Over the years, the Los Angeles City Council has developed a reputation of being unfriendly to business and sometimes just downright anti-business.
Now, L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti wants to change all that. The Hollywood-area councilman recently announced he was shaking up the council's 15 permanent committees by creating a new business and jobs-oriented committee.
The new Jobs, Business Growth and Tax Reform Committee is to be the one-stop location for companies to have their voice heard on city policy issues impacting business, ranging from the city's burdensome gross receipts tax to streamlining the permitting process to offering incentives for specific businesses and industries to set up shop in L.A.
"This is long overdue," said Garcetti. "We have treated businesses legislatively like we have individual businesses: it has taken many stops to get something done. This committee will be the place where business will feel it has a home in the City Council."
Garcetti said it was his desire to maintain momentum on tax reform something that had been handled by the Ad-Hoc Committee on Business Tax Reform that helped convince him to create the new body. He said he would like to see an additional multi-year, 15 percent cut in the city's gross-receipts tax after the current round of cuts wraps up in two years.
The Council is expected to approve the creation of the committee this week. It will be chaired by Councilman Greig Smith, with councilmembers Herb Wesson and Wendy Greuel rounding out the committee.
As part of the reorganization, the ad hoc tax reform committee will be disbanded, and the Inter-Governmental Relations Committee will be folded into the Rules and Government Committee, which Garcetti will chair.
With business now having a place to go in making its voice heard in City Council, the new committee is expected to provide a counterweight to labor's influence with the Council.
Indeed, besides one significant victory three years ago with the passage of business tax reform after eight years of effort, business interests have had precious little to cheer about. Since then, the Council has passed ordinances requiring grocery store owners to retain workers for 90 days after new owners take over and requiring airport-area hotel operators to pay a living wage to their employees. Business interests have challenged both actions in court.
The council tried once before to create a business-focused committee. But the Trade, Tourism and Commerce Committee, launched six years ago, has ended up focusing on controversial issues such as the renovation of Los Angeles International Airport and dealing with labor issues in the city's hotel industry. This left no place to go for other businesses that have had trouble being heard at City Hall.
News of the committee was greeted warmly by the business community, as was the Garcetti's selection of Smith, Wesson and Greuel to run the committee.
"This is a pleasant surprise and I'm optimistic that it will make a difference," said Brendan Huffman, chief executive of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association. "We're especially pleased with the selection of Greig Smith to chair the committee: he has a lot of street cred in the business community. And Wendy Greuel has long been a champion of business tax reform."
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