Letter of Opposition – AB 1705

July 19, 2017

Assemblymember Low
P.O. Box 942849
Room 4126
Sacramento, CA 94249-0028

RE: AB 1705 - Opposition

Dear Assemblymember Low,

AB 1705 would sunset the California State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind (Board) effective January 1, 2018, would allegedly provide title protection for guide dog instructors, and would impose annual reporting requirements to the Department of Consumer Affairs (Department) by guide dog schools.

We believe that the sunset of the Board, particularly at this time, on the heels of the implementation of SB 1331 (Chapter 595 – Statutes of 2016) does not provide sufficient time to properly assess the impact of an unregulated industry in the hands of a privately held out-of-state organization on California public safety and consumer protection. In the Board’s sunset report, we identified and provided solutions for numerous consumer safety concerns, most notably surrounding guide dog ownership laws, and the Board’s arbitration authority. The sunset of the Board would fail to address these issues and deprive consumers of their right to have third party involvement in dispute resolution. As such, the sunset of the Board is both reckless and irresponsible.

This bill not only sunsets the Board, but also dismantles 70 years of law and regulation designed to protect consumers from the substandard guide dog instruction that left many blind individuals and veterans dead on the streets. Guide dogs are considered the most elite service animals, due primarily to their level of highly specified instruction; removing regulation of the guide dog industry will result in a degradation of this status. The mere reporting of information to the Department does not satisfy any form of consumer protection whatsoever.

Replacing the Board with International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) certification is improper. IGDF certification of a school is not a requirement to conduct business in any state and is fundamentally dissimilar from the Board’s licensure process, regulatory authority, and enforcement abilities. The IGDF has no standardized examination process or criminal background investigation requirement for individual instructors. The IGDF does not have any enforcement authority or jurisdiction over the schools or the individual instructors in each school’s employment; it is merely a voluntary membership organization. Based on these facts, the IGDF cannot ensure consumer protection based solely on the fact that the instructor is an employee of a certified school. Therefore, the Board believes that this bill attempts to protect the title of instructors while failing to protect consumers.

The timing and procedure surrounding the most recent amendments are also of great concern. The Board was not afforded proper notice to prepare constructive and substantive comments before a hearing and vote of the Senate Standing Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development. If not illegal, this process at least violates the spirit of the California Constitution (Article IV, Section 8 (b) (2)) which states that “No bill may be passed or ultimately become a statute unless the bill with any amendments has been printed, distributed to the members, and published on the Internet, in its final form, for at least 72 hours before the vote…” Furthermore, with limited time left in the legislative session, the Board is baffled that these amendments are just now coming to print.

While the Board recognizes people’s desire not to be regulated, consumer protection and public safety are more important than the corporate agenda not to be scrutinized.

For these reasons, the Board requests your amendment of this bill to extend the sunset date of the Board and ensure consumer protection through the regulation of guide dog instruction in California.

Please feel free to contact me or my Executive Officer, Brian Skewis, at (916) 574-7825 if you have any questions.

Eric Holm, Board President

cc: Governor Jerry Brown
Assembly Business and Professions Committee
Senate Standing Committee of Business Professions and Economic Development
California State Senators
California State Assemblymembers
Dean R. Grafilo, Director, Department of Consumer Affairs
Adam Quiñonez, Deputy Director, Legislative and Regulatory Review, Department of Consumer Affairs