As we can expect each year, new legislation is working through its respective processes to meet either fruition or defeat, and with new legislation comes new obstacles and opportunities, for the business community. Regardless of legislation’s purpose, it is essential that business owners be aware of the changes that may affect their operations. I participate in several legislative briefing calls every month with Whitehouse staff and Cal Chamber legislative staff on behalf of our membership in order to stay abreast of issues.
One of the bills that has me concerned for our members is a recent amendment to the California Retail Food Code that requires employees to wear gloves if they handle ready-to-eat foods that aren’t heated or cooked prior to being served. This regulation aims to reduce and prevent foodborne illness and went into effect Jan. 1. This not only applies to chefs in kitchens, but to the servers and bartenders in restaurants that handle these types of foods, which include fruit, salads and breads. In the first few months of 2014, businesses that fail to observe this new law will only receive a warning, but businesses should expect fines in the latter half of the year if they do not comply.
TahoeChamber worked closely with our membership and especially with local retailers and grocers when our city was writing the single use carry-out plastic bag ordinance. Our membership overwhelmingly supported a bag ban with local retailers favoring a mandatory minimal charge for paper bags due to the higher environmental and fiscal costs associated with paper. Council voted against a mandatory charge. Soon the State of California may mandate what our City Council did not. Senate Bill 270 would ban plastic bags from grocery check-out stands and charge 10 cents for a paper or re-usable plastic bag. The compromise being negotiated around this bill addresses the concerns related to lost jobs at manufacturing facilities in the US and the materials utilized in making the “re-usable” plastic bags. SB 270 seeks to provide funding for re-engineering and training of manufacturing facilities through California’s recycling program and would phase in mandatory levels of recycled plastic content for the re-useable bags.
Also on our radar in California is AB 953 that could increase litigation under the California Environmental Quality Act, thereby dramatically increasing costs for project proponents. I would prefer to see our legislators working to improve this decades-old act to reduce litigation and costs, while improving environmental protection by doing a review of the Act’s requirements, current science and best management practices.
There will be less activity to follow in Nevada during 2014 with legislators in an off-session year. I will continue to attend meetings such as the NV Legislative Oversight Committee upcoming in February and maintain relationships with our elected officials in both states and locally at all levels.
— “B” Gorman, B.S., J.D., A.C.E., is the president and CEO of TahoeChamber.