SBE News

GSBE Weekly Update 11/29/2017

California regulators hope new rules will spur more bike lanes, housing near transit

GSBE Golden State Builders ExchangesBike lanes, mixed-use residential and commercial construction near transit and other development projects might get easier to build in California after regulators on Monday released a long-awaited overhaul of the state’s environmental law.

Regulators say the proposed changes, which modify rules under the California Environmental Quality Act or CEQA, will help the state meet its ambitious goals to combat climate change. That law requires developers to disclose and minimize a project’s impact on the environment.

One key section of the proposal modifies how developers analyze traffic.

Under the current interpretation of the law, developers have to measure their project’s effects on car congestion — something that often stymies the installation of bike lanes because the removal of car lanes could tie up vehicles.

The new effort would force projects to estimate the number of miles cars will travel on nearby roads. Since bike lanes won’t increase vehicle trips, and could reduce them, regulators hope the new rules could ease their development. The new proposal also would apply to residential construction in an effort to make it easier for developers to build pedestrian or bicycle friendly projects if they can show their projects will limit car travel.

California law requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. The state will not meet that goal without a substantial decline in the number of cars on the road, regulators have said, requiring a boom in dense housing near existing jobs and transit.

“These rules make clear that reducing vehicle miles resulting from projects is a state goal and an environmental benefit,” said Ken Alex, director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, in a statement.

Modifications to CEQA are often politically fraught because numerous powerful interest groups, including builders, environmentalists and unions, have significant stakes in how the existing process works.

These rules changes have been no exception. State lawmakers passed a law in 2013 telling regulators to write the new proposal in the same bill that aimed to speed construction of a Sacramento Kings basketball arena. The Kings are now playing their second season in the new building, and the regulations still aren’t complete.

Regulators are opening public comment on the CEQA overhaul in the coming weeks and will hold at least one public hearing before the proposal becomes final, according to a spokeswoman for the California Natural Resources Agency. Regulators are hoping the new rules will go into effect sometime in 2018.


Remember: W-2s Due January 31 to IRS

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reminds employers and other businesses of the January 31 filing deadline that now applies to filing Form W-2 wage statements and independent contractor forms.

Under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act, employers are now required to file their copies of Form W-2 and Form W-3with the Social Security Administration by January 31. The January 31 filing deadline also applies to certain Forms 1099-MISCreporting non-employee compensation such as payments to independent contractors.

In the past, employers typically had until the end of February, if filing on paper, or the end of March, if filing electronically, to submit their copies of these forms. The accelerated filing date started last year and is aimed at making it easier for the IRS to spot errors on taxpayer returns, verify legitimate returns, and prevent fraud.

Note that an extension of time to file Forms W-2 is no longer automatic. The IRS only grants extensions for very specific reasons, and only one 30-day extension to file Form W-2 is available. If an extension is necessary, a Form 8809 must be completed as soon as you know an extension is necessary but no later than January 31.

Failure to file these forms correctly and timely may result in penalties.

As always, employers are also required to distribute copies of the Form W-2 to their employees on January 31.

Act now to get ready for the filing season by making sure that:

  • Your company’s account information is current and active with the Social Security Administration.
  • You have correct employee information.
  • You have enough copies of the forms you will need, if you use paper forms. Consider the advantages of filing your forms electronically (accuracy, speed, convenience).

 New Mandatory Poster on Transgender Rights for California Workplaces

California passed a new law (SB 396) that requires all California employers to post a “Transgender Rights in the Workplace” poster starting January 1, 2018.

The new transgender rights poster must be displayed along with other mandatory workplace notices in a prominent and accessible location in the workplace. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the state agency charged with enforcing California’s civil rights laws, has developed the poster. The correct version is dated November 2017, but the posting is not mandatory until January 1, 2018.

The poster, in part, follows regulations developed by the Fair Employment and Housing Council that went into effect on July 1, 2017.

Key topics covered by the poster include:

  • Definitions of terms such as transgender, gender identity, gender expression and gender transition.
  • A discussion on the right of employees to use restrooms, locker rooms and other similar facilities corresponding to their gender identity.
  • The importance of allowing an employee to dress in accordance with the employee’s gender identity and expression.

“We expect this posting requirement to increase understanding of the law and assist California employers in providing safe and inclusive work environments,” said Kevin Kish, Director of DFEH, in a statement.

Mandatory Training Requirement

SB 396 also requires mandatory sexual harassment prevention training to include a component regarding gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. This new law takes effect on January 1, 2018.

California’s mandatory harassment prevention training requirement applies to employers with 50 or more employees and requires training of all supervisors.