Senate approves lawmaker’s bill to curb disability rights lawsuits

RIVERSIDE  – A Riverside County lawmaker’s bill aimed at deterring disability rights lawsuits targeting small businesses was unanimously approved today by the state Senate.

Sen. Richard Roth’s SB 269 passed on a 38-0 vote and is now bound for the governor’s desk. “SB 269’s unanimous approval proves that my proposal is a common-sense, bipartisan solution to protect the disabled community and small businesses,” Roth said.

The senator introduced the measure in January as a repackaged version of his SB 251, which made it to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk last year but was vetoed after the governor repudiated it over a small business tax credit.

SB 269 was originally authored by Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, who revised it using Roth’s language as part of the Legislature’s “gut-and-amend” process. According to Roth, the current bill proposes to supply business owners with educational resources and training that would bring them up-to-date on state and federal disability access requirements. The measure would further provide “a reasonable amount of time” for merchants to rectify access problems before they could be subjected to legal action, Roth said.

In its 2016 legislative advocacy platform, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors named Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits among its foremost concerns.

Often  criticized as “shakedown lawsuits,” the actions stem from findings that business owners have not constructed ramps, automated doors or other means that permit disabled individuals from gaining easy access to a location — whether or not they patronize it.

The board’s platform backed efforts to blunt “predatory litigation” and provide “a reasonable time period in which a business is allowed to …come into compliance” with ADA standards.

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