Disability Access/Education Bill Passes Senate Policy Committees

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JobCreatorA California Chamber of Commerce-sponsored job creator bill that incentivizes disability access and education passed two Senate policy committees this week.

SB 251 (Roth; D-Riverside) is a balanced approach between preserving the civil rights of those who are disabled to ensure access to all public accommodations, and limiting the number of frivolous lawsuits threatened or filed against businesses that do not improve accessibility.

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Governance and Finance Committee this week with unanimous support.

Access

SB 251 seeks to incentivize businesses to proactively take steps to become accessible by providing them with 90 days from receiving a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) report to resolve any violations identified without being subject to statutory penalties or litigation costs. This proposal will assist businesses that are trying to ensure they are compliant with the law from being subject to frivolous claims or litigation.

SB 251 also provides a limited time period for businesses to resolve minor, technical construction-related standards that do not actually impede access to the public accommodation. Specifically, SB 251 provides businesses with 15 days from the service of the summons and complaint to resolve any alleged violation regarding signage, parking lot striping, and truncated domes.

This limited period will provide a business owner the opportunity to devote financial resources to resolving these minor issues before being subjected to statutory penalties and attorney fees.

Education

SB 251 also requires the California Commission on Disability Access to post educational materials for business owners regarding how to comply with California’s construction-related accessibility standards, as well as share that information with local agencies and departments.

The bill requires landlords to notify tenants as to whether a building has been inspected by a CASp, as well as who is liable for any alleged violations. Notice and education are key components to helping create more accessible public accommodations and limiting frivolous claims or litigation.

Tax Credit

Finally, SB 251 creates an additional incentive for businesses to become accessible by providing a tax credit for access expenditures.

Key Votes

SB 251 passed Senate Judiciary on May 12, 6-0.

Ayes: Anderson (R-Alpine), Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), Leno (D-San Francisco), Monning (D-Carmel), Wieckowski (D-Fremont).

No Vote Recorded: Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa).

The bill passed Senate Governance and Finance on May 13, 7-0:

Ayes: Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), Nguyen (R-Garden Grove), Beall (D-San Jose), Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), Lara (D-Bell Gardens), Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), Pavley (D-Agoura Hills).

The bill will be considered next by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Staff Contact: Jennifer Barrera

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Jennifer Barrera
About Jennifer Barrera
Jennifer Barrera, senior policy advocate, works with the executive vice president in developing policy strategy and represents the CalChamber on labor and employment, taxation and legal reform issues. Before joining the CalChamber in September 2010, she worked at a statewide law firm that specializes in labor/employment defense. She also advised small and large businesses on compliance issues, presented seminars on employment-related topics, and authored articles in human resources publications. Barrera earned a B.A. in English from California State University, Bakersfield, and a J.D. with high honors from California Western School of Law.