Lawsuits Continue, but Senator Corbett Gets an Award

Tom Scott
CA Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business

I noticed the other day that Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett received another award. ‘Tis the season. This award was the 2011 Legislative Champion to Accessibility Award, which honors leaders who advocate for persons with disabilities. It was presented to her by Disability Rights California.

Senator Corbett is quoted in her own press release announcing the award as saying, “As is often the case, the passage of a bill or a win in the coutroom doesn’t eliminate discrimination. I will continue to fight for people with disabilities and their rights towards full equality.”

While I certainly applaud people any time they are given recognition for their service, I found this rather interesting. The main reason Senator Corbett was given this award was due to her introduction and support of SB 1608 in 2008. This legislation was introduced in an effort to improve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and also stop the rampant ADA lawsuits that have been ravaging this state’s small businesses. Yet her press release strangely leaves out any mention of this bill, which also created the mother of all commissions, the California Commission on Disability Access (CCDA).

Interestingly, Senator Corbett notes in her bio on her State Senate website that she serves on the CCDA. While she might serve on it, she rarely if ever attends the Commission’s meetings. Maybe if she did she would see that it is moving at a snail’s pace. The commission finally hired an Executive Officer this past June and the Civil Enforcement Committee (this is the one dealing with the ADA lawsuits) finally had its first official meeting on November 22nd.

CALA supported SB 1608, but had serious questions as to how effective it would be. Any time you create a commission to study a problem you know it’s a compromise and possibly not a good one.

So three years later, the ADA lawsuits continue to flow against small businesses in California and Senator Corbett is picking up awards. Let me be clear, SB 1608 has nothing to do with stopping the ADA lawsuits in California. It is simply studying the matter and likely sending a report to the legislature in 2014. This will be long after Senator Corbett has faded into the sunset (she is termed out in 2012).

Considering the current state of California’s economy and the benefits of legal reform, we can’t wait until 2014 to consider reforms.

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