John Musella, Partner Evolve Business Strategies, left, introduces the panel of Legislators during the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce Legislative Forum held at Valencia Country Club in Valencia on Friday, October, 04, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

SCV business community hears from federal, state reps

We’re here; we’re listening.

That’s the message federal and state elected officials who represent the Santa Clarita Valley told a room of local business leaders Friday as part of an SCV Chamber of Commerce event. 

The Legislative Leaders Forum, held at the Valencia Country Club, welcomed Rep. Katie Hill, D-Agua Dulce; Assembly members Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, and Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale; and state Sens. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, and Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita. 

“Most importantly: your advocacy. The door is open. We’re here; we’re listening, so keep it up,” said Stern to an audience of about 100 people encouraging them to continue projecting their voices on issues affecting them as individuals and their businesses. 

The panel discussion varied on topics ranging from the split roll initiative to minimum wage and homelessness. 

Assembly Bill 5

Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed AB 5, a bill that provides exemptions for a collection of professions such as hairdressers, doctors and real estate agents to maintain independent contractor status but left many other industries, including physical therapists, truck drivers and gig economy workers, to be newly classified as employees.

Stern said AB 5 became “a pretty complex framework,” because “whether you’re a hairdresser or a referee in your kids’ AYSO league, I don’t think anyone ever wanted to have that fight.” He added that a number of bills could emerge in the next legislative session that could address the problems some have with the law.

Wilk said AB 5 was “an over-reach.” He and Lackey voted against the bill. 

Split roll

The split-roll proposal that qualified as a ballot initiative to be voted on in November 2020 would amend the state constitution to require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value, while keeping residential properties on a purchase price tax assessment. The initial version, though, is not expected to go to the ballot because it has not polled well. 

Proponents of the split roll announced their efforts to try and qualify a revised version of the proposal for the 2020 ballot, detailing how funds would be distributed toward schools and community colleges. 

While a strong supporter of investing in public education, Smith said she also understands the pressures it would add on businesses, and is “absolutely not convinced that this is the right way to go. It’s just one more cost of doing business in California.” 

Lackey said voter confidence in how funds are spent is a growing issue: “The people are losing trust because we’re really not being fiscally responsible and responsive as we should be. These are all issues that need to be respected and talked about openly and honestly, and when we do that, we’ll have less initiatives.” 

Opponents of the “split roll” concept have expressed fear that it will erode Proposition 13, potentially leading to subsequent measures that would strip homeowners of the property tax protections Prop. 13 provides.

Homelessness

Audience member Troy Hooper, who is a member of the city’s homeless task force, asked the representatives how businesses can better address the local homeless issue. 

Hill and Smith both emphasized that businesses must communicate and advocate on the issue, such as when the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce voiced support for Measure H, the quarter-cent sales tax for homeless services, and the SCV Chamber’s support in “the development of housing at all economic levels to address homelessness,” as stated on its website. 

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