California commuter benefits bill passes

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

The California Senate passed SB 582 — an act to mandate bicycle and transit commuter benefits — this morning. Governor Jerry Brown now has 12 days to either sign or veto this bill.

SB 582 Supporters

Several California businesses, non-profits, and government agencies registered their support for SB 582, which authorizes mandatory non-driving commuter benefits from employers.

          Bay Area Air Quality Management District
          Metropolitan Transportation Commission
          Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District
          American Lung Association in California
          Bayer HealthCare
          Berkeley Chamber of Commerce
          Breathe California
          Brereton Architects
          California Infill Builders Association 
          California League of Conservation Voters
          California Transit Association Clean Air
          Coalition for Clean Air
          Enterprise-National-Alamo car rental
          Environmental Defense Fund
          Natural Resources Defense Council
          Orchard Hotel of San Francisco 
          Planning and Conservation League
          Resource Legacy Group
          Sacramento Metropolitan Air District
          San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District
          San Francisco Bay Water Emergency Transportation Authority
          San Francisco Chamber of Commerce
          San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association 
          Sierra Club California
          Van Pool Services, Inc.
          Wendel Rosen Black and Dean

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An earlier version of SB 582 sailed through the Senate on May 31 and received a unamimous endorsement from both the GOP and Democrats in the Assembly Transportation Committee.

Late opposition from California Chamber of Commerce, California Manufacturers and Technology Association, and Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association converted earlier strong bipartisan support into a political hot potato thanks to these powerful interest groups. Senator Bill Emmerson — who scores highly on conservative political scorecards and is seen as an ally of small business — sponsored the original bill as something good for California business and the California taxpayer. He and the 14 other Repubican Senators who voted for SB 582 were forced to withdraw their support due to the political games in Sacramento.

In spite of the special interests’ political power play, an amended SB 582 passed the Assembly on July 11. The Senate concurred with the amendments in a vote this morning, so the bill has been sent to the Governor for his signature.

Tim and his home made messenger bag

What is SB 582?

SB 582 gives regional planning and air quality districts authority to require certain non-driving commuter benefits from businesses in the district. Business must offer employees pre-tax benefits that pay for public transportation, a vanpool or bicycle commuting costs. The benefits can be in the form of a ‘cafeteria plan’ in which money is deducted pre-tax from the employee’s wages. Alternatively, the business may also pay for the commute benefit above and beyond the employee’s wages as an untaxed benefit. Either way, the business tax burden is reduced since they pay half of your FICA contribution.

I have all of the gory details on SB 582 here if you’re interested. The only notable change from what I posted earlier is that employer participation in a Transportation Management Agency program that provides the non-driver benefits can be counted as compliance with these rules.

See also Velopol’s take on the issue. He’s a conservative who expresses his disappointment that his party was forced to abandon support for SB 582.


  1. “Governor Jerry Brown…”

    Like a whole ‘nother millennium. At least he’s not running for President now…

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