Legislature Holds Joint, Bicameral Hearing on Lead Paint Industry's Proposed Ballot Measure

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


WHO:             Assembly Committees on Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials; Housing and Community Development; and, Judiciary and the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality


WHAT:          Hearing on the November 2018 proposed ballot initiative, "Eliminates Certain Liability for Lead-Paint Manufacturers. Authorizes Bonds to Fund Structural and Environmental Remediation Projects" 


WHERE:       California State Capitol, Room 4202, Sacramento


WHEN:          Wednesday, May 23, 2018, 2:30PM


WHY:             State law requires the Legislature to hold a public hearing on a proposed initiative once 25% of the total number of signatures required to qualify an initiative for the ballot are obtained, and requires that the hearing is held no later than 131 days before the election. 


About the proposed initiative: Three paint manufacturers, , Sherman Williams, ConAgra, and NL Industries, are circulating a proposed initiative to authorize the state to sell $2 billion in general obligation bonds to fund the remediation of environmental and structural hazards—such as mold, asbestos, radon, water, pests, ventilation, and lead hazards—in homes, schools, and senior facilities. 


It would also overturn a recent California appellate court decision, People v. ConAgra Grocery Products Co. (2017), which found three particular lead-paint manufacturers to be liable for lead-paint as a public nuisance in ten jurisdictions of the state.  The initiative would prohibit future courts—in cases pending on or after November 1, 2017— from relying on People v. ConAgra Grocery Products Co. as a precedent for claims that those or other lead-based paint in homes are responsible for causing a public nuisance in other jurisdictions of the state.   The initiative would additionally prohibit any local government from using the public nuisance law to file a lawsuit against lead paint manufacturers for lead paint contamination in their jurisdiction, even if there were evidence that the lead paint companies knowingly sold harmful lead paint.


“After 17 years of litigation, the Courts ruled that the paint manufacturers were liable for selling lead-paint and financially responsible for lead-paint cleanup in ten local jurisdictions across the state, including Alameda County. The proposed initiative would seemingly un-do the Court's decision," said Assemblymember Bill Quirk, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials Committee. "Lead is a known neurotoxin, and lead-paint, which is in more than 60% of homes statewide, is the number one exposure source for growing children. Cleaning it up is imperative to protecting public health. We are holding this hearing so the public can better understand the legal and fiscal impacts of this initiative and what it would mean for lead-paint abatement across the state.”


“It is critical that we have a public discussion about this proposed initiative that would appear to overturn a court decision that found three lead paint companies were liable for selling toxic lead paint to California consumers and required the companies to pay to clean up lead paint in California homes,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.  “I look forward to having this discussion with my colleagues and stakeholders to ensure we are protecting Californians, especially our children, from the dangers of toxic lead paint.”


“It is important for the public to learn more about this initiative bankrolled by the manufacturers of deadly lead paint,” said Assemblymember Mark Stone, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Judiciary.  “The hearing will provide the public with information about how the initiative will reverse an appellate court decision holding them financially responsible for cleaning up dangerous lead in the homes of California residents, and instead shift that responsibility to the taxpayers of the state.”


“As a representative whose district spans two of the seven counties involved in the court case, I am particularly interested in making sure the serious health threats posed by lead contamination are eliminated and the responsible parties cover the cleanup cost,” said Senator Bob Wieckowski, chair of the Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee.