Pending State Legislation

Every year the California Legislature debates and considers more than 2,300 different bills, resolutions and constitutional amendments. These measures often include major changes to labor law, water rights, alcohol licensing, housing, taxes and other issues that directly affect California winegrape growers. This year California lawmakers have proposed more taxes and fees in the first four months than in all of 2015 or 2016. If each proposal becomes law, the tax burden in California would increase by more than $155 billion annually.

The California Association of Winegrape Growers is advocating in Sacramento during the deliberation on these proposed changes in law. As a strong voice for California winegrape growers, CAWG helps make lawmakers aware of the potential effects of the legislation they are considering. In many cases this includes unintended, but devastating, consequences.

CAWG sponsors and supports legislation that positively impacts grape growing in California and opposes legislation that can have a negative impact on the industry, our workers and our communities. Below is a partial list of pending legislation.


AB 815 (Cooper) requires the Labor Commissioner to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated for farm labor contractor (FLC) examination, licensing and complaint processing purposes. Vineyard management companies are required to be licensed as an FLC. More than 76 percent of FLCs have their license renewed more than a month after expiration with nearly 40 percent receiving the license three months after expiration. AB 815 will help bring needed resources to the program and speed up that process.

AB 1420 (Aguiar-Curry) streamlines the process for a farm or vineyard owner to obtain a permit from the State Water Board to divert water into a small irrigation pond. These ponds provide significant environmental benefits by allowing growers to divert water during high stream flows and avoid such diversions during low stream flows. This enhances growers’ water security while also protecting natural resources.

ACR 35 (Cooper) proclaims April as "California Wines: Down to Earth Month." This resolution celebrates the sustainable leadership of California wineries and winegrape growers. ACR 35 was cosponsored by CAWG and Wine Institute in partnership with the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.

Pierce's Disease Control Funding Program Letter         


AB 313 (Gray) establishes a Water Rights Division within the Office of Administrative Hearings. This will bring some accountability and transparency to the current system of managing California’s precious water supply.

SCA 9 (Glazer) incentivizes the proliferation of rainwater capture systems by creating a property tax exclusion for such systems. This is intended to lead to a significant expansion of rainwater capture systems throughout the state, while contributing to the state’s conservation efforts.

AB 196 (Bigelow) allows “cap and trade” moneys for electric pump efficiency, water and wastewater systems, pump and pump motor efficiency improvements, and drinking water transmission and distribution systems’ water loss if the investment furthers the regulatory purposes of the act and is consistent with law.

SB 524 (Vidak) provides employers with a defense against prosecution for alleged violations of labor laws, when those employers attempted to follow relevant guidance issued to them in an opinion letter by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

AB 997 (Aguiar-Curry) provides that a winegrower and a beer manufacturer that share adjacent or adjoining licensed premises may pour and sell for consumption the wine or beer produced upon the licensed premises by the other licensee. This common sense measure will allow consumers to enjoy both beer and wine products in a shared space when a brewery and winery are co-located. Under AB 997 visitors to such a location would be able to purchase beer from the brewery and wine from the winery, and then consume both products in an outdoor picnic area. This is prohibited under existing law.

AB 297 (Levine) authorizes a downtown Santa Rosa wine and food cultural museum and educational center to sell and serve wine. The venue is scheduled to open next year and promises to be a North Bay destination for wine enthusiasts.

AB 400 (Cooper) allows an event, such as the annual Legends of Wine event, to be held on State Capitol grounds if the event is organized and operated by a nonprofit organization for purposes of promoting education about the food and wine of the Sacramento region, and tickets are sold on a presale basis only.

AB 522 (Cunningham) allows a charitable organization that has obtained a raffle registration from the Department of Justice and an on-sale or off-sale beer or wine license to hold a raffle involving a prize of alcoholic beverages. Many California winemakers donate regularly to nonprofits in our communities. This bill will help those nonprofits raise much needed funding.

AB 571 (E. Garcia) changes several components of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program set aside for farmworker housing developments in an effort to make the projects more feasible and increase the supply of farmworker housing. AB 571 will help ensure the investment of state low income housing tax credit in farmworker housing projects. This bill intends to improve the efficacy and flexibility of the financial resource for developers of farmworker housing.

AB 317 (Aguiar-Curry) requires the State of California to provide up to $250,000 in matching funds to the Napa County Housing Authority to effectively serve the housing needs of migrant or other farmworkers in Napa County. (AB 317 & SB 240 are companion measures.)

SB 240 (Dodd) increases the limit on the amount that can be levied on growers for an annual benefit assessment from $10 to $15 per planted vineyard acre in Napa County. The farmworker housing program is a partnership with Napa County, farmworkers, industry stakeholders and the local community. It is the only such farmworker housing program that exists solely through the county and local business community. Unfortunately, as costs have outpaced incoming revenue, the program is no longer sustainable under the current $10 assessment. Allowing for the voters to increase the assessment amount to $15 per acre will empower the county to run the program without a decrease in service. (AB 317 & SB 240 are companion measures.)


SB 252 (Dodd) creates substantial impediments to drilling any new water wells in overdrafted basins. This bill undermines the intent of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to achieve groundwater sustainability through local management. Requiring cities and counties that overlay overdraft basins to take specific actions regarding new wells is counter to SGMA’s goal and hinders the ability of local agencies to analyze and determine the necessary management tools required to achieve sustainability in each basin. This bill also undermines local efforts to comply with the SGMA process. By requiring any new well to cease production if a groundwater sustainability agency determines the new well contributes to an undesirable result, SB 252 takes control out of the locals’ hands by imposing groundwater pumping restrictions and misconstrues the purpose of local development of a groundwater sustainability plan.

SB 49 (De León) preempts federal environment rollbacks by requiring the state agencies to adopt the baseline federal standards in the federal Clean Air Act, federal Safe Drinking Water Act, federal Water Pollution Control Act, federal Endangered Species Act, and “other federal laws” defined as unidentified laws “relating to environmental protection, natural resources, or public health.” The bill would also prohibit a state agency from amending or revising its rules or regulations in a manner less “stringent” in its protection of workers’ rights or worker safety than standards established pursuant to federal law in existence as of January 1, 2016.

AB 1667 (Friedman) imposes significant new mandates on agricultural water suppliers, the cost of which will be passed along to growers, and ultimately to consumers. Compliance costs related to these mandates will exceed hundreds of millions of dollars statewide. Essentially, AB 1667 would impose urban retail water supply standards and practices on the agricultural sector.

AB 975 (Friedman) makes it much easier to designate Wild and Scenic areas along California’s Wild and Scenic Rivers System. As more designations occur, nearby landowners will be forced to use special treatment rules which do not exist under federal law. This bill would add additional land use restrictions in a state where stream and river protections already exceed those of most, if not all, states in the nation. The sweeping nature of the bill has the potential to adversely impact future water operations, water supply development, water rights and drought response.

SB 602 (Allen) requires labeling of commercially available seeds and plants sold at retail establishments and prohibits the noncommercial use of neonicotinoids. Hundreds of studies on bee health have been published, adding to an extensive body of knowledge on this issue. The consensus of these studies points to multiple factors affecting bee health, especially lack of diverse forage and the impact of parasites like the Varroa mite. USDA and U.S. EPA convened a working group several years ago to address the question of pollinator health. Their report found the biggest culprit to bee die-off to be the parasitic Varroa mite. SB 602 creates serious problems for the agriculture industry. First, by changing the status of the entire class of neonicotinoids to restricted use, this bill threatens the future existence of California’s agricultural industry.

AB 5 (Gonzalez Fletcher) requires an employer with 10 or more employees to offer additional hours of work to an existing nonexempt employee before hiring an additional employee or subcontractor. This bill will limit a grower’s ability to effectively manage their workforce to address both consumer and employee requests, subject employers to costly fines and multiple avenues of litigation for technical violations that do not actually result in any harm to the employee, is inconsistent with existing law, and will limit job opportunities for unemployed workers.

AB 450 (Chiu) in part requires employers to demand that federal agents conducting an immigration enforcement action at the workplace to present a search warrant before allowing a search of the workplace including employer records. This bill places employers in a no-win situation between federal immigration enforcement and state enforcement by punishing employers – rather than providing tools and resources for employees when federal immigration enforcement appears at their workplace regardless of whether a violation of law has been committed by the employer. While the intent of the bill is to protect the rights of workers, it instead places employers who are not violating worker rights in serious legal jeopardy.

AB 1008 (McCarty) in part prohibits an employer to include on any job application any question that seeks the disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history. This means that if a vineyard is hiring for a position that may include driving a vehicle, any inquiry about past DUI history cannot be made until a job offer is on the table.

SB 63 (Jackson) establishes the New Parent Leave Act and requires employers to allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of parental leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement. Governor Brown vetoed similar legislation in 2016 as this would be especially troublesome for small employers.          

SB 295 (Monning) creates unnecessary administrative burdens for farm labor contractors in reporting compliance with sexual harassment training requirements to the Labor Commissioner. Under this bill, a vineyard management company could lose its license for an administrative mistake in reporting.

AB 1099 (Gonzalez Fletcher) unnecessarily requires all businesses that allow consumers to utilize debit or credit card payments to also allow an opportunity for those consumers to provide a gratuity by debit or credit card, even in industries where gratuities are not commonly expected. For example, this would require tasting room sales by credit card to include an opportunity for the consumer to include a tip.

AB 479 (Gonzalez Fletcher) increases the excise tax on distilled spirits to fund a sales tax exemption for children’s and adult diapers and feminine hygiene products. There is no nexus whatsoever for this excise tax increase and the sale of these products. Tax increases like this ultimately have the unintended consequence of negatively impacting the industry and loss of jobs.

SB 168 (Wieckowsk) makes a variety of changes to the California redemption value program, including adding wine bottles to the program. While the program needs to be reformed, this bill proposes to tax wine bottles, which are already being recycled at the curbside, to subsidize other parts of the program.

CAWG’s State Government Affairs Committee determines whether CAWG will sponsor, support, or oppose any particular piece of legislation.  If you have any questions about CAWG's position on any given bill, please feel free to contact Michael Miiller, Director of Government Affairs at 916.379.8995.