would dramatically increase costs unnecessarily by requiring a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant. Those costs would be passed on to those needing dialysis resulting in the closure of an estimated 600 clinics in the state and reduced care options for sick patients.
The chamber is urging residents to vote no on Prop. 25. A “no” vote would reject a referendum to replace a money bail system with a system based on public safety and flight risk. The chamber argues this system replaces a person’s right to post bail with an automated computer-generated modeling system based on mathematical algorithms administered by 58 different counties. Civil rights leaders, law enforcement, victims’ rights groups, and county officials say this proposition will create more biased outcomes against people of color and those from economically disadvantaged areas.
Prop. 20 restricts parole for non-violent, repeat offenders and increases the penalties for some crimes from a misdemeanor to a felony. The chamber argues the initiative would discourage organized retail thefts by increasing penalties and saves retailers thousands of dollars in lost merchandise and loss prevention programs. It includes a felony for “serial theft.” A person caught stealing merchandise valued at more than $250 three separate times would face felony charges. The measure also expands the list of violent crimes for which early release isn’t an option. Requires the Board of Parole Hearings to consider an inmate’s entire criminal history when deciding parole, not just his/her most recently committed offense.
The only ballot initiative the chamber supported was Prop. 22. If approved, Prop. 22 would permanently classify delivery drivers for app-based transportation services, such as Uber and Lyft, as independent contractors instead of employees. The proposition creates an exemption from Assembly Bill 5, legislation to codify a state supreme court ruling making it illegal for companies to hire “gig” workers, those moonlighting or working a side job. Lobbying groups and unions had already carved out many exemptions for doctors, dentists, insurance agents, lawyers, accounts, real estate agents, and hairstylists, among others. More recently, a second round of carveouts were created for the entertainment and newspaper industry, such as artists, writers, designers, photographers, producers and musicians.
Zurek says AB 5 was an attempt for government to make up for the loss in income taxes that comes with app-based or gig economy workers as most income taxes are paid by employers on their employees and at a much higher rate than the employees pay out of pocket.
“The way we leverage payroll taxes is going to have to change as that source of public finance is diminishing,” Zurek said.
The chamber argues that the passage of Proposition 22 will ensure thousands of workers continue to have a flexible option to earn income. Those people don’t want to be employees because being an independent contractor allows them the freedom to dress the way the want, make their own hours and, more importantly, afford them the flexibility to be home with their children during the day and work nights or to supplement their income to keep a job they like long term that maybe has been reduced due to COVID or other temporary economic downturns.
“So many of the people we have laid off in the Valley have picked up app-based businesses to make ends meet,” Zurek said. “InstaCart, GrubHub and DoorDash, were not nearly the significant part of my budget that they are now.”
It also benefits people using app-based services for transportation, food delivery and prescriptions who may be at-risk during this time or looking for ways to reduce their household costs.
“This allows us to have a $4 delivery fee instead of a $20 delivery fee,” Zurek said.
The chamber did not take a position on Propositions 14, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 24. For more information on the chamber’s position on propositions, visit VisaliaChamber.org.