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Op-Ed: Will ‘Island’ Of California Drift Even Farther From The Mainland Under New Administration?

Last updated on June 14th, 2024 at 09:18 am

by Ron Fong/president and CEO, California Grocers Association

The idea of California as an island dates back to at least the 16th century, when cartographers mapped it as sitting just off the western coast of North America—a mini paradise unto itself.

As technology and cartography became more advanced, this misconception was corrected on world maps. However, now more than ever, California seems to have become an island once again. It’s not in the eyes of standard mapmakers that this has become the case, but in the eyes of those who map the political landscape.

For better or worse, California has been on the forefront of political progressivism for nearly a century. Our state often is the tail that wags the dog on a variety of issues, blazing a path for generally liberal policies—most notably and often notoriously on social issues. But what often is overlooked are the more liberal/progressive policies that California has enacted in the business and regulatory arenas.

To say that companies need to jump through a few hoops to operate here definitely would be an understatement. Looking at our industry in particular, grocers in California have to deal with stronger laws on such things as liability to chemical exposure (Prop. 65), higher minimum wage requirements, and environmental regulations mandating reductions in resource use that may not be realistically achievable. In spite of these things, our industry thrives on the “island” of California.

The election of a new, seemingly conservative president has the possibility of making California even more of an island (if that is possible) in the coming years. Legislative leaders and statewide elected officials from the governor on down have been vocal about what they see as their role in shielding the state from the potential for more conservative laws and regulations coming out of Washington, D.C.

How this plays out may mean new challenges to California grocers. Take, as an example, the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). How might that play out here? Would the legislature try and enact an ACA of its own? And if so, who would pay for it? The answer, alas, would seem to be businesses operating in this state. Such a move could have a debilitating effect on many in an industry that operates on such small margins.

All we can do for the time being is wait and see if the potential confrontation between Sacramento and Washington, D.C., comes to pass. And if it does come, hope that it is not as explosive as some expect, for the sake of business in the state. The next four years certainly will be interesting on the island of California.

Ron Fong became president and CEO of the California Grocers Association in March 2008. A native Californian and a lawyer, he joined CGA after 12 years with the California Credit Union League. At CGA, Fong serves as the association’s chief legislative and political advocate and ­oversees government relations, member services, convention and communication programs. He also is ­president of the California Grocers Association Educational Foundation. His grandfather started Carmichael Supermarket, the first grocery market in Carmichael, California, in 1941, and Fong worked in the ­grocery business as he grew up.

About the author

Shelby Team

The Shelby Report delivers complete grocery news and supermarket insights nationwide through the distribution of five monthly regional print and digital editions. Serving the retail food trade since 1967, The Shelby Report is “Region Wise. Nationwide.”

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