California: Support SB 582

8/1/2011 Update: Governor Jerry Brown vetoes SB 582.

Update: SB 582 passed both chambers of the California legislature the week of July 11 2011. Governor Brown has 12 days to sign SB 582 into law.

California cyclists and commuters: Please contact your state assembly member TODAY to support SB 582 — the Commuter Benefits Policies bill.

SB 582, if passed, expands commuter benefits for more California workers. It gives regional planning organizations authority to mandate commuter benefits for non-drivers. SB 582 is a tiny nudge to even the playing field in which decades of federal and state tax policies strongly encouraged single occupant driving to the exclusion of any other kind of transportation and is an important. SB 582 is a strategic step that can encourage bicycling for transportation in California.

SB 582 was a slam dunk in the Senate and sailed through the Assembly Transportation Committee with a unanimous endorsement. Now that SB 582 is coming up for a vote on the Assembly floor, however, a special interest has risen up in opposition.

Santa Cruz Bike To Work Day

Please contact your California Assembly Member today to register your support for SB 582. The letter I sent to Assemblyman Bill Monning was short and to the point: I asked him to vote for SB 582; SB 582 helps level the playing field of transportation inequity caused for decades of Federal and California tax policies strongly favoring single occupant vehicle travel; this bill will help California meet its air quality goals; thank you for your support.

The Fine Print.

SB 582 gives the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) working in concert with the local air district the authority to implement a pilot program requiring employers to offer non-driving commuter benefits. This benefit can be offered either through a pre-tax “cafeteria plan” paid by the employee or as a subsidy paid by the employer. In either case, the employer receives a significant break in payroll taxes. The benefit can be used to pay for a transit pass, vanpool or bicycle commuting costs. All employers with over either 20 or 50 full time employees (as specified by the MPO) must offer this benefit.

Some cities — e.g. San Francisco, Berkeley, and Richmond — already have similar city code mandating these kinds of benefits, with good results reported from those programs. A state law will establish a uniform procedure to follow, instead of the mishmash of rules currently in place.

MPOs are regional agencies established under Federal law for urbanized areas with more than 50,000 people for the purpose of developing and coordinating the region’s transportation plan. Additionally, California has either an Air Pollution Control Districts (APCD) or Air Quality Management Districts (AQMD) covering every county. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission serves as the region’s MPO; the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is the air quality district. For Santa Cruz County, the Association of Monterey Bay Area Goverments (AMBAG) serves as MPO, with air quality managed by Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District.

Larger employers already offer a ‘cafeteria plan’ transit benefit at the very least. The big human resources / payroll processing companies such as ADP make it easy — it’s just a checkbox on the list of features for them. Smaller companies that might handle payroll in house might have a little extra work to set this up, though they still get the almost 9% payroll tax benefit.

I don’t know who the ‘special interest’ opposing the bill is — I heard about it via a vague action alert from TransForm.

For complete details, bill text, history and current status: SB 582 2011 california Legislative Session.


  1. As a conservative cyclist, I just watched in horror as two “special interests” I normally agree with, the California Chamber of Commerce and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association handcuffed all Senate Republicans on this legislation on the Senate Floor.  Their arguments against the bill made no sense.  This is a great idea that is mutually beneficial to both businesses and bicycling commuters.  Congrats to Tom Addison from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for bringing it forward and trying to work with conservatives on this innovative idea. Thankfully, the bill was passed, and as a conservative and cyclists, I hope it receives a signature.  We’re not all neanderthals!

  2. Another bill to stifle business growth in California. Jobs will be lost if employers have to pay another stupid tax. Anything that our corrupt CARB has their fingers in is not good. I hope you all have a job to go to with all these taxes on business.

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