SACRAMENTO—A package of measures providing relief to California’s struggling small businesses by offering protection from unfounded lawsuits, a reduction in state tax liability and greater assurance for uninterrupted payment of business insurance claims was announced today by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland).
The Ramos-authored proposals also include three bills he is co-authoring that were introduced by the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy (JEDE).
“Tens of thousands of California businesses have temporarily or permanently closed,” Ramos observed. “Many are the small ventures and enterprises that make the state a global economic powerhouse. Small businesses are resilient but need immediate and targeted assistance. California cannot afford to lose these job-generators that help our communities thrive by creating a revenue base and contributing to local charities, civic spirit and offering the first employment opportunities young people experience.”
The Ramos small business relief package includes:
- AB 247 (Small Business Liability): Protects small businesses with 100 or fewer employees and nonprofits from unfounded lawsuits if they are following all pandemic-related state and local health laws, regulations and protocols. The exemption would not apply if illness results from a grossly negligent act or omission, willful or wanton misconduct, or unlawful discrimination by the business or one of its employees. Nursing homes and assisted living centers are explicitly exempted. Sponsors: National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and Civil Justice Association of California.
- AB 632 (Franchise Tax Relief): Implements a tiered reduction in the minimum franchise tax imposed on small business with gross receipts less than $15 million. This bill relieves the state tax burden and cash-flow issues faced by small businesses during this critical time. Sponsor: NFIB and supported by Small Business California.
- AB 643 (Increasing Student Apprenticeship Options): Requires a school district or school to notify each apprenticeship program in its county of career or college fairs it plans to hold. This notification would increase post-graduation options for students and generate greater participation by local apprenticeship programs in career and job fairs. Students would also gain increased awareness of the benefits of apprenticeship programs and would help schools and regional workforce development coordinators communicate more effectively to help move students toward productive careers. Sponsor: Author.
- AB 743 (Interrupted Business Claims): Creates a rebuttable presumption to clarify that COVID-19 is the cause of direct physical damage under business interruption for insured businesses. The bill would apply retroactively beginning on March 4, 2020 to include insured parties from that date. The Legislature can adjust the burden of proof for direct physical damage. It is a legitimate policy decision to decide who bears the burden of proof: the insurance company or the insured. This would not be a retroactive revision of the insurance policy. Merely changing the burden of proof does nothing to change any policy language. In fact, the bill expressly honors virus exclusion language. AB 743 would clarify current law so direct physical damage includes COVID-19. Business owners who have paid premiums for business interruption insurance deserve to be protected. This proposal would allow businesses such as salon and gym owners, gift store owners, restaurants and other businesses that have paid premiums for years to meet disputed and questionable burdens of proof for pandemic-related business closures and other related financial losses because COVID-19 interrupted their business operations. Sponsor: Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.
The Ramos co-authored JEDE committee bills are:
- AB 1571 (Regulatory Fairness): Implements a moratorium on new regulations that affect small businesses located in a disaster area unless the Office of Emergency Services certifies that the regulation is necessary to address the emergency and the proposed rule provides adequate notice and implementation time.
- AB 1572 (Saleable Tax Credit to Raise Investment Cash): Establishes a state New Market Tax Credit to help community development entities raise capital to invest in small businesses in low-income communities.
- AB 1573 (Local Economic Development Support): Establishes the California Business Retention Program within GO-Biz for the purpose of supporting local economic recovery efforts. The program leverages existing state resources to better align with state’s economic development and small business technical assistance providers.
- AB 1574 - Procurement Improvements: Implements the Small Business Contract Act of 2021, which updates the role of the Small Business Advocate at the Department of Veterans Affairs, strengthens the "commercially useful function" requirement of state contracting, and expands the Target Area Contract Preference Act to include an additional $50,000 for workforce preferences.
Assemblymember James Ramos proudly represents the 40th Assembly district which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino. He is the first and only California Native American serving in the state Legislature.