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Gov. Jerry Brown killed legislation Sunday that would have made it a crime for farmers not to provide adequate shade and water to their field workers.

Assembly Bill 2676 required that anyone directing or supervising a farmworker ensure continuous access to shade and to enough "suitably cool" water for each employee to drink one quart per hour throughout a work shift.

Violators would have been subject to a six-month jail term and a fine of up to $10,000. If the victim suffered injury, the potential penalty would have escalated to a one-year jail term and a $25,000 fine.

Brown, in his veto message, noted that California has enhanced its safety regulations in recent years and has the most stringent standards in the nation to protect workers in all outdoor industries.

"While I believe enforcement of our heat standards can be improved, I am not convinced that creating a new crime -- and a crime that applies only to one group of employers -- is the answer," Brown wrote. "Instead, we should continue to enforce our stringent standards for the benefit of all workers in all industries."

Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, characterized his bill as a humane measure. State law protects the welfare of domestic animals in extreme heat and it should do the same for farmworkers, he said.

Republicans called the bill's penalties overkill and said its mandates could generate disputes over what is "suitably cool" water, for example, or what is "continuous ready access to an area of shade sufficient to allow the body to cool."

AB 2676 was sponsored by the United Farm Workers.


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