Assembly has ambitious goals for its last six weeks

SACRAMENTO — Business is a top priority for the Legislature this year, California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez says as members return Monday for a final six weeks of lawmaking in 2013.

Already this year, he boasts, the Legislature has overhauled the enterprise-zone program and created a sales-tax credit for research, development and manufacturing equipment. Getting the package passed and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown before the summer recess was "huge," said Pérez a Los Angeles Democrat).

It stands as one of the most significant economic development actions in years — but there is more to come, says the former labor leader, whose district includes downtown Los Angeles, East L.A. and nearby communities.

A number of important business issues still await key committee hearings and floor votes before the scheduled end of the session, Sept. 13. On the agenda: fixing the state's insolvent unemployment-insurance system, increasing regulation of oil and gas wells that use hydraulic fracking, raising the minimum wage and limiting access to the workers' compensation insurance program for many retired athletes from out-of-state professional sports teams.

The overarching theme for the Legislature's last month, he said, should be passing laws that encourage businesses to expand in a sustainable way.

"The most important thing we can do as a state is to stabilize our economic house, he said, "by balancing the budget, improving credit-worthiness and reinvestment in education."

One of the more contentious bills would raise the state minimum wage, now $8 an hour, to $9.50 in 2017. Business interests are lobbying hard against it. "I don't know if we have enough time to create a groundswell of support," Pérez said. "I'm not saying it can't be done, but I'm saying I don't see it yet."

Fulfillment-center jobs

Another Sacramento accomplishment in recent years — a state law aimed at getting more sales tax from Internet retailers — seems to be paying off with new jobs as well.

As part of the tax agreement, Inc. pledged to open new operations in California and deliver new jobs. Last week, Amazon said it is hiring about 5,000 workers at order fulfillment centers across the country, including several hundred in the state.

Some of the new employees will work at a center in San Bernardino, which opened in October with 700 people. Others will be at similar facilities in the San Joaquin Valley cities of Tracy and Patterson, southeast of San Francisco.

Median pay will be 30% higher than for traditional retail workers, Amazon said.

Give me shelter

Looking for low-cost apartments to rent in California? It's not so easy, but state Treasurer Bill Lockyer wants to help.

He's created an Internet map with details about multifamily projects, such as addresses, phone numbers and available units. The map accounts for 90% of all such apartments in the state. Here's the link:

Twitter: @marclifsher

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