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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Poor Debbie, perhaps there was a time, but now it just plain old “Do Nothing” Debbie. Her agenda is “No.” Solutions to problems, “No.” Leadership addressing key problems facing the county, “No.” Ideas to help, “No.” Muse about the past and whine about today, emphatic “Yes.”

The “Bob Jones Trail” fiasco lies directly at the feet of Arnold. Arnold supports the county applying for millions to connect the trail into one cohesive trail improving the public safety, transportation, and recreation. In the way of success is one land owner in Texas who refuses to allow an easement on the very edge of his property even after $millions in promised improvements. The solution is imminent domain. But Debbie votes no even though she has voted for imminent domain in the past.  So this wonderful plan is thwarted, thanks Debbie. The residents of this beautiful county are seeng opportunity after opportunity squandered…Ah, the legacy of “Do Nothing” Debbie.

I’ve watched my supervisor, Ms. Arnold, for years, and lately she has been wacko on so many things, like this one. Her complaining about equality for the disabled, and the means of achieving that, come from an able bodied person with no clue what it’s like to live with disabilities. It’s pure meanness, whether intended, or merely expressed out of ignorance. And indeed, there’s a lot of ignorance in this article. She states, for example, “Two pieces of state law that are among the worst culprits are the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and . . .” Uh, Ms. Arnold, the ADA is not state law, it’s federal law with more than 30 years of existence. Good luck with going to Sacramento with a crusade to “fix” (apparently as in “fix” your male dog) the ADA. As for the private attorney general complaint, that’s how somebody gets the ADA enforced. Without it accessibility improvements would get done just as fast as cities and businesses pleased, which means never. As for needing to demote the enforcement of the ADA to “noble goal” status — that’s just insulting and would be like telling a slave in 1850 that freedom was a “noble goal” but unfortunately impossible since it would upset the slave owner’s business interests. Finally, everyone should know where this anti-ADA propaganda is originating, because it’s not coming from Ms. Arnold’s own brain. There a right wing outfit that has decided to use complaints from some small businesses as posters for a nasty campaign to turn back to the clock on disabled persons to put them out of sight and out of mind, where apparently they belong. Ms. Arnold has fallen victim to this vile propaganda. Ms. Arnold, you are a better person than to be part of this meanness. Please learn more and change your song.

As an American with disabilities, I support the ADA Act which represents 50 years of commitment to allowing people like myself full acess to American life. It is typical to see that some fully-able Americans just not understand the issue, and I forgive their ignorance.

I also forgive politicians like Debbie Arnold, who appear willing to use handicap access to divide us, Arnold describes our access as a ‘noble goal’, when, in fact it is a legal imperative. Her attempt to equiviqaute this is just another example of poor leadership, and I would respect her advocay more if she cared enough to go out into our community and see for herself how hard it is for handicapp people to acess both public and private facilities without the necessary accommodations being in place.

If our public officials actually insured that government agencies did their job in securing compliance with our ADA laws, their would be no opportunity for lawyers to use lawsuits in a frivilous manner. Get it? If the government people actually did their job instead of just shooting their mouth off, then handicp people have access and the lawyers do not get to file lawsuits.

Sometimes the truth hurts, but it still most be written.

Never, ever, elect any lawyer to any public office.

Suzanne Smiley, Jarek Molski, Robert McCarthy…Anyone remember them?

All were lawsuit-happy “victims” and their greedy lawyers who made life miserable for many, many SLO county businesses.

Supervisor Arnold’s op-ed is spot on. Reform is desperately needed.

The ADA needs to be rewritten, toilet paper dispensers lower than a toilet, Dots on the sidewalks in front of grocery stores, handicap ramps to the beaches. There needs to be some common sense included in these laws.

Debbie you’re a fine elected official but on this issue you are tilting at windmills!!!

The democratic super majority that controls this State haven’t done anything to help business for decades and Salud Carbajal is as bad as the rest of them!!!

The answer for many is to leave the State leaving the mess they voted for behind:(

Unfortunately Sacramento will get to this right after they fix the broken public employee pension sysytem.

I beg to differ with Supervisor Debbie Arnold.

With all due respect, this public official is misguided in using her platform to urge a retreat in our commitment to access for our citizens with disabilities. While Ms. Arnold points to abusive litigation, she is silent on the important role that the ADA legislation has played in allowing ALL people to access public places, achieve mobility, and lead productive lifestyles.

50 years after the landmark ADA legislation, San Luis Obispo County still has many public access routes not modified to comply with the law, and, also, many businesses both large and small simply ignore their legal requirement to allow ADA access. Supervisor Arnold would have more credibility on this issue if she could provide a list of public sidewalks still needing to be modified years after the requirement to do so.

Do better Supervisor Arnold, represent ALL of your constituents.

She wasn’t silent, her statement is right there: “The problem with the ADA is unrelated to inclusivity for those with disabilities, which is obviously a noble goal.”

She fully recognizes the point of the ADA. However, she wants to reform it, in order to BLOCK the flagrant abuse of it, not to mention the government level of waste, in the name of “helping” (go look at the new sidewalk and driveway at Ben Franklin Sandwiches. If there ever was a place that absolutely did not, in any way, shape, or form, need a wheelchair ramp, in this entire state…that is where you could find it).

I absolutely support access for those who find themselves at a loss for mobility.

What I don’t support, and I’ll bet Debbie Arnold would agree, is the stupid stuff, like removing a wheelchair ramp on a street corner, to put in……….a wheelchair ramp. Which city workers all over, have been doing with aplomb. Often making the new access, more dangerous than the old!

Messkit, that wheelchair ramp redo, added bumps, and they are for visually impaired people, not the wheelchair user. ;-)

Meskitt, yes, her statement is right there: she describes inclusivity as a ‘noble goal’. It is not a ‘noble goal’, it is a legal imperative. The ADA mandated that public and private places MUST accommodate those with disabilities, it is a requirement, not a goal, or option.

If more people would take the time to think critically, society would be way better off, and our collective energies could be harnessed to achieve something worthwhile.

Karma might see Supervisor Debbie Arnold become disabled one day, and I wonder if she wants to get stuck on a street corner that does not permit her to move forward, or for her to shop in a store where she cannot navigate down the aisles?

ADA access is NOT a noble goal, it is a legal requirement, get over it.

Mess, clearly not even your little toe has dipped into the waters of disability. Do you not realize how mean, condescending and arrogant it is for a public official to say to her disabled constituents “inclusivity for those with disabilities, which is obviously a noble goal” even as she calls for dismantling the very law that makes inclusivity real rather than merely a “goal?”

Chlo, you missed her intent. This was not about ADA. Debbie knew this audience was already supportive of ADA reform. And it very well may be due. But she wants us to set our sights on PAGA.

PAGA is a tool of empowerment for a wrongly treated employee. It is not used for trivial matters simply because it is an involved process. Though she wants us to believe this. PAGA is used in cases of retribution or patterns of abusive behavior by an employer after an employee has exercised their rights, like maternity leave. You get a lawyer to press a PAGA claim, and they cost money. This isn’t done on a whim, as implied. It is a very long process. So, Debbie is a typical politician in telling us half truths.