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Ballot measure raising minimum wage to $12 an hour is proposed

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SACRAMENTO — California's minimum wage is pegged to go up $1 an hour to $9 on July 1 and by another buck in 2016.

But that isn't high enough or fast enough for Ron Unz, a Silicon Valley software entrepreneur who has dabbled in state politics over the years.

The 52-year-old multimillionaire hopes to put a measure on the November ballot raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour March 1, 2015, and to $12 a year later.

Unz said he's confident he will get the needed signatures of 504,760 registered voters by the June deadline.

Raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour is a sure-fire way to fight poverty, which is widespread in California because of the high cost of living, Unz said.

Unz's proposed wage hikes "automatically would cut social-welfare spending ... by tens of billions of dollars because the workers are not so poor," he said.

That's an attractive proposal for many other fiscal conservatives, said Unz, who described himself as a libertarian-leaning conservative.

What's more, he said, a $12-an-hour minimum wage would have little noticeable effect on the cost of goods, boosting inflation by less than 1%.

But some groups representing businesses that employ large numbers of minimum wage workers aren't buying Unz's contention.

Fast-food and other restaurant owners are wondering whether they can afford the pay hike approved last year by the state Legislature, the biggest in state history, said Jot Condie, president of the California Restaurant Assn. "There will be a loss of jobs."

Porn safety

California's workplace safety agency last week announced that it won what it called a first-ever appeal, upholding its authority to stop unsafe activities during porn film shoots.

The occupational safety agency cited Treasure Island Media, a San Francisco company that makes sexually explicit, gay-oriented films.

On Jan. 6, an administrative law judge upheld citations for failing to protect employees against sexual transmission of infectious diseases transmitted by blood.

"This decision highlights California's commitment to worker safety in adult entertainment," said Christine Baker, director of the state Department of Industrial Relations.

Treasure Island is appealing the ruling to a higher-level state panel, said its lawyer, Karen Tynan. Its appeal asserts that those who engaged in unprotected sex were independent contractors and not Treasure Island employees, she said. The appeal also contends that safety regulations, originally written to protect medical workers, don't apply to the adult film industry.

Big oil

Oil companies spent big on lobbying last year.

The trade group Western States Petroleum Assn. ranked No. 1 among all lobbyists, spending $4.7 million in 2013, according to the California secretary of state. Chevron Corp. came in third at $4 million.

The California State Council of Service Employees union placed second with $4.3 million.

The oil industry spent a lot because it faced a large number of important issues last year, including air and water quality regulations, safety, hydraulic fracking and taxes, said Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Assn.

marc.lifsher@latimes.com

Twitter: @MarcLifsher

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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