Mobilizing for Moderation – CA Operators Seek Reg Fairness

Posted March 2, 2018 at 1:34 pm

Photo Credit: Chee Tung
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California is living up to its reputation for far-reaching environmental and other business-unfriendly regulations that could have a dramatic – possibly even life-threatening – impact on linen, uniform and facility services companies operating in that state, according to a Sacramento-based lobbyist who’s working with TRSA to mobilize behind more moderate approaches to issues, such as climate change and antiquated washing requirements for healthcare goods.

A group of about 40 California-based laundry operators from across the state participated in a Feb. 28 conference call with Kevin Schwalb, TRSA’s vice president of government relations; and R.J. Cervantes, a legislative advocate with Fernandez Government Solutions, an advocacy firm that TRSA has partnered with to address a range of issues involving state regulators and members of the California State Assembly.

The issues of concern are both immediate and long-term, but all are significant. Schwalb and Cervantes kicked off the call with an update on efforts to modify the state’s Title 22 regulation, which requires healthcare launderers to process textiles at 160° for 24 minutes. Laundry operators have long argued that the rule is obsolete because modern laundry machinery and wash chemicals are capable of processing textiles at lower temperatures and in less time without compromising hygiene. In 2001, regulators conceded that modern washing methods can indeed produce hygienically clean textiles, yet the regulation remains on the books. State officials have offered flexibility by allowing laundry clients, such as hospitals, to request a waiver from Title 22 rules. However, although TRSA has developed sample letters and other materials to facilitate these efforts, the process of ensuring compliance while working around Title 22 is still a complex process.

In light of the lack of movement on the issue, TRSA and its lobbying partner, Fernandez Government Solutions, have mobilized behind a bill now before the state legislature that would require a rewrite of the Title 22 rules to reflect current standards. The newly introduced legislation, AB 2679, is sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell (D) and has bipartisan support, Cervantes says. If enacted, it would require the state Department of Public Health (DPH) to update Title 22 by Jan. 1, 2020. The bill would take effect on Jan. 1, 2019, which would give regulators a year to rewrite the rules.

In order to stay on track with legislative deadlines, the bill is expected to go before the Health Committee of the State Assembly next month. Cervantes said supporters have a two-prong strategy for achieving their goal. First, they’ll keep pressure on the DPH to rewrite the rule voluntarily in a timely fashion. Otherwise, once passed, the legislation will mandate that they take action. “We do have a bill to rally behind,” Cervantes said, noting that he’s upbeat about the prospects for finally fixing Title 22, either through voluntary rule-rewriting or legislation.

Other issues of concern include:

  • Actions by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to implement AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act. Enacted in 2006, this bill requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emission to 1990 levels by 2020. That’s roughly 15% below the levels that would likely exist without taking additional action to reduce CO2 emissions.
  • An issue related to the greenhouse gas (GHG) bill extends further out in time (2020-2030), but could have a dramatic impact on laundry operators, particularly independents. The legislation calls for a phase in of “zero emission” vehicles for commercial fleets. If fully implemented by the ARB, the rule could require companies to switch to natural gas or electric vehicles. That, in turn, could force smaller firms out of business due to the high costs of refitting their fleets. “TRSA members definitely need to be at that table to make sure our voices are heard,” Schwalb said, speaking of the new emission rules. “It will be something that we will have to deal with and battle over for the next few years.” Click here for details on the policy.
  • A ballot initiative on property taxes that would reassess property values on commercial (though not residential) real estate in order to reflect current values, rather than the value of the property at the time it was purchased. The assessment also would increase from 1% to 2%. Given the rising value of California commercial real estate, this move would significantly hike costs for business owners, including laundry operators that own property, Schwalb said. The money from the tax hike is designated for K-12 public education, so it has an appeal among large numbers of voters. Cervantes said.

The campaigns on these issues, as well as Title 22, have raised the prospect that TRSA and its lobbying partner in Sacramento will invite Golden State laundry operators to come to the state capital in May (on a date to be announced) in order to make their case directly to state legislators. Schwalb said he’d follow up shortly on plans for “Hill Day” visits to Sacramento lawmakers.

Any California operators who weren’t on the call, or who’d like more information on these issues, should contact Schwalb at 703.519.0029 or