What is an informational hearing? What is its purpose? Why does the Legislature have these hearings? Informational hearings are a useful way to educate legislators on important policy topics and should not be ignored. While no votes are taken at these hearings on actual legislation, these hearings set the stage on the issue and can give a preview on likely legislation that will be introduced.
Informational hearings are quite common for the very purpose of providing legislators with information regarding a significant policy event that is likely to be a big topic of discussion in the legislative session. While policy committees are also informative, the committee hearings are often limited on time given the number of bills to review and consider and cannot necessarily do a “deep dive” into the background and policy on a specific topic. That’s where the informational hearing comes in.
At an informational hearing, the pertinent policy committee can be briefed by different stakeholders, experts, witnesses, and the general public on the details or a particular policy. The agenda is at the discretion of the committee and the hearing can last as long as necessary to accommodate the discussion. Following the hearing, it is pretty common for legislation to be introduced that addresses one of the items raised as a policy concern during the hearing.
This session, the Legislature has already held/scheduled several informational hearings on important policy issues that will definitely be significant this year:
- The Senate Environmental Quality and Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committees held an informational hearing on California’s Green Chemistry Program to evaluate whether the State was adequately protecting consumers from toxic chemicals in products. California currently has the Safe Consumer Products Program, which proactively and scientifically advances the safe use of chemicals in consumer products. CalChamber provided comments at the hearing to express our continued support of the Program to use science as the basis to ban or limit the use of certain chemicals in products: (Link to hearing)
- The Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee held an informational hearing regarding the recently enacted California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which regulates the use of consumer personal information. The CCPA was passed through the Legislature in less than a week to avoid a flawed pending ballot measure. The hearing evaluated whether there are provisions of the CCPA that may need to be revised through further legislation to make sure businesses can actually implement the law to protect consumers. CalChamber also provided testimony at this hearing to identify several areas that need changes to make sure the law is effective: (Link to hearing)
- The Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment is planning to hold an informational hearing on Tuesday morning to focus on the Dynamex decision issued last April by the California Supreme Court that changed the test to determine whether an individuals is an employee or independent contractor. Given the restrictive “ABC” test outlined by the Court in Dynamex, the work opportunities of millions of independent contractors could be in jeopardy. The hearing is expected to evaluate whether there are any clarifications that need to be made to the Dynamex decision to maintain employee protections, but also protect valuable work opportunities for individuals who prefer the flexibility of working as an independent contractor. CalChamber will also be providing testimony at this hearing as well to express the need for the Legislature to intervene and provide this needed balance.