Working through California’s Environmental Protection Agency, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) will collaborate with stakeholders and the legislature to advance Proposition 65 (Prop. 65) reforms that would end frivolous “shake-down” lawsuits, improve warnings about dangerous chemicals and strengthen the science that supports warning levels. The governor will have to convince environmental and consumer groups that the reforms are needed; any changes will apparently require the approval of at least two-thirds of both legislative houses, and supporters believe that the current law works well to force businesses to cease making products with chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against food companies under the law since it was adopted in 1986 for various substances found in foods, including acrylamide, MEI-4 and lead.
According to a May 7, 2013, press release, the governor will seek to (i) cap or limit attorney’s fees in Prop. 65 cases, (ii) require that plaintiffs demonstrate support for their claims before filing lawsuits, (iii) increase plaintiffs’ disclosure requirements, (iv) limit how much money in an enforcement action “can go into settlement funds in lieu of penalties,” (v) allow the state to adjust “the level at which Proposition 65 warnings are needed for chemicals that can cause reproductive harm,” and (vi) require that warnings include useful information about what the public is exposed to and how they can protect themselves. See Los Angeles Times, May 8, 2013.