Suit Aims to Ensure Voters’ Voices Will be Heard During Unprecedented Attack on Referendum Process
SACRAMENTO – Today, the Save Local Restaurants coalition filed a lawsuit to ensure the democratic process established by the California Constitution is respected. The state’s Constitution dictates that, as part of the referendum process, laws cannot go into effect until voters have an opportunity to exercise their voice and vote on the proposed legislation. To date, more than one million California voters have asked for the opportunity to do exactly that with AB 257.
The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), stated that it intends to implement AB 257 – the FAST Act – on January 1, 2023. Without regard for the over 100-year referendum process afforded to the people of the state, officials are attempting to circumvent existing case law and fail to acknowledge the voices of the more than one million voters who exercised their democratic right in asking to vote on this legislation before bearing its burden.
With the DIR confirming its intent to unconstitutionally implement AB 257, the Save Local Restaurants Coalition has no choice but to turn to the Courts to protect California voters’ right of referendum. This decision by the DIR steamrolls voters’ voices, violates the state Constitution, and sets a dangerous precedent.
The Save Local Restaurants Coalition said: “Over one million Californians have made clear they want their say on this flawed measure, which would raise food prices and cost their communities needed jobs. The Save Local Restaurants coalition will not stop working to protect the small business franchisees, restaurant operators, workers, and customers of these community establishments despite this flagrant attack on the rights of California voters.”
International Franchise Association President and CEO Matt Haller said: “California bureaucrats, at the behest of special interests, are taking an unprecedented step to violate their Constitution and the will of more than one million voters who asked for the Fast Food Council to be stopped via the referendum process. Californians know the cost of living is already too high, and creating a new government bureaucracy isn’t going to solve a problem the state’s own data shows didn’t need to be solved in the first place, but will simply lead to higher prices on food and additional government overreach into their daily lives.”
National Restaurant Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Sean Kennedy said: “California voters deserve better from their government. The state Constitution guarantees a process for voters to reconsider laws passed by their legislature. The DIR’s disregard for the rule of law is an insult to the democratic process. The National Restaurant Association respects the process set out by the California Constitution, and believes this lawsuit is necessary to protect the faith that voters put into that process when they signed the petitions to put the FAST Act on a ballot.”
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Employment Policy Glenn Spencer said: “Allowing state officials to silence the voices of over one million California voters to impose a law that will stifle job growth and raise prices for families will set a dangerous precedent for businesses of all kinds – not only within the state, but across the country. California voters demanded a say in whether they must shoulder the burden of higher prices and job losses due to the impacts of AB 257 and state officials should respect their constitutional right to vote.”
Nielsen Merksamer attorney Kurt Oneto said: “Since the inception of the right of referendum over a century ago, approximately 52 referendum measures have made it on to the statewide ballot, over 50% of which ended up repealed by voters. Not in a single one of those prior instances did the State ever attempt to temporarily enforce the referred statute while the signature review process was underway. By moving forward with implementing AB 257, the state would create a harmful precedent that would effectively render the state’s referendum process meaningless.”
Hispanic Chambers of Commerce President and CEO Julian Canete said: “By attempting to force AB 257 into law under the cover of darkness during the holidays, the Director of Industrial Relations is hoping Californians don’t notice until it’s too late. This should concern anyone who cares about good governance and democratic norms. The California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce will continue to fight for the rights of the people of California, particularly the minority-owned businesses who would be most impacted by this flawed piece of legislation.”
The FAST Act creates an unelected Fast Food Council to control labor policy for quick service restaurants, will cause food prices to increase by as much as 20% during a period of decades-high inflation, and will harm thousands of small family-, minority-, and women- business owners across the state. Less than one-third of Californians support the measure, and the state’s own Department of Finance opposed the bill, saying it would create a “fragmented regulatory and legal environment for employers and raise long-term costs across industries.”
Read the lawsuit HERE.
On December 5, the Save Local Restaurants coalition announced it submitted to county elections officials over one million signatures from Californians in order to prevent AB 257 from taking effect until voters have their say on the November 2024 ballot.
The Secretary of State issued a notice on December 9, 2022, stating the referendum petition filed against AB 257 contains more than the minimum number of required signatures. Pursuant to Article II of the California Constitution, and consistent with the position taken by the Secretary of State and Attorney General in 2020, AB 257 became ineffective and unenforceable in its entirety as of this date. This includes, but is not limited to, the establishment of the Fast Food Council. Given the refusal by California’s Department of Industrial Relations to commit to upholding this law, the Save Local Restaurants coalition filed a lawsuit against the state officials responsible for overseeing enforcement of AB 257.