SACRAMENTO - Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, today announced that a portion of her Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) legislation reform package has unanimously cleared the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee with bi-partisan support.
Assembly Bill 1879, requires the State Architect to compile a list of all federal and state disability access regulations and identify any conflicts.
"As California continually adds and changes disability access regulations, it is difficult for business to survive in this difficult economy," Gaines said. "There are instances when state regulations are in conflict with federal regulations, making it even more difficult for businesses to be compliant. My bill will give businesses an important tool to adhere to the law and actually help accommodate customers with disabilities."
Legislation in 2008 created a commission to address problems with disability access, however in 3 years the commission has still not completed the mission statement. Businesses cannot wait years for this information to be brought to light, Gaines said.
Gaines' other ADA reform measure, Assembly Bill 1878, would give California's most vulnerable small businesses an opportunity to correct an ADA violation before a lawsuit can be filed. Once a business has received a written notice of violation, they would be given 120 days to bring their business into compliance. The bill has not been set for a committee hearing date yet.
Approximately 98% of California businesses are out of compliance with state and/or federal disability access laws. The complex and inconsistent regulations regarding disability access make it difficult for willing business owners to comply with the complicated and changing regulations and give lawsuit abusers the opportunity to take advantage of the confusing laws. This is harmful to both individuals with a disability seeking access and businesses that are exposed to civil actions, Gaines said.
Even U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein agrees. The victimization of small businesses has become so severe that she recently sent a letter to fellow Democrat Darrell Steinberg, the State Senate President Pro Tem, requesting help to advance legislation that will address "drive-by" lawsuits.
"Thousands of lawsuits have been filed in my district against small businesses for ADA compliance issues," Gaines said. "Though the law was originally intended to ensure greater access for those with disabilities, it is now being abused. Many of these businesses have been forced to shut their doors because they simply cannot afford to continue to operate after settling these lawsuits. This is wrong and its time the Legislature act immediately."
Assembly Bill 1879 now heads to the Appropriations Committee for a vote.
Assemblywoman Beth Gaines represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes portions of Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado and Alpine Counties.