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California Legislature Guts Transportation Bill to Create Vaccine Mandate on Private Industry

The Globe received word late Wednesday from Capitol sources that a gut-and-amend transportation bill is morphing into a bill ordering a vaccine mandate on private industry (seen below).

AB 455 by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), was a bill to authorize the Bay Area Toll Authority to designate transit-only traffic lanes on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, in consultation with the Department of Transportation, Caltrans.

Gut-and-amend bills can be particularly insidious. This secretive process often leaves lawmakers, as well as the public, little or no time to review entirely new legislation dropped into an old bill. And usually, the subject of the legislation has nothing to do with the bill’s previous legislative issue.

Gut-and-amend typically happens with budget issues and heavy special interest legislation. Lawmakers have complained loudly for years that the gut-and-amend process has been grossly abused by whichever party is in power.

Sources say they don’t know if this bill will come to fruition or not.

Assembly Bill 455, once a transportation bill, is being amended. Here’s how:

  • Amendment 1 adds Members Wicks, Low, and Akilah Weber.
  • Amendment 2 adds “Principal coauthors: Senators Newman, Pan, and Wiener.”
  • Amendment 3 inserts: An act to add Section 52.8 to the Civil Code, to add Section 12940.4 to the Government Code, and to add Section 248.4 to the Labor Code, relating to COVID-19 vaccination requirements, and declaring the urgency thereof, to take effect immediately.
  • Amendment 5: 52.8. (a) Notwithstanding any other law, an establishment, as defined in subdivision (b), shall require each person who is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, who seeks to enter the indoor facilities of that establishment, to show proof to an employee or authorized agent of the establishment that the person has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Note: “To the extent allowable under state and federal law and any employment agreement entered into on or after the effective date of this act, an employee who refuses to comply with this section may be subject to termination.”

And suddenly, a bill which could not pass through the Legislature legitimately in the committee process, would mandate the COVID vaccine on employees in private industry or be fired.

The gutted bill also now says:

(1) COVID-19 vaccine supplemental paid sick leave shall be available to an employee if that employee is unable to work due to either of the following reasons: (A) The employee is attending an appointment to receive a vaccine for protection against contracting COVID-19. (B) The employee is experiencing symptoms related to a COVID-19 vaccine.

But that’s not all. There’s more:

(2) An employee shall be entitled to the following number of hours of COVID-19 vaccine supplemental paid sick leave:

(A) An employee is entitled to 24 hours of COVID-19 vaccine supplemental paid sick leave. (B) COVID-19 vaccine supplemental paid sick leave to which an employee is entitled pursuant to this section shall be in addition to any paid sick leave that may be available to the employee under any other law. (c) An employee may determine how many hours of COVID-19 vaccine supplemental paid sick leave to use, up to the total number of hours to which the employee is entitled pursuant to subparagraph (A). The COVID-19 vaccine supplemental paid sick leave is available for immediate use by the employee.

(3) Each hour of COVID-19 vaccine supplemental paid sick leave shall be compensated at the regular rate of pay to which the employee would be entitled if the employee had been scheduled to work those hours pursuant to existing law or an applicable collective bargaining agreement.

Capitol sources note business groups like the cover of this bill being a government edict so they can wash their hands of some liability on COVID protection. And, labor is using this to extort more concessions like additional sick leave and bonus hazard pay.

A Capitol source said, “It’s never good when big business and labor may be on the same side of things.”

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