A bill to require state agencies to establish policies to waive or reduce civil penalties and fines for small businesses was unanimously passed Monday by the Senate Business and Professions Committee.
Senate Bill 430, authored by Senator Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno), would also require state agencies to create, by January 2023, a policy that provides for the reduction or waiver of civil penalties for a regulatory violation by a small business if the violation did not involve willful or criminal conduct and did not pose a serious health, safety, or environmental threat.
The bill, also known as the Small Business Fairness Act, was authored by Senator Borgeas earlier this year as a response to higher financial burdens placed on small businesses in the state since March 2020. According to the Senator, the bill would help struggling small businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Small businesses and their employees are an essential part of our economy,” said Senator Borgeas on Monday after the Senate committee vote. “The state of California must do everything in its power to help them recover as they struggle to survive from this pandemic-induced recession. Waiving and reducing fines for small businesses is a significant step on the pathway to economic recovery.”
SB 430 gained significant support following its introduction last month, with businesses groups such as the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Retailers Association backing it. The bill has also seen bipartisan support, with the Senate Governmental Organization Committee passing SB 430 unanimously 14-0 earlier this month, followed by the 12-0 Business and Professions Committee vote on Monday.
“Normally, businesses getting this much leeway in a bill wouldn’t be so smiled upon by many Senators and Assembly members,” Martin Avila, a Los Angeles small-business owner who has been helping guide strip mall business owners in LA through the pandemic, told the Globe. “But in 2021, we’re all at the end of our rope. Some of us had to close in the last year because we were not given enough help. The burden for paying fell to us. So if this bill helps reduce costs for us, and any other bill really, we’re all for it.”
“We know it’s not entirely altruistic. Some of the people voting for this are probably thinking about their political futures. I mean, ask us two years ago who we vote for for Governor, most of us would have said Newsom. Now, after everything that’s happened, ask any small-business owner around here – Latino, white, black, Asian, anyone – and they’re saying they want someone else. We haven’t really had a conversation on more local elections just yet, but, you know, there is a trend now.
“We’re really just happy to finally get more help.”
SB 430 is expected to be brought before the Senate for a vote soon.
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