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Grade Inflation: 77 State Legislators Make Small Business Honor Roll

By on January 23, 2014
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Two small business organizations have released their scorecards for the 2013 legislative session, and an astounding 77 state lawmakers have made the “honor roll.” Talk about grade inflation, that’s two-thirds of the state legislature.

Compiled by the California Small Business Association and the California Small Business Roundtable, the 2013 Legislative Honor Roll scores legislators on their votes to promote the state’s small businesses and interaction with the association. According to the association, legislators’ grades were based on:

  • Holding one or more small business advisory councils in their district;
  • Honoring a small business owner from their district at California Small Business Day, which is hosted by 25+ small business organizations;
  • Interaction between legislators and their staff with CSBA – i.e. using CSBA as a resource and carrying one or more small business bills; and
  • Voting record on CSBA priority legislation.

“We are ecstatic to be able to recognize so many legislators for their work in 2013,” said Betty Jo Toccoli, President of the California Small Business Association. “The Honor Roll is our way to recognize their efforts to support small business success in California.”

The California legislature’s record on small businesses isn’t great based on, you know, the facts. 73,000 small businesses closed their doors in 2012, a drop of 5.2 percent from the previous year, according to Business Week. That figure compares with just 5,200 fewer small businesses in Massachusetts, the second-highest on the list.

With such an undiscriminating list from the California Small Business Association, it makes it tough to distinguish between legislators that are true champions of small business issues and those who are actively undermining California’s business climate.

Take the case of two legislators, who both earned the small business honor roll’s highest rating, Summa Cum Laude. Senator Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, one of the legislature’s champions of small businesses, authored two bills last year that were signed into law that were widely supported by businesses. SB 118 increased resources for workforce training, while SB 209 repealed a recent Franchise Tax Board decision imposing millions in retroactive taxes on thousands of California taxpayers.

Meanwhile, Asm. Henry Perea, D-Fresno, authored Assembly Bill 8 ,which extended the sunset date on $2 billion in various vehicle taxes and fees in order to fund clean-energy programs. Say what you will about clean energy, AB 8 doesn’t benefit the state’s small businesses.

Yet, Perea earned the same score as Lieu.

Dig a little deeper into the “honor roll,” and you’ll find the association’s priorities.

“CSBA places the highest importance on the legislator’s interaction with the Small Business Advisory Councils, which are made up of small businesses located in their district, and are vital to ensure continued dialogue between the legislators and small businesses,” Toccoli said.

Got it. Maybe a better name for the award is “Legislators who take the California Small Business Association’s phone calls” list.

The 2013 scorecard is available here.



About John Hrabe

John Hrabe spends his time traveling the world as a freelance journalist. When he isn’t on an international flight, John writes about state and national politics for,, Huffington Post and the editorial pages of the Orange County Register. John’s most recent high-profile investigation uncovered the questionable labor practices of Goodwill Industries, the nonprofit organization famous for its secondhand clothing stores.

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