Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Burbank) joined business leaders, consumer attorneys and representatives of Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) today at The Coffee Table Bistro in Eagle Rock, to celebrate the signing of AB 227, a bill by Assemblyman Mike Gatto that reforms Prop. 65 to protect small businesses from meritless lawsuits. AB 227 essentially provides for a “fix-it ticket” for violations based on the most common, everyday substances covered under Prop. 65, such as alcoholic beverages or those that naturally occur when grilling food.
The signing celebration featured speeches by Assemblyman Gatto, Brian Kabateck of the Consumer Attorneys of California, Mira Guertin of CalChamber, Bob Spivak of the California Restaurant Association, and Stuart Waldman of Valley Industry and Commerce Association. Representatives of local and regional Chambers of Commerce and local small-business owners were also present, including Brett Schoenhals, a Gatto constituent and owner of The Coffee Table, located in Gomez’s district, who first brought the issue of unfair Prop. 65 litigation to Assemblyman Gatto’s attention as a member of Gatto’s Small Business Advisory Commission.
“This bill won’t halt all Prop. 65 lawsuits, but will halt almost all unjust Prop. 65 lawsuits,” said Gatto.
AB 227 allows small-business owners who receive notice of a technical Prop. 65 signage violation to achieve compliance within fourteen days and pay a small civil fine. If the business owners comply, they would be safe from legal action — including Prop. 65’s crushing $2,500 per-day retroactive fine, plus legal fees, and the stress of battling unfair litigation.
“Small-business owners strengthen our local economies and create jobs,” said Gomez in a written statement. “I am, proud to stand with my colleague, Assemblymember Mike Gatto, in support of AB 227.”
The bill succeeded against very long odds. It is the first bill to substantively amend Prop. 65 in nearly fifteen years, and only the second one in history. This is because reforming Prop. 65 requires a two-thirds supermajority vote of the Legislature, a very high bar that requires clear consensus.
“I am proud to have brought together groups that are normally on opposite sides of this issue, to craft a common-sense bill that will help California businesses avoid costly litigation, while ensuring that the public still gets prompt and proper warnings,” said Gatto. “It’s not every day that business groups, environmental-justice coalitions, organized labor, and attorneys’ organizations agree on anything, much less how to reform Prop. 65 — a measure that has been nearly impossible to amend since its approval in 1986.”
The idea for the legislation came from Assemblyman Gatto’s Small Business Advisory Commission, formed in 2012 to advise him on challenges facing local small-business owners.
“AB 227 strikes a balance by helping businesses avoid senseless litigation while preserving the public’s ability to obtain proper warnings about dangerous chemicals,” said Gatto. “It shouldn’t cost California’s small businesses thousands of dollars because of issues with a $20 sign.”