Archive for the ‘Legislation’ Category

Three Congressmen to host joint town hall meeting in Martinez, Saturday

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Congressmen Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Mike Thompson (CA-5) and Jerry McNerney (CA-9) who each represent portions of Contra Costa County in the U.S. House of Representatives, will host a joint town hall meeting in Martinez, this Saturday, February 18 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Both DeSaulnier and McNerney represent portions of Antioch. The special topic will be Protecting the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Medicare and Medicaid.

Those who attend will hear a presentation and legislative update. Constituents will also have an opportunity to ask questions and share thoughts on key policy issues and actions taken by the new Administration.

Joint Town Hall with Representatives DeSaulnier (CA-11), Thompson (CA-5) and McNerney (CA-9)

Special Topic: Protecting the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid
Saturday, February 18, 2017

10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

County Board of Supervisors Chambers, Room 107

651 Pine Street

Martinez, CA 94553

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Glazer introduces $2 billion bond bill to improve facilities at CSU, UC campuses

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Sacramento, CA – For the first time in more than a decade, California voters would have the opportunity to approve higher education bonds to improve facilities on California State University and University of California campuses under legislation introduced Thursday by joint authors Sens. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, and Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica.

The bill, SB 483, would authorize the statewide sale of $2 billion in general obligation bonds earmarked for higher education facilities at CSU and UC campuses. The bonds would go before voters in the 2018 general election.

“For many generations, California taxpayers have been proud supporters of the greatest higher education system in America,” Glazer said. “Unfortunately, we have allowed classrooms and libraries to deteriorate, affecting our ability to educate our students. Without public support, the burden of financing facilities will be borne by students and their families through higher tuition and fees.

The most recent such bond, which provided $1.6 billion to improve higher education facilities at CSU and UC, was approved by voters in 2006. All those funds have since been depleted. The last higher education-specific bond was passed in 1994.

“California’s public colleges and universities are a source of great pride to our state, but unfortunately we’ve allowed their physical facilities to fall into disrepair,” said Allen, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “This bond measure will provide a much-needed and overdue investment in our higher education infrastructure.”

According to CSU and UC, the two systems have capital needs of $7 billion and $10 billion, respectively, for short-term and long-term projects. The CSU and UC are able to provide their own funding for some construction programs through system-wide revenue bonds, though only half of their capital needs are met.

“We appreciate Senator Glazer’s work to secure funding for necessary repair and replacement of aging higher education buildings and infrastructure,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “More than $2 billion in deferred maintenance – due to lack of investment during the previous recession – left our campuses vulnerable to potential failures of critical systems. Safe and up-to-date classrooms, research labs and work spaces are essential to the success of our students, faculty and staff.”

SB 483 would require universities or colleges to submit five-year capital outlay plans that prioritize seismic retrofitting needed to reduce seismic hazards in buildings identified as high priority.

David Lopez, president of the California State Student Association, said the legislation addresses the issues about needed classroom repairs that students have been talking about for years.

“We keep hearing stories of students in classrooms that need major repair,” Lopez said. “Buildings that need to be closed for safety reasons. Our campus infrastructure needs have never been greater than they are today.”

Spending choices will emerge through recommendations from governing boards for both CSU and UC systems and will be reviewed in public hearings during the legislative process, Glazer said.

“The state has failed to provide the funds needed for public higher education faculty, student services and infrastructure,” said Mel Levine, Co-chair of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education. “We can’t take in more California students without restoring and improving our classrooms and labs.”

Last November, voters approved Proposition 51, a $9 billion education facilities bond, but did not include any money for the CSU or UC.

“This measure provides important financial backing for critical upgrades to our libraries and classrooms on college campuses,” Glazer added. “And I believe voters should be given a chance to continue the proud legacy of supporting our universities and colleges.”

A December 2016 survey on higher education by Public Policy Institute of California showed broad support – 65 percent – for higher education construction projects. It represented an 11 percentage point increase in support since December, 2014 and was the highest level of support since PPIC first began asking the question in 2007. http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/survey/S_1216MBS.pdf

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New bill to combat understaffing in California dialysis clinics, including 15 in Contra Costa, three in Antioch

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

By Sean Wherley

State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced legislation, on Wednesday, to improve staffing at more than 550 dialysis clinics in California.

SB 349, the Dialysis Patient Safety Act, would mandate annual inspections of dialysis clinics and safer staffing levels. Current law requires inspections of dialysis clinics every six years, while nursing homes in California must be inspected every year, and hospitals every two years.

This legislation would affect 15 dialysis clinics in Contra Costa County: three each in Antioch and Walnut Creek; two each in Pittsburg and San Pablo; and one each in Brentwood, Concord, El Cerrito, Pleasant Hill and Richmond.

“Dialysis patients are grandparents, children and siblings not numbers on a balance sheet,” said Lara. “It’s time to fix the dialysis industry and improve patient care for the more than 63,000 Californians who rely on this life-saving treatment in clinics daily.”

Dialysis is necessary for people with kidney failure, who must have their blood removed, cleaned, and put back into their bodies. A typical treatment lasts three hours, and must be conducted three days a week for the rest of the patient’s life.

The two largest dialysis corporations – DaVita and Fresenius – make $2.9 billion a year in profits from their dialysis operations in the United States, but workers say the companies pocket the money rather than improve patient care or provide adequate staffing in their clinics.

Dialysis workers regularly report staffing levels so low that it threatens patient care. One worker cited an incident last March at a dialysis clinic in Anaheim, Calif. in which a patient collapsed in the parking lot. The worker said it could have been prevented if more staff were onsite at the time. Seven states already have minimum staffing levels in dialysis clinics: Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

Dialysis workers in California have been organizing into a union, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), for safer working conditions and stronger worker and patient protections. To learn more about the campaign, visit www.morethannumbers.org.

Wherley is the Media Relations Specialist with SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West.

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Frazier introduces bill to reduce teen driving accidents

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Sacramento, CA – Today, Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D – Oakley) introduced AB 63, legislation to reduce vehicle collisions and fatalities among teen drivers by strengthening California’s provisional driver’s license program.

“This bill will help significantly decrease accidents among newly licensed drivers,” stated Frazier. “Increasing the age for a provisional license will ensure that California’s most vulnerable motorists go through proper training to become safe, responsible drivers.”

AB 63 would increase the maximum age to receive a provisional license to 21 years old guaranteeing that less experienced drivers have appropriate protections during this crucial learning period, by amending Section 12814.6 of the California Vehicle Code.

According to the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, “The bill would expand the scope of the provisional licensing program by extending the applicable age range for the program to 16 to under 21 years of age. By expanding the scope of the provisional licensing program, the violation of which constitutes an infraction, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program. The bill would authorize a licensee who is 18, 19, or 20 years of age to keep in his or her possession a copy of his or her class schedule or work schedule as documentation to satisfy the exceptions for a school or school-authorized activity and employment necessity, respectively, and would provide that a signed statement by a parent or legal guardian is not required if reasonable transportation facilities are inadequate and the operation of a vehicle by a licensee who is 18, 19, or 20 years of age is necessary to transport the licensee or the licensee’s immediate family member. The bill would make other technical and conforming changes. The bill would also include specified findings and declarations.”

“We are thankful that Assemblymember Frazier has taken on this critically important issue,” said Doug Villars, President of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen. “Traffic collisions are the number one killer of young people in America. We are proud to be sponsors of this bill and look forward to working together toward a common goal—saving young drivers’ lives and making roadways safer for all of us.”

It is estimated that one in three drivers do not receive their license before the age of 18, making them ineligible to participate in the provisional license program. A recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association discovered that improvement in fatal crash rates among 18- to 20-year-old drivers was far less than their 15- to 17-year-old counterparts.

Policy expanding this program is essential to building safe driving skills for this at risk population. “We applaud Assemblymember Frazier for introducing this vital legislation,” stated Cathy Barankin, Executive Director CA Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health. “First time teen drivers are 45 percent more likely to be involved in a vehicle crash. This bill will stop teens from prematurely losing their lives.”

To view the complete text of the bill, click here.

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McNerney’s bipartisan bill to improve broadband access for veterans passes House

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Senators Blumenthal, Booker applaud passage, introduce companion bill

Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congressman Jerry McNerney’s (D, CA-09) bipartisan bill, H.R. 6394, the Improving Broadband Access for Veterans Act of 2016.  Congressman Adam Kinzinger (IL-16) was the lead Republican co-sponsor. A companion bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).

“Having broadband internet service is important for the more than 20 million veterans across our nation, with the highest population residing in California,” said McNerney. “A broadband internet connection helps veterans apply for jobs more easily, communicate with family and friends, keep up with current events, and obtain health care services. Veterans face many challenges when they return home; being without broadband access should not be one of those challenges. I commend my colleague Rep. Kinzinger for his efforts on this bill and the House for passing it with overwhelming support.”

Low-income veterans and veterans residing in rural areas are at a higher likelihood of not having broadband internet service. The U.S. Census Bureau and the Pew Research Center both report that broadband adoption rates are significantly lower among Americans who live at or below the federal poverty level. Analysis by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce further finds that broadband adoption rates in rural areas of the country are lower than in urban areas

H.R. 6394 directs the Federal Communications Commission to produce a report examining the current state of broadband internet access for veterans and what can be done to increase access, with a focus on low-income veterans and veterans residing in rural areas. The report must include findings and recommendations for Congress and be completed within one year of the bill’s enactment.

“The findings and recommendations from this report will be key for paving the way to get more veterans connected and help close the digital divide,” McNerney added.

“I am proud to co-lead H.R. 6394, which aims to improve broadband access for our veterans – especially those in rural areas, or those unable to afford it. After serving tirelessly to protect our country, veterans face many challenges when they return home. This bill is the first step towards alleviating one piece of the transition back into civilian life through the benefits afforded by broadband access – from connecting with family and friends, applying for jobs, accessing information on benefits and health services, and much more. Thanks to Congressman Jerry McNerney for working with me to introduce this legislation.” said Rep. Kinzinger.

H.R. 6394 passed the House by 411-4.  A companion bill, S. 3501, has been introduced by Senators Blumenthal and Booker.

“This important legislation will bring to light the key hurdles hindering veterans’ access to broadband, and pave the way for meaningful action to ensure veterans have the information and tools they need to successfully navigate the transition from the armed services to civilian employment. Access to broadband is essential to conduct daily activities, pursue job and housing opportunities, obtain quality health care services, and stay in touch with family members,” said Blumenthal.

“In the digital age, broadband access is not a luxury — it’s a necessity. The Improving Broadband Access for Veterans Act will help close the digital divide and will ensure that the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country have access to tools for communication and future success,” said Booker.

McNerney represents California’s 9th Congressional District that includes most of Antioch and other portions of Contra Costa and Sacramento Counties, and most of San Joaquin County. For more information on Rep. McNerney’s work, follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RepMcNerney.

 

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Frazier reintroduces transportation funding bill, AB1, with 6.7% gas tax, vehicle registration fee increases

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

On Monday, Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D – Oakley) introduced AB1 a bill to fund transportation improvements in California. He calls it “a sensible and realistic approach to tackling California’s crumbling transportation infrastructure,” which almost the same as the transportation funding bill he co-sponsored, earlier this year.

“My commitment to passing a comprehensive funding plan that addresses California’s failing transportation system will not waiver,” stated Frazier, who is the Chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee. “This proposal dedicates billions to road and highway repairs that our state so desperately needs while also creating tens of thousands of good paying jobs.”

http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB1

According to the bill’s text, “This bill would create the Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Program to address deferred maintenance on the state highway system and the local street and road system. The bill would require the California Transportation Commission to adopt performance criteria, consistent with a specified asset management plan, to ensure efficient use of certain funds available for the program. The bill would provide for the deposit of various funds for the program in the Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account, which the bill would create in the State Transportation Fund, including revenues attributable to a $0.012 per gallon increase in the motor vehicle fuel (gasoline) tax imposed by the bill with an inflation adjustment, as provided, an increase of $38 in the annual vehicle registration fee with an inflation adjustment, as provided, a new $165 annual vehicle registration fee with an inflation adjustment, as provided, applicable to zero-emission motor vehicles, as defined, and certain miscellaneous revenues.”

Frazier claims that AB1 represents an adult-in-the-room approach to meeting the vital, long-term needs of California’s transportation system. The proposal if approved will raise an additional $6 billion in annual funding to repair state and local roads, improve trade corridors and support public transit. Also included are measures related to accountability and streamlining of project delivery

“The transportation crisis in California affects each and every part of our state. If we don’t step up and solve it, our economy will decline and the people we represent will suffer,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount). “Transportation funding has traditionally been a bipartisan issue and our goal is to work across the aisle to come to a comprehensive solution.”

“We have been working closely with Assemblyman Frazier for more than two years on a variety of concepts to provide the resources local governments need to fix our roads and bridges,” said Kiana Valentine, Legislative Advocate for the California State Association of Counties. “It’s no secret that our vital infrastructure is crumbling and we’re at a tipping point. We urge the Governor and Legislative Leadership to keep their promise to advance this vital legislation early in the 2017 session.”

Once the 2017-18 Legislative Session begins, AB1 will be referred and heard in policy committee.

Frazier represents the 11th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Antioch, Bethel Island, Birds Landing, Brentwood, Byron, Collinsville, Discovery Bay, Fairfield, Isleton, Knightsen, Locke, Oakley, Pittsburg (partial), Rio Vista, Suisun City, Travis AFB, Vacaville and Walnut Grove.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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DeSaulnier, White House laud House bipartisan vote for 21st Century Cures Act, amid bipartisan opposition

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Accusations it includes fraud, bribery, corruption; requires Senate passage during lame duck session

By Allen Payton

On Wednesday, November 30, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 34) on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 392-26. The almost 1,000-page bill is designed for medical innovation, additional funding for cancer research, and to combat the nation’s growing opioid and heroin epidemic. But opponents say what the bill includes continues and advances corruption. Plus, they don’t like the fact it’s being considered and voted on by a lame-duck Congress, some of whose members weren’t re-elected in November and will be leaving, soon.

Congressman DeSaulnier (D, CA-11), who represents most of Contra Costa County and voted for the bill, issued the following statement lauding its passage.

“This legislation will help ensure the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have the resources needed to continue important work improving biomedical research and developing innovative treatments. Included in the bill is funding for the Vice President’s Cancer Moonshot, which is essential to continuing the program under the new Administration, as well as funds to combat the growing opioid and heroin epidemic facing our country. While this bill is not perfect, it provides $4.8 billion in new funding to ensure NIH is able to further its work for patients and families relying on research, treatment and recovery options. As a survivor of cancer and a beneficiary of the remarkable progress this country has made in treatment and research, I know all too well the value of these investments and how many lives can be saved as a result.”

According to other news reports, the legislation was introduced by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., “in hopes of speeding up the discovery, development and delivery of life-saving drugs and devices for diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. It passed the House 344-77 in July, but later stalled in the Senate. A reworked version was released last weekend.”

Congressman DeSaulnier offered an amendment to the bill, which would have helped improve doctor-patient communication when patients are diagnosed and receiving treatment for severe or chronic diseases. No amendments were included in the final version of the bill. He will continue to work on these important issues.

White House Supports

The bill will now go to the Senate for a final vote and if passed the White House has indicated President Obama will sign it. In a statement, issued Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest praised the passage of the bill.

“This critically important legislation will get states the resources they need to fight the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic. It invests the $1 billion the President has repeatedly said is necessary to help communities that have seen far too many overdoses. It also responds to the Vice President’s call for a Moonshot in cancer research by investing $1.8 billion in new resources to transform cancer research and accelerate discoveries. Plus, it invests nearly $3 billion to continue the President’s signature biomedical research initiatives, the BRAIN and Precision Medicine Initiatives, over the next decade to tackle diseases like Alzheimer’s and create new research models to find cures and better target treatments.

H.R. 34 also takes important steps to improve mental health, including provisions that build on the work of the President’s Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force. It further advances the drug approval process by taking steps like modernizing clinical trial design and better incorporating patients’ voices into FDA’s decision-making processes. Like all comprehensive legislation, the bill is not perfect, and there are provisions the Administration would prefer were improved, but the legislation offers advances in health that far outweigh these concerns. The Senate should promptly pass this bill so that the President can sign it.”

Liberal Opposition

However, not everyone in the Senate is supportive of the bill, including DeSaulnier’s fellow Democrat, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). She has been generally supportive of the legislation, but will now work against its passage, blasting it for being favorable to the pharmaceutical industry, saying “there’s a lot of bad stuff” in the bill, and called it extortion, and includes “special favors for campaign donors and giveaways to the richest drug companies in the world.”

In a floor statement on Monday night, which can be viewed here, she said that “Big Pharma hijack(ed) the Cures bill. This final deal has only a tiny fig leaf of funding, for NIH and for the opioid crisis. And most of that fig leaf isn’t even real. Most of the money won’t really be there unless future Congresses passes future bills in future years to spend those dollars.”

Warren continued, saying “In the closing days of this Congress, Big Pharma has its hand out for a bunch of special giveaways and favors that are packed together in something called the 21st Century Cures bill.

And when American voters say Congress is owned by big companies, this bill is exactly what they are talking about. Now, we face a choice. Will this Congress say that yes, we’re bought and paid for, or will we stand up and work for the American people?

Medical breakthroughs come from increasing investments in basic research. Right now, Congress is choking off investments in the NIH. Adjusted for inflation, federal spending on medical research over the past dozen years has been cut by 20%. Those cuts take the legs out from under future medical innovation in America. We can name a piece of legislation the “cures” bill, but if it doesn’t include meaningful funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, it won’t cure anything.”

Her reasons for opposing the bill include her argument that “this funding is political cover for huge giveaways to giant drug companies.” She stated it would “legalize fraud” and “cover up bribery,” and, in her usual practice of partisan attacks, also said it would “hand out dangerous, special deals to Republican campaign contributors.”

Warren said that “this Cures bill that would shoot holes in the anti-fraud law. Make it easier for drug companies to get away with fraud.”

Another accusation she made is “the Cures act offers to sell government favors. It delivers a special deal so people can sell…treatments without meeting the FDA gold standards for protecting patient safety and making sure these drugs do some good.”

Warren gave a list of other reasons she opposed it.

“The Cures Act – a bill that was supposed to be about medical innovation – has a giveaway to the gun lobby,” she said. “The bill cuts Medicare funding. It raids money from the Affordable Care Act. It takes health care dollars that should have gone to Puerto Rico. It makes it harder for people with disabilities to get Medicaid services. There’s a lot of bad stuff here.”

“It is time for Democrats – Democrats and Republicans who should be ashamed by this kind of corruption -to make it clear who exactly they work for. Does the Senate work for big pharma that hires the lobbyists and makes the campaign contributions or does the Senate work for American people who actually sent us here,” Warren concluded.

Conservative Opposition

Some conservatives are also opposed to the bill, but not all for the same reasons as Warren’s. The conservative Heritage Foundation gave four reasons they oppose the bill, calling it a “Christmas Tree, loaded with handouts for special interests.”

On their website, they wrote, “Congress has taken this legislation, which was initially a 300 page bill, and turned it into an almost 1,000 page omnibus health care spending bill. The negotiators have added pieces of a mental health bill, makes changes to Medicare Part A and B, another bill making significant changes to the federal foster care system, a “cancer moonshot” requested by Vice President Biden, additional funding for opioid abuse prevention, etc., in addition to the NIH funding and the FDA funding, for a grand total of over $6.3 billion dollars. In Washington terms, backroom negotiators have turned the Cures bill into a Christmas Tree, loaded with handouts for special interests, all at the expense of the taxpayer.  Therefore, conservatives should oppose the 21st Century Cures Bill for four main reasons.

First, the bill’s “pay-fors” rely on budget gimmicks, and even worse, the new spending is not subject to the budget caps. Second, NIH and FDA do not need additional funding. Instead, they need to spend the money they already have on critical research instead of wasteful projects. Third, Congress has no business considering an almost 1,000 page omnibus health care spending bill during the lame duck session. Fourth, and finally, the process has been questionable and the bill will likely be closed to amendments.

An email to DeSaulnier’s office asking for his comments on Warren’s statements opposing the bill was not responded to before publication time. Please check back later for any updates.

A vote by the Senate on the bill is expected to take place early next week. For the complete text of the bill, please click here.

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Rep. DeSaulnier introduces bill to increase taxes on public companies for excessive CEO pay

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, introduced legislation in response to the Mylan hearing at which the CEO acknowledged that salary for the position increased 600 percent in less than a decade, and other reports that companies like Wells Fargo pay its CEO nearly 500 times the rate of its average employee. The CEO Accountability and Responsibility Act (H.R. 6242) would increase corporate tax rates on publicly traded companies that exploit workers and pay CEOs astronomically high salaries

“America has a problem, as we see company after company come before Congress to apologize for bad behavior. One would ask, what has happened to our business culture?” asked DeSaulnier. “Too many executives at the top are incentivized to put profits before people by catering to shareholders and padding pockets on the back of consumers. Corporations should have a moral and social responsibility to workers, consumers, and American democracy. This bill sets the stage to stop fueling excessive income inequality.”

“It seems like every day we see a new story about another company taking outrageous steps to maximize their profits ­­– insane increases on lifesaving drugs to fund flights on private jets, sky-high salaries for CEOs who oversee severe and possibly criminal mishandling of consumer information,” said Watson Coleman. “If we’re serious about bringing back a thriving middle class, we need to lift up the companies who are investing in their workers at every level, not just lifting their leadership higher into the 1-percent. The companies responsible for recent CEO pay trends are wreaking havoc. It’s time we hold them accountable.”

On average, CEOs of the largest companies in the U.S. earn three times more than they did 20 years ago and at least 10 times more than 30 years ago. In fact, between 1978 and 2014, inflation-adjusted CEO pay increased by almost 1,000 percent, while the typical U.S. worker saw their pay increase by only 11 percent during that same period. Today, we see the pay disparity between the average American CEO and average worker is 303-to-1.

“Corporations that pay their top executives vast multiples of the typical worker’s wage should face higher taxes than corporations whose top pay is closer to the typical worker’s. The CEO Accountability and Responsibility Act is an important, and necessary step,” said Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley and former U.S. Secretary of Labor.

The CEO Accountability and Responsibility Act would increase corporate tax rates on companies with larger than a 100-to-1 ratio of pay between CEOs and their average workers. At the same time the bill would reward companies whose CEO to worker ratio fell below that threshold, demonstrating that corporate social responsibility is an essential practice in American business.

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