The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce this month took positions on several measures on the November ballot, most notably in support of a tobacco tax but opposing marijuana legalization.

The chamber’s board met Sept. 8 and voted to take positions on three ballot measures and go neutral on a fourth. On one of the most controversial measures – Proposition 64, which would legalize and allow the taxation of marijuana sales in the state – the board voted to oppose.

Jessica Duboff, chamber legislative director, said key factors in the decision were the lack of reliable science showing at what levels drivers become impaired by marijuana and the view that before the drug is legalized, law enforcement agencies need to come up with standards to judge this impairment. This is particularly important for chamber members in industries that involve operating vehicles or machinery, especially in the logistics sector, she said.

On Proposition 56, which hikes the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $2 to raise an additional $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion a year for health care and tobacco cessation programs, the chamber board voted to support.

“Healthy employees are a key to business success,” Chief Executive Gary Toebben said in a statement endorsing the measure.

The chamber board also voted to support Measure CC on the countywide ballot, a $3.3 billion bond measure to upgrade facilities on the nine community college campuses in Los Angeles County.

The board decided to remain neutral on Proposition 55, which extends for 12 years higher income tax rates for high-income filers and households. Supporters say the measure is necessary to maintain education funding at current levels, but opponents note that many higher-income filers are small-business owners.

The chamber’s positions on other statewide, city, and county ballot measures can be found on its website.

Small-Business Assistance

A pair of local government agencies have come up with programs to assist small businesses.

First, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill, AB 2690, allowing the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) to require prime contractor bidders to include subcontracting opportunities for small businesses and businesses owned by the disabled in order to qualify as bidders. The bill, by state Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, D-South Los Angeles, also authorizes Metro to set aside contracts ranging from $5,000 to $3 million only for small business-certified firms.

“This new law enables Metro to expand the range of tools to encourage the small-business community to contract with Metro,” said John Fasana, a Duarte city councilman and Metro board chair. “We typically issue between $2 billion and $5 billion in contracts a year, so this new legislation is essential to our agency’s future procurement strategy as we seek to increase small-business competition.”

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