Baby Steps to Prop. 65 Reform
On September 11th, the state Senate sent AB 227 by Assemblyman Mike Gatto with a vote of 78-0, and the bill is now on its way to Governor Brown for a veto or signature. Gov. Brown likely will sign it because it has received bipartisan support from a broad coalition of trial lawyers, environmentalists and business.
AB 227 focuses on reducing Prop. 65 lawsuits alleging that a business failed to provide adequate Prop. 65 warnings regarding alcoholic beverages, environmental tobacco smoke, chemicals used in food preparation, and engine exhaust. The bill allows a business 14 days to correct the violation, provide proof that the violation was fixed, and pay a small civil fine, before a lawsuit can move forward.
Would CALA like to have seen AB 227 create broader Prop. 65 reforms? Yes. Was this probably the best deal that could be worked out at this time? Probably. I think everyone – especially small business owners – would agree that paying a $500 fine is a lot better than being shaken down for tens of thousands of dollars. CALA supported this legislation because it will remove some of the incentives for unscrupulous trial lawyers to file abusive Prop. 65 lawsuits. We encourage Governor Brown to sign AB 227 and we applaud everyone who was a part of this reform measure.
That being said, CALA believes a great deal more reform needs to occur with Proposition 65. On May 7th of this year, Governor Brown demonstrated his commitment to reforming Prop. 65 when he proposed to convene stakeholder meetings specifically to reduce abusive Prop. 65 lawsuits.
While it was discouraging to see the Governor’s reforms stagnate due in large part to time constraints, we are confident that a reform package on Proposition 65 will be introduced next year that will be broader than AB 227. We just hope that if reform does move next year, that it truly stops the lawsuit abuse and doesn’t open up avenues for further lawsuits. The last thing California needs is for more well-meaning policy increases litigation.