By Mary O’KEEFE
On Saturday, small business owners sat down with Assemblymember Mike Gatto to discuss how Sacramento can help entrepreneurs navigate the business waters, either by creating new laws, or guidelines, or in some cases leaving them alone to do their job.
The members are part of Gatto’s Small Business Advisory Commission and were present at the request of the assemblymember.
The commission is comprised of business owners from a variety of business segments, from real estate to medical care, and from the film industry to construction. All members had one thing in common: they own a small business and are concerned about how to stay afloat in this economy.
Gatto said he wants the commission to make proposals and share concerns that he can then take to Sacramento. He feels this will be a positive step in strengthening small businesses in the state.
“As lawmakers, we have a sacred duty to listen to the needs and concerns of those who help our communities thrive, and to do what we can to support them,” Gatto said.
Issues that were addressed in this first meeting of the commission dealt with laws that seemed to create confusion and, in some cases, a predatory scenario. In one example, a restaurant owner shared his story of being sued by a law firm that, he said, is notorious for filing lawsuits against restaurants concerning notices that are required to be in a visible area of the business. These can include notices of warnings of alcohol and pregnancy, or caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. The lawsuit claims the person suing was in the restaurant every day since it had been open, which was eight years, and the signs were not present. The restaurant owner now has the option to go to court or settle the suit. He would like to see the law used in a way that helps the business owners instead of setting them up for predatory lawsuits.
Those in the film business covered the runaway production that has been happening for decades in the Los Angeles area. The overall consensus was that tax breaks alone were not going to keep business in town and that a misconception that everyone in the film industry is wealthy is a problem when it comes to passing useful legislation.
Another discussion was not only the workman’s compensation fees for small businesses but lending practices for small business owners and private loans for those who wish to develop or buy homes.
“This is the first time we have done this,” Gatto said of the commission. “I wanted to make sure I got input from people who are on the front line.”
During the meeting, nine new legislative proposals were suggested as well as some laws that should be reexamined and perhaps repealed.
Gatto sees value in the commission beyond the legislative suggestions.
“I have a resource now to [go to],” he said, adding that he now has a direct contact with specific industries so he will be able to contact members of the commission if there is there is discussion in the legislature pertaining to that specific field, like health care for seniors.