BUSINESS

California Inc.: Equal pay for equal work enshrined in law

Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business section. Here's a rundown of upcoming stories this week and the highlights of last week.

With the stock market posting its worst year since 2008 and several hedge funds taking a pounding, many are glad 2016 has arrived. But with the new year come key questions, including whether initial public offerings are poised for a comeback after a miserable stretch. And will merger-and-acquisition activity continue its torrid pace with the cost of capital still at rock bottom?

LOOKING AHEAD

Equal pay: Workers across California will return to their jobs Monday under the nation’s toughest fair pay law, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed last year. The law requires employers to show that male and female employees are paid equally for “substantially similar” work. It’s expected to prompt employers to review compensation practices, with some experts saying it could lead to standardized pay packages, replacing the decisions now made on an individual basis.

Climate change: The agriculture community has been preparing for how predicted shifts in weather patterns could affect most of the state’s major crops, valued at about $46 billion annually. Efforts are under way to reduce methane gas emissions from livestock and rice cultivation, carbon compounds from farm machinery and even nitrous oxides from soil microbes. The California State Board of Food and Agriculture will discuss the issue at a Tuesday meeting streamed live 10 a.m. to 2 p.m here.

Rate debate: So what was the Federal Reserve thinking when it decided last month to raise a key interest rate for the first time in nearly a decade? Fed watchers will get the chance to find out when the minutes of the policymakers' December meeting are released Wednesday. The text could provide some clues about possible future rate increases.

Jobs news: The Labor Department on Friday will release its December employment report, providing insight into the economic recovery, approaching its 80th month. While that’s much longer than the typical rebound from a recession, it’s not quite the Methuselah of recoveries. That title goes to the decade-long economic expansion of the 1990s. Analysts expect the report will show the economy added 200,000 net jobs, a slight fall-off from November.

THE AGENDA

Monday’s Business section takes a critical look at the International Consumer Electronics Show, better known as CES. The annual Las Vegas affair has ballooned into cornucopia of gadgetry, from bejeweled smartphone cases to WiFi-connected washing machines, prompting industry grumbling. So this year’s show is turning its focus to more important innovations, such as connected, electric and driverless cars; drones and entertainment tech. The event, which starts Wednesday, will be the biggest yet with 2.4 million square feet of exhibit space.

STORY LINES

Here are some of the other stories that ran in the L.A. Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:

Mega ships: The largest container ship ever to arrive in North America docked at the Port of Los Angeles, a sign of the rapid changes underway in the global shipping industry. The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, which arrived on a maiden voyage from China and South Korea, can carry nearly a third more cargo than the largest ships currently calling on West Coast ports. Ocean freight carriers seeking economies of scale are in a race to build huge ships, which are now nearly three times the size of the average ship from a decade ago.

Orca suit: SeaWorld San Diego followed through on its promise to sue the California Coastal Commission for approving a new orca enclosure, but only on the condition the park stop breeding its killer whales. The Superior Court action alleges the state panel does not have the authority to impose such a condition on the construction project, which would expand the enclosure for the park's 11 killer whales. The clause would eventually lead to the end of the killer whale shows that are the park’s most popular attraction.

PUC probe: A state criminal investigation into the California Public Utilities Commission centers on former President Michael Peevey and his intervention into the process that assigned costs for the failure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant, according to court documents. The San Diego County facility closed following a radiation leak in January 2012. A $4.7 billion deal sticking 70% of the costs to utility customers has since been repudiated by two of the consumer groups that negotiated it following revelations about private meetings between regulators and utility executives.

Hip hotel: Hoxton, a London hotel operator, purchased a dilapidated historic building in downtown Los Angeles for $30 million and plans to transform it into a hip, stylish boutique inn. The project is the latest planned for a resurgent neighborhood around 11th Street and Broadway, where the former Los Angeles Herald-Examiner building is being converted into a mixed-use complex. It’s also a sign that downtown, where property is cheap compared with other global cities, is drawing the attention of overseas investors.

WHAT WE'RE READING

And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:

1% solution: Is the tax system stacked against the average American? Yes, says the New York Times, in a special report documenting an essentially private tax system created by the uber wealthy, who spend millions on exotic tax shelters that save them tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.

High deductibles: It’s well known that a new class of breakthrough drugs curing hepatitis C and other intractable diseases come with eye-popping price tags. But a Wall Street Journal article explains how the high out-of-pocket costs are putting the treatments out of reach even for some patients with insurance.

Quick buck: If you find yourself visiting the bank less and less, you have joined the crowd, according to Quartz. For the first time, by one count, more Americans are using mobile devices to access their accounts than making the trek to a bank branch.

Hangover cure: If your New Year’s Eve left something to be desired, here’s a New York Post story about chain-restaurant celebrations sure to make you feel better. At least you didn’t fork over $400 at the Times Square Olive Garden — enough to make you choke on the bread sticks, if they were included in the price.

SPARE CHANGE

One more thing: With the Beatles catalog finally available on streaming services, here’s a song from the Fab Four that expresses our feelings for our loyal newsletter readers. Just do a little editing and change that “she loves” to “we love.”

David Lazarus is on vacation. He returns next week. For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business.

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