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Johnson Nears Victory in War on Fabric Board; Governor Gets Bill

July 12, 1986|KENNETH F. BUNTING | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — A bill abolishing the state Board of Dry Cleaning and Fabric Care was sent to the governor Friday, ending Orange County Assemblyman Ross Johnson's crusade to rid California of what he calls its most useless bureaucracy.

The final 63-7 vote in the Assembly marked the first time the Legislature has voted to permanently do away with a licensing agency it had established.

Johnson, a Republican from La Habra, declared war on the dry cleaning board two years ago after an elderly Anaheim dry cleaner was jailed by board agents.

Johnson said that the jailing of Joe Kaska, then 76, was clearly an overreaction to a minor, inadvertent licensing violation: the lapsing of a surety bond. Even more bothersome, Johnson said, were indications that the incident was inspired by the board's effort to improve its image because of an earlier bill to abolish it.

Established in 1945, the board now licenses 3,000 dry-cleaning plants, 3,500 dry-cleaning shops and various specialists, policing the handling of toxic chemicals used in the cleaning process. It has survived five legislative attempts since 1967 to abolish it.

At a 1984 Senate committee hearing, board officials acknowledged that they could not remember ever revoking a dry cleaner's license. They also acknowledged that earlier boards handling consumer complaints had treated dry cleaners gently.

But backers said the board was becoming tough, enforcement-minded and consumer oriented.

Under Johnson's bill, dry-cleaning plants must register with the Bureau of Home Furnishings and maintain a $5,000 surety bond to pay claims when they damage customers' clothes.

If Gov. George Deukmejian signs the measure, as expected, it will become law next July.

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