Assemblymember Berryhill (left) receives Legislator of the Year Award from Eric Watanabe, 2012 president of the California Landscape Contractors Association.

Berryhill Named Legislator Of The Year

The California Landscape Contractors Association presented Assemblymember Bill Berryhill with its Legislator of the Year Award on May 23 at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento. The award was given to the Stockton legislator for helping to protect the public from unlicensed contractors and the harmful effects of the underground economy as well as for helping the state of California collect millions of dollars in unpaid taxes.

One such law, Assembly Bill 878, authored by Berryhill in 2011, required workers’ compensation insurance carriers to inform the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) if the carriers cancel a contractor’s insurance policy in certain situations. The CSLB is the regulatory board for contractors. In a rare example of bipartisan cooperation in the state Legislature, Berryhill, a Republican, has worked with Assemblymember William Monning, a Democrat, to co-author several successful bills to address the underground economy, including last year’s Assembly Bill 397 and Assembly Bill 766. AB 397 tightened up a law requiring contractors to show proof of workers’ compensation insurance. AB 766 made it easier for the state to check payroll records in order to enforce prevailing wage laws.

The underground economy is a big problem for taxpayers, homeowners, businesses, and workers, according to Peter Dufau of Dufau Landscape Inc., Ventura, and CLCA’s director of legislation. Employers who pay their workers cash under the table to avoid payroll taxes, workers' compensation insurance and other government mandates cost California about $7 billion annually in lost revenues and undercut companies that play by the rules. Many of these illegal operators are unlicensed scam artists that prey on the elderly. Hiring an unlicensed contractor also exposes homeowners to liability and unrecoverable costs should the job be completed incorrectly or an injury occur.

"I am honored to be recognized by CLCA for protecting consumers and leveling the ‘playing field’ for businesses without overburdening them with regulations,” said Berryhill.

“We’re pleased to honor Assemblyman Berryhill for his hard work and dedication in protecting the integrity of our industry,” said Dufau. “Many of these illegal individuals do not even have the proper skills or code knowledge to complete the job correctly. These operators give our industry a bad reputation. We recognize that Assemblyman Berryhill is working hard to pass laws that protect consumers and ensure that everyone has a fair and equal opportunity to do business in the state of California.

“People think when they hire unlicensed contractors they are saving money, but too often homeowners become victims of crimes or end up being liable for the person’s work or injuries on their property. Hiring an unlicensed contractor puts the homeowner at risk. In this difficult economy it is even more important to hire a licensed contractor and to check his or her credentials and history through the CSLB.”

A fourth generation Californian, Berryhill’s roots in agriculture and public service run deep. For more than thirty years, Berryhill has farmed wine grapes in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties and operated successful custom grape harvesting businesses. He was elected to the State Assembly in 2008, where he represents Assembly District 26, which includes portions of San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, including the cities of Manteca, Modesto, Stockton, and Turlock. He currently serves as Vice Chair of the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee and is a member of several other committees. He is running for the state Senate this year.

The California Landscape Contractors Association is a trade organization of licensed landscape and landscape-related contractors. Also included among its approximately 2500 members are landscape suppliers, landscape architects, public officials, educators, and students.

The CSLB helps protect the public by licensing and regulating California’s construction industry. Consumers can check the status of any construction contractor’s license by going to www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling the board’s toll-free telephone number at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).