Wal-Mart, big-box retailers face new hurdle in California

The Sacramento BeeJune 1, 2011 

Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers once again are threatened by legislation that would make them clear an extra step before breaking ground on new locations.

The Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that forces cities and counties to review an economic impact report before approving or rejecting big-box retail projects.

Labor unions have sought to gain an upper hand on union-free Wal-Mart for the past several years, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed two similar bills.

Unions and small-business groups argue that mandating economic impact reports would allow local officials to make informed decisions, considering for themselves whether a possible increase in revenue outweighs losses to smaller competitors.

The measure, Senate Bill 469 by Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, would affect superstore projects with 90,000 square feet or more of sales space that devote at least a tenth of that to selling nontaxed items such as produce.

The retailer would have to pay for the city or a city contractor to write the report. Projections about revenue from the new store, the net impact on jobs in the area and the long-term effects on the surrounding community would be among the items required in the study.

"No one talks about the jobs these superstores destroy," Vargas said. "There's a net loss."

All 14 Senate Republicans voted against the bill. They said it would create yet another barrier to job creation.

"This targets the wrong type of employers at the wrong time," said Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach. "We want to do things that help large businesses create jobs."

Others were not ready to impose a new mandate on cities and counties or target one specific group of employers.

To read the complete article, visit www.sacbee.com.

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