SACRAMENTO – A tort reform advocacy group is optimistic that Gov. Gavin Newsom, in his first year leading the state, will be sympathetic to small businesses and the "biggest threat" those businesses face, a group's regional director said during a recent interview.
As a business owner who's already voiced similar concerns about tort reforms, Newsom ought to react positively to pro-business legislation when it reaches his desk, according to California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse regional director Maryann Marino.
"We're hoping; we're very optimistic that he will be very sympathetic to our issues because he's in our shoes," she said.
California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse Southern California Regional Director Maryann Marino | Photo courtesy of California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse
Not everyone is so confident about Newsom's commitment to supporting California business and tort reform.
"We're certainly hoping he will be," Marino said. "There are so many bills up in Sacramento that are probably going to make it to his desk."
Newsom, the lieutenant governor under the previous administration, was elected in November, soundly defeating his Republican challenger John H. Cox with more than 60 percent of the vote. Newsom's predecessor, Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown, was ineligible to run for re-election in November for what would have been a third consecutive - and fifth non-consecutive - term under term limit constraints.
Initially enacted in 2003 by then-Gov. Gray Davis, the Private Attorneys General Act allows private attorneys to act on behalf the state to enforce labor laws in litigation against small-business owners. The act incentivizes attorneys to sue over the slightest infractions of state labor laws, such as not listing a full address on a pay stub.
Support from Newsom for Private Attorneys General Act reforms would go a long way, Marino said.
"We certainly are optimistic that he is sympathetic to our cause because the Private Attorneys General Act will wipe out businesses across the state," she said. "It creates an incentive for private attorneys to sue. If the governor holds the line on that, he will be protecting businesses from the kind of unwarranted lawsuit that will be the result of this act."
Reforms to the Private Attorneys General Act will in no way impede correction of employment issues in the state, Marino said
"The difference is, if there's a labor issue, the Labor Board could send their own attorneys to fix the problem," Marino said. "They may say to the employers, 'Hey, the guy missed lunch, you may have to pay him twice the amount of his hourly rate plus a fine.' A private attorney could go and do the same thing but will look for every single technical violation, every move, anything he can so he can rack up a lot of different technical violations to make money. So the incentive for a private attorney is that they're in it to make money for themselves. Nothing they will do will bring balance to the civil justice system or fix a problem."