Nearly every organization in the State of California takes time to engage their supporters and arrange for them to meet their legislators in Sacramento. Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and the Civil Justice Association of California did just that the other day, when we held our annual Day at the Capitol on March 13th.

We started out the day on the South Steps of the State Capitol for a press conference to discuss abusive Proposition 65 lawsuits and legislative reform that has been introduced this year.

Victims of abusive Prop. 65 lawsuits joined CALA and CJAC to announce their support for AB 227 (Gatto). This legislation would give businesses 14 days to fix alleged Prop. 65 violations, protecting small businesses from shakedown lawsuits filed by unscrupulous attorneys with the hope that small businesses, wary of litigation costs, will opt for a quick settlement to make the lawsuit go away.

Designed to protect Californians from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm, Prop. 65 requires businesses and landlords to warn consumers if products or environments will lead to exposure levels above certain thresholds. The state maintains a list of about 800 chemicals subject to Prop. 65 warnings.

The law allows the public to sue businesses or landlords for up to $2,500 for each day warning signs aren’t posted about the presence of these chemicals, and is subject to abuse by lawyers who file lawsuits with the sole purpose of extracting settlements from the businesses.

Since it was passed in 1986, Prop. 65 has resulted in more than 16,000 lawsuits and more than $500 million in settlements. In 2011 alone, $16 million was collected in Prop. 65 settlements, with more than $11 million, or almost 75%, going to attorney fees.

This was just one issue that our supporters brought to the Capitol. After our press conference, small business owners and supporters of CALA and legal reform met legislators and legislative staffers to discuss much-needed legal reform such as AB 227.

If legal reform in California is about incremental change, it also must be bipartisan. Passing legal reform will turn California back into the Golden State it once was for businesses and jobs.

Letting one’s voice be heard in the halls of our legislature shows how one individual can make a difference. Last year’s Day at the Capitol provided the foundation for months of negotiations that led to the passage of SB 1186, a bill aimed at stopping abusive ADA lawsuits. Legal reform needs to be as important as tax and regulatory reform. Thanks to the supporters of CALA throughout California for making a difference on March 13th!