California Legislature OKs Napa Vintners Tax for Farmworker Housing

Sometimes, when one political party has majorities in both houses of a legislature and occupies the executive branch, bills get passed and become law. We speak not of Washington, D.C., but of Sacramento, California.

Last week, without much notice or brouhaha, a measure that would tax Napa vineyard owners passed both the Senate and the Assembly with bipartisan support. Democrats have veto-proof majorities in the both houses but Republicans still joined them in passing the measure that will impose a $10 to $15 per-planted-vineyard-acre assessment in Napa County. The funds raised will be used to build farmworker housing.

The bill’s sponsors, Sen. Bill Dodd and Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, both represent Napa. The assessment was something that their constituents wanted, both legislators said.

“Farmworkers are vital to the wine industry and our overall economy,” Dodd said in an email. “Providing suitable farmworker housing is essential, and I’m grateful to my colleagues in the Legislature that came together to pass this measure with bipartisan support. This bill will help make a difference for our farmworkers in Napa.”

Meeting Farmworkers’ Needs

Napa, like many other agricultural areas in California and across the United States, is facing a severe worker shortage. 

“The Napa agricultural region is a prime example of how our industry and workers can successfully partner together, and I am hopeful that this innovative farmworker housing model can eventually become the gold standard statewide,” the freshman Aguiar-Curry said.

The bill is on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk and he is expected to sign it.

Aguiar-Curry and Dodd have a second bill under legislative consideration. It would require California to annually award up to $250,000 in matching funds to the Napa County Housing Authority that would be used “to effectively serve the housing needs of migrant or other farmworkers in Napa County…” It has passed out of the Assembly with bipartisan support and is in the Senate.

The California legislative session ends in September.

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