Improve OSH Laws

Anyone can be an advocate for California legislation that improves occupational safety and health conditions for workers and protects workers who are injured, suffer retaliation as a result of injury or involvement in occupational safety and health advocacy, etc.

Informed advocates know how to monitor the legislative process and can get involved to change the outcome. Advocates can write letters, go to Sacramento to testify at a hearing, or even help to mobilize workers who may be directly affected by a legislative proposal to go to Sacramento and testify. These are just a few examples. Follow the links below to learn more about how to improve OSH laws.

Understanding the California Legislative System

The various schedules and protocols of the legislature determine when and how to intervene as a legislative advocate. Knowing how to navigate the different committees and stages of lawmaking is important to being an effective advocate.

Official California Legislative Information
This is the state government’s official website for California legislative activity. It can be used to investigate and track bills, research California law, find information about California legislators and more.

Find and Know Your Legislators
Part of the Official California Legislative Information site, this page hosts a tool to search for Legislators by zip code. It also includes:

  • links to alphabetical listings of representatives which include links to their websites
  • lists of Senate and Assembly Committees and their membership
  • and much more information about the California legislature

How a Bill Becomes a Law
To track a bill, and to make informed decisions about when, where and how to advocate for improvements in OSH law, it is necessary to understand how a bill becomes a law. This section provides important information about the committees where bills enter the legislative process and describes the schedules by which bills proceed through the different phases of the legislative process.

Senate and Assembly Committees
This section provides introductory information about California’s Senate and Assembly Committees, as wells as contact and meeting details for the committees most likely to handle OSH bills.

Getting Involved in the Legislative Process

In order to make sure that the system protects workers, advocates must participate in it to influence OSH policy. The links below provide some strategies for legislative advocacy.

Tracking Bills and Writing Letters
A simple and direct way for an individual to get involved in the legislative process is by monitoring pending legislation and writing letters to key representatives advocating for or against a given bill. The instructions linked above explain how to engage this process.

Lobby Days
Organizations such as unions and consumer groups often hold lobby days in Sacramento. Joining them can make lobbying less intimidating and more effective. Follow the link above for some basic information about lobby days: what they are, how they work, and how to get involved in them.

Special Legislative Hearings
The Legislature, a legislative committee or an individual member of the Legislature may hold a special hearing or an oversight hearing. Workers and union activists can testify about occupational safety and health issues at these hearings.

 


How a Bill Becomes a Law

A brief but excellent explanation can be found at www.leginfo.ca.gov/guide.html#Appendix.

An extremely thorough explanation can be found at www.leginfo.ca.gov/califleg.html.

A chart can be found at www.leginfo.ca.gov/pdf/caleg9.pdf. The chart is followed by more historical detail.

An even simpler chart can be found at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/bil2lawd.html.

The California legislative calendar can be found at www.assembly.ca.gov/acs/acsframeset11text.asp.

Bills must follow a timeline. Generally a session begins in December and runs through September. Legislative sessions are 2 years, and bills must meet certain deadlines the first year in order to still remain viable during the second year (assuming the bill is not passed and signed or vetoed during the first year). Most bills are introduced at the beginning of the first year, but some new bills may be introduced at the beginning of the second year of a legislative session.

A bill is introduced by a Legislator and goes through two houses. If the Legislator is a State Assembly member, the bill is introduced in the State Assembly. If the Legislator is a State Senate Member, the bill is introduced in the State Senate.

Once introduced in a given house it goes through one or more policy committees and a fiscal committee and then proceeds to the floor where it is voted upon by the members of that house. The floor votes occur after the bill is "read" several times. The public is not allowed on the floor of the houses. If it is a Senate bill, it starts with the Senate committees and floor. Then it moves to the Assembly and repeats the process there. If it is an Assembly bill, it starts with the Assembly committees and floor. Then it moves to the Senate and repeats the process there.

If both houses approve a bill, it then goes to the Governor. The Governor has three choices: sign the bill into law, allow it to become law without his or her signature, or veto it. A governor's veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote in both houses. Most enacted bills go into effect on the first day of January of the next year. Urgency bills and certain other measures take effect immediately after they are enacted into law.


Senate and Assembly Committees

A bill goes through committees. The leadership in each house assigns the bill to one or more policy committees. Most occupational safety and health bills will be heard by the Senate Labor & Industrial Relations committee and the Assembly Labor & Employment committee. These committees have regular meeting times, which may or may not change from one legislative year to the next.

Senate committees

Assembly committees

Committees do NOT meet every time they are scheduled to do so. If you are planning to attend a committee meeting, call ahead to confirm that the committee will be meeting as scheduled that week.

Senate Late & Industrial Relations Committee
In the 2009-2010 Legislative Session, the Senate Labor & Industrial Relations committee (L&IR) meets on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month at 9:30 am in Room 2040 of the State Capitol. The Staff for this committee is in Room 545 of the Legislative Office Building on 1020 N St., across the street from the State Capitol. The phone number for the staff is (916) 651-1556. The fax is (916) 327-5703.

Assembly Labor & Employment Committee
In the 2009-2010 Legislative Session, the Assembly Labor & Employment committee (L&E) meets on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month at 1:30 pm in Room 447 of the State Capitol. The Staff for this committee is in Room 155 of the Legislative Office Building on 1020 N St., across the street from the State Capitol. The phone number for the staff is (916) 319-2091. The fax is (916) 319-2191.

Senate Appropriations Committee
In the 2009-2010 Legislative Session, the Senate Appropriations committee meets every Monday at 11:00 am in Room 4203 of the State Capitol. The Staff for this committee is in Room 2206 of the State Capitol. The phone number for the staff is (916) 651-4101. There is no fax line.

Assembly Appropriations Committee
In the 2009-2010 Legislative Session, the Assembly Appropriations committee meets every Wednesday at 9:00am in Room 4202 of the State Capitol. The Staff for this committee is in Room 2114 of the State Capitol. The phone number for the staff is (916) 319-2081. The fax is (916) 319-2181.


Tracking Bills and Writing Letters

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED in California LEGISLATION, you need to find the bill number and then you will need to keep track of the bill as it proceeds through the legislature.

STEP 1 - FIND THE BILL

If you know the bill number: Go to the official page for California Bill Information. Scroll down towards the bottom of the page and enter the bill number you want and click on the Search key. You may have to choose between a Senate Bill or Assembly Bill - just click on the bill you want.

If you do NOT know the bill number: You can also search by a keyword if you don't have the bill number. Again, go to the official page for California Bill Information. Scroll down towards the bottom of that page and enter the key words you want and click on the Search key. If you enter the words in "quote marks" then you will find bills that ONLY contain those exact words in that sequence. If you enter the words without "quote marks" then you will find bills that have either word. This may give you too many bills, if for example, you enter the words occupational safety or occupational health. At the same time, if you enter exact words such as “occupational safety and health” and the bill used the words “occupational health and safety,” you won't find the bill because the words are reversed. ALSO, be aware that not every bill related to occupational safety and health has those words in it. Sometimes you need to search using other words and need to try a variety of combinations.

Sometimes you need to ask your union or the California Labor Federation for the bill numbers having to do with occupational safety and health. Contact the California Labor Fed at www.calaborfed.org. You can register to receive e-mail from the California Labor Fed by entering your email address into the “Join Us” bar at the top of the page. They are also available via post, phone and fax:

California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
600 Grand Avenue #410
Oakland CA 94610-3561

Phone: (510)663-4000 Fax: (510)663-4099

STEP 2 - REVIEW THE BILL

The process above takes you to the opening page of the bill. There you can click on various links for the bill to see the current status and history, to see the bill itself and various amendments, to see various analyses and votes, etc. You can print out from these links.

STEP 3 - SUBSCRIBE TO THE BILL

At the bottom of the bill page, there is a button you can click on to "subscribe". They will send you updates (not exactly timely, however). But if you pay close attention to the update notices and combine that with some general information about how a bill becomes a law, you can figure out how effectively to jump into the process. Click here for a general introduction to how a bill becomes a law.

STEP 4 - WRITE A LETTER

Generally, the easiest thing for a voter to do is to write a letter to the author of the bill you wish to support or oppose. Then you send a copy of that letter to the chair of the committee in the Legislature that will hear the bill next. Generally, you do not want to wait until the bill is already on the floor of the Legislature. You also should send a copy of your letter to your own State Assembly Member and State Senate Member so they will have that in their files when the bill happens to come before them. They may encounter the bill because they are on a policy committee or a fiscal committee that hears the bill. They WILL encounter the bill if it reaches the floor of the State Senate or State Assembly.


California Lobby Days

Going to Sacramento by yourself to lobby a bill may be a little intimidating.
Many groups hold LOBBY DAYS in Sacramento. If you join up with a group of like-minded people on a lobbying day a group has organized, it is easier to lobby. The group will usually have packets with bill information and fact sheets. The group may have already scheduled appointments with key legislators. Be sure, however, you are comfortable with all the bills the group is supporting or opposing; if you go to a legislator's office to talk about one bill and the program involves a discussion of several other bills, you can't very easily just walk out when a bill, regarding which you may not be in agreement with the group, is raised.

If you are interested in just one particular bill, try to hook up with the sponsor of the bill you are interested in supporting. That will give you a lobbying partner. Often the sponsor will want to have folks come to Sacramento on one of the days the bill is being heard in a legislative committee (usually a policy committee as opposed to a fiscal committee). Even if you are not going to testify, you can sit in the hearing room, come to the table when the bill is called, and provide a "me too" stating your name and, if possible, your organization’s name after the testimony is given by the Assembly Member or Senator carrying the bill and after the testimony of the sponsor and other formal witnesses.

Contact your union rep to find out about upcoming lobby day opportunities.