California needs to reform the ADA Act, listen to the public

January 26, 2024

Supervisor Debbie Arnold

By Supervisor Debbie Arnold

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy. I have witnessed that both in my capacity as a county supervisor and in my 17 years owning and operating a small business here in San Luis Obispo County.

I have also witnessed the grave challenges facing small businesses as the California State Legislature continues to allow the business climate to worsen.

Our state has been grappling with regulatory issues for decades, in which small businesses trying to follow the law make minor violations that result in excessive litigation. Two pieces of state law that are among the worst culprits are the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and PAGA (Private Attorneys General Act).

The problem with the ADA is unrelated to inclusivity for those with disabilities, which is obviously a noble goal. It’s that bad-actor lawyers are using the ADA to extort small businesses. Serial plaintiffs and profiteering attorneys will come in, identify a minor infraction like a countertop installed an inch too high, and then threaten to sue the business owner to try and force a settlement. Often, the business owner has no choice but to accept the settlement or risk a destructively expensive trial.

PAGA is no better. That law empowers attorneys to turn employees against their employers and sue for such trivial violations as a pay stub with a wrong date. Like the ADA, these lawsuits only are intended to force settlements that produce a pay day for the attorney while leaving pennies for the employee.

These issues can be solved with simple solutions that address bad actors while still allowing for real grievances to be litigated.

Such progress on this issue is possible. The California State Senate passed a bill, SB 585, designed to address ADA reform, but that legislation was met with silence in the State Assembly.

In the coming legislative session, I hope local legislators in both chambers seek to protect small business and reform the misguided state laws harming them.

Debbie Arnold represents Atascadero, California Valley, Creston, Garden Farms, Pozo, Santa Margarita, and parts of San Luis Obispo, and Cal Poly on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.

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Painfully Obvious and Ricky2,

I AGREE with both of you, it seems Debbie Arnold has taken leave of her senses, and I have even had discussions with Supervisor John Peschong about how her half-baked schemes are hurting local Republican electoral success as more and more independents side with the more liberal philosophy, it’s alarming.

Some in the GOP may hate to admit it, but the January 6 event has damaged the Republican brand, and, although both parties have attempted to characterize the event inaccurately, the DJT circus threatens the GOP with another loss in the 2024 election. Local GOP voters are divided between those who associate with real fiscal conservatism versus those who can be characterized as disrupters.

More and more, Debbie Arnold is being seen as a disrupter.