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2019 California Legislative Session Highlights

Roller Coaster of a Legislative Year Ends in Success

The Legislature adjourned the first year of the 2019-20 Legislative Session at approximately 3:00 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14, ending a roller coaster of a year highlighted by negotiations between first year Governor Newsom and legislators. Business advocates were presented with a unique challenge this year — they were facing a two-thirds Democratic majority in both houses when seeking to either stop or amend legislation supported by the majority Democrats. At the same time, the new governor was working for balanced leadership as well as his progressive “bona-fides.” Despite these challenges, the legislative session can largely be deemed a success for Wine Institute.

Successes: Wine Institute achieved success on many matters this year, including stopping the .05 DUI bill (AB 1713), and the beer franchise law bill (AB 1541), while also securing passage of multi-licensed premises legislation (AB 1825), and the Pierce’s Disease Program extension legislation (SB 449). Amendments were secured to exempt wineries from an ill-conceived water conservation measure (SB 166), as well as amendments to ensure that the newly revamped “beer” definition did not impact wine (AB 205). Most notably, the single-use packaging bills (SB 54/AB 1080) were successfully stopped, which would have given CalRecycle unprecedented powers in regulating single-use packaging and containers. Lastly, Wine Institute participated in coalition efforts to successfully stop several bills that would have expanded employment litigation risks and increased taxes.

Challenges: Several bills opposed by Wine Institute, and the larger business community, did manage to pass the Legislature and make it to Governor Newsom’s desk. Most notable among these is AB 5, which codifies a new test to distinguish employees from independent contractors, and several bills that Governor Brown vetoed last year, including legislation prohibiting arbitration agreements as a condition of employment (AB 51). Additionally, two items supported by Wine Institute stalled this year: AB 264, which would allow for wineries to open an additional off-site tasting room, and AB 1714, which would help to ensure that wineries are not forced to install emission control equipment that could harm wine quality.

To be Continued: Because this was only the end of the first year of a two-year session, work will continue on the measures that did not pass this year. Over the Fall, Wine Institute will draft possible amendments to the single-use packaging bill and develop strategies to help secure passage of SB 264 to allow for an additional tasting room and AB 1714 to protect wineries from installing problematic emission control equipment on their fermentation tanks.

2019 California Legislative Session Update

The legislature adjourned the first year of the 2019-2020 Legislative Session on Sept. 14, and Governor Newsom completed action on the bills that made it to his desk on Oct. 13. See an updated report on the complete list of bills Wine Institute staff engaged on.

Tim Schmelzer

Vice President, California State Relations

Tyler Blackney

Director, Legislative & Regulatory Affairs