California Attorney General Comes Out Against Proposition 64
SACRAMENTO, CA -- October 15, 2004 -- California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has joined consumer and environmental groups in calling for the defeat of Proposition 64, a measure that would restrict the state's Unfair Business Competition Law. The initiative would allow only the California Attorney General or certain local prosecutors to sue companies for unfair and deceptive business practices. Unless they were personally injured or suffered financial losses, individuals and consumer groups would no longer be allowed to sue in such cases.
Proposition 64 "significantly limits the ability of private individuals and public interest groups to bring environmental and consumer protection lawsuits," Mr. Lockyer said (Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2004). In these cases, "if you're exposed to cancer from some pollutant or chemical, you can't bring a lawsuit until you get cancer because you have to demonstrate that you've actually been harmed."
Proposition 64 critics have cited numerous cases that were brought by environmental groups under the Unfair Business Practices Law, which would not have been possible if the measure passes. These range from forcing bottled-water companies to remove illegal levels of arsenic in their products to requiring companies to clean up toxic spills from underground petroleum storage tanks.
Pro-Proposition 64 forces have argued that the attorney general may still pursue worthy cases. Although this is technically correct, Mr. Lockyer has explained that his office has too few resources to handle the backlog of cases. "All the state and local prosecutors are having their budgets cut, so it becomes less and less likely that we'd be able to pick up the cases now taken up by public health groups and others," Mr. Lockyer said (Sacramento Bee, October 1, 2004).
The Sierra Club California, California League of Conservation Voters, Environment California and the Center for Environmental Health have joined the American Lung Association, the California Nurses Association, and Consumers Union in opposing Proposition 64. The initiative is also opposed by AARP (American Association of Retired People), California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, and the Congress of California Seniors.
Major contributors to the pro-Proposition 64 campaign include Microsoft, Blue Cross of California, State Farm Group, Bank of America, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and Southern California Edison (Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2004). Industry and business groups have contributed $9 million to support Proposition 64, including $2.5 million from the California Motor Car Dealers Association (Los Angeles Times, September 11, 2004; Sacramento Bee, September 17, 2004).
At Brayton Purcell, we are against Proposition 64 because we believe that it harms the public and weakens the individual's legal rights. We urge you to oppose this initiative.