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Pressure builds for bills to garner a first hearing

SACRAMENTO — The pace of lawmaking is speeding up at the Capitol.

With legislators back from spring break, rallies are in full swing on the Capitol steps; lobbyists of all stripes are packing the ornate hearing rooms and overflow crowds are watching television feeds in hallways.

"There's definitely a push to get bills moving," said Sarah Swanbeck of California Common Cause, a government reform lobby. "You can feel the pressure."

Car computers: An item in the April 28 Capitol Business Beat column on legislation by state Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) seeking to give car owners more control over information from their car computers said it was SB 984. The bill is SB 994. —

Friday is the deadline for bills to get a first hearing.

It's also an election year, and pressure is on to get early action on proposals on which lawmakers hope to campaign.

Business interests have a lot riding on many of the measures — pro and con. Here are a few that saw action last week in Senate committees.

CEO pay: Multimillion-dollar paychecks for many California chief executives have not gone unnoticed, and some lawmakers are questioning the fairness to workers.

Sens. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) and Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) want to limit CEO salaries to no higher than 100 times the average salary of their workers. To do so, they have a bill, SB 1372, that would cut corporate income taxes for companies that keep executive pay in line. And it would hike taxes where bosses make over 100 times more than the rank and file.

The bill faces challenges ahead, but last week the Senate Governance and Finance Committee approved it on a 5 to 2 vote.

If it becomes law, the measure could affect hundreds of corporations in the retail, restaurant, fast-food, grocery and construction industries.

"This growing divergence between CEO pay and that of the typical American worker isn't just wildly unfair," said supporter Robert Reich, a UC Berkeley professor and President Clinton's secretary of labor. "It's also bad for the economy."

Nonsense, responded business advocates, who said raising corporate income taxes would send the wrong message to potential investors in California. Gina Rodriguez of the California Taxpayers Assn. said, "This would launch our corporate tax rate into the stratosphere."

Computer data: Your car holds a trove of valuable information. Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) has a bill, SB 984, to give owners of cars more control over who gets access to computer and Internet data about a vehicle's performance and how it is driven. But his bill fell three votes shy of what was needed to pass the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. The proposal was backed by auto clubs. But car manufacturers and dealers denounced it as a special interest push by the clubs and their insurance arms.

Genetically engineered food labeling: Though rejected by California voters in 2012, the issue lives on in the Legislature. SB 1381, by Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), cleared the Judiciary Committee on a 4 to 2 tally but is expected to run into trouble in the Agriculture Committee. Her bill is supported by small farmers, environmentalists and organic food retailers. It's opposed by the grocery industry, retailers, agribusiness corporations and many scientists.

Twitter: @MarcLifsher

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