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California Lawmakers Debate Volunteer Law

The volunteer landscape in California could change quite a bit next year. State regulations require volunteers on public projects like trail clean-up or watershed restoration to be paid the prevailing wage. But for the past four years, there's been a law in place that allowed volunteers to work without pay. That's going to sunset at the end of the year. 

Republican Senator Roy Ashburn has a bill that would permanently allow the practice. However, the measure could not make it out of a Democratically-controlled committee last week.

Ashburn: This will have a chilling effect on volunteers stepping forward and offering their services. No one expects people who are unpaid for their services to suddenly be receiving the prevailing wage.

But Willie Pelote with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees says they'll fight the permanent rule. He says first the state should analyze the impact of the law. Pelote says allowing untrained volunteers on some public projects may be unsafe - and leads to fewer paid positions.

Ashburn's bill will likely be reconsidered by the committee sometime over the next couple of weeks.

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