California’s small business community is the lifeblood of our state’s economy and the heart of the California Dream. Yet year after year, California maintains its bad reputation for fostering one of the most harmful business climates in the nation.
One of the ways that we can begin to help businesses in California is to repair our state’s broken disability access laws in a way that meets the needs of businesses and consumers alike. After all – once a business closes, no one has access.
California is responsible for nearly 40 percent of the nation’s Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits. At an average of $25,000 per lawsuit, it is no wonder that businesses across the San Joaquin Valley are shutting their doors, or laying off employees. Many of them simply can’t afford to keep up with ever-changing regulation as well as the onslaught of predatory lawsuits.
Small businesses make up 99 percent of businesses in California’s economy, and they produce 52 percent of private-sector jobs. Improving the conditions for small businesses, their employees and the communities they serve will improve California’s economy.
This session, several of my legislative colleagues and I introduced a number of bills specifically geared toward helping small businesses improve access while protecting them from frivolous lawsuits.
My bill, AB 54, was originally written to provide businesses 60 days to cure an access violation if construction-related accessibility standards changed within the past three years. Unfortunately, that simple version of the bill stalled in our liberal-dominated Legislature.
Now, I am working alongside a coordinated alliance of stakeholders on a bill that would allow businesses 120 days after consulting with a Certified Access Specialist to correct access violations, 15 days to correct a violation identified in a filed lawsuit, and to require state and local governments to provide up-to-date educational materials about how businesses can ensure they are maintaining compliance with the ADA.
A similar bill passed the Legislature last year after much hard work from Central Valley legislators, but was unfortunately vetoed by the governor because it included a tax credit. Now, with the tax credit removed, I am hopeful we’ll be able to pass the bill and see it become law this year.
To improve our business climate, we must take a stand against frivolous lawsuits to ensure that small businesses can grow, continue to provide good jobs and remain open to all members of the community – including the disabled.
SB 269 will be heard on the Assembly Floor this week. Please help the bill’s passage by calling legislators and sharing your stories of lawsuit abuse. For more information, send an email to Assemblymember.Olsen@assembly.ca.gov or call (916) 319-2012.
Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, is the Assembly Republican leader. She represents the 12th District, which includes portions of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties in the Central Valley. Contact: Twitter, @KristinOlsenCA