BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  SB 475
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          Date of Hearing:   June 16, 2009

                   ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONS
                                 Mary Hayashi, Chair
                 SB 475 (Padilla) - As Introduced:  February 26, 2009

          SENATE VOTE  :   36-0
           
          SUBJECT  :   Guide dogs for the blind.

           SUMMARY  :   Increases the annual renewal fee limit for guide dog  
          schools from 0.004 to no more than 0.005 of the schools annual  
          expenses, requires the State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind  
          (Board) to establish the exact amount of the fee by regulation,  
          and requires the renewal fee to be paid by April 30th of each  
          year.

           EXISTING LAW  :

          1)Establishes within the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA),  
            the Board which licenses schools for the training of guide  
            dogs for the blind and the instruction of blind persons in the  
            use of guide dogs.

          2)Requires a fee equal to 0.004 of a school's annual expenses to  
            be paid for renewal of a school's license.

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   Unknown

           COMMENTS  :

           Purpose of this bill  .  According to the author's office: "Guide  
          dog training schools operate as non-profits and do not charge  
          the blind for the cost of training service dogs.  The Board is  
          100% special funded by licensee fees.  The current fund reserve  
          or the operations of the Board will have a projected negative  
          balance by the end of FY 2012-13.

          "The existing fee is no longer sufficient for the Board to  
          maintain its levels of service.  The Board's stakeholder group  
          of consumers, puppy raisers, donors, businesses and guide dog  
          users has increased since 1994.  The number of guide dog  
          trainers has doubled since 1994."

           Background  .  In the 1940s, before the California State Board of  








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          Guide Dogs for the Blind was created to maintain professional  
          standards of training, the guide dog field suffered from many of  
          the same problems the service dog industry is experiencing  
          today.  Besides considerable public confusion as to the role and  
          function of guide dogs in public places, a long list of  
          scandalous activities historically characterized their field.   
          Providing dogs with no training; raising funds with no plans to  
          produce trained dogs; selling dogs; accepting people for  
          training and not providing any; and selling unauthorized  
          certification papers were significant features of many of the  
          "guide dogs schools" operating in California.

          While dogs had been used to assist blind people for thousands of  
          years, the aftermath of the unregulated Industrial Revolution  
          and horrible wounds of World War II increased the number of  
          persons who were visually impaired.  With no minimum standards  
          set for schools, it was possible for any person to start a guide  
          dog program.  By the 1940s, programs of varying quality and  
          competence were emerging throughout the country, most of them in  
          California. 

          Many people and organizations that provided services to the  
          blind felt that the growth of unregulated operations was  
          potentially so dangerous to consumers that something had to be  
          done.  A small group of blind people, the California Council of  
          the Blind, and the editors of the Pasadena Star-News joined with  
          highly supportive legislators to lay the groundwork for an  
          agency that would ensure that blind people would receive  
          competent instruction with properly trained dogs.  It would also  
          ensure that funds raised for guide dogs would be spent properly  
          and that the public would be educated as to the services a dog  
          provides.  The Guide Dog Act that created the Board became law  
          in 1947.

          The Board was established effective January 1, 1948 for the  
          specific purpose of enabling blind persons to receive  
          well-trained dogs and the important training of blind persons as  
          dog handlers.  A secondary purpose was to assure that donors to  
          guide dog charities might be certain that their donations would  
          be utilized for the intended purpose.  California is the only  
          state that has such a regulatory program.  

          The Board developed licensing examinations for guide dog  
          instructors, and criteria for use in determining whether guide  
          dog school license applicants possess the requisite resources  








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          and special capacities important to providing guide dogs to  
          blind persons.

           DCA legal opinion  .  In 2007, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc.  
          submitted a request to the Board to have all direct expenses of  
          its Oregon Campus excluded from the calculation of its annual  
          renewal payment on the grounds that it was unfair for them to  
          pay license fees for expenses for services provided outside  
          California and, therefore, the jurisdiction of the Board.  In  
          response, the Board requested a DCA legal opinion on the matter  
          and on March 21, 2008, the Board adopted findings of that  
          opinion.  The DCA opinion stated that the direct costs for  
          operating the Oregon campus should not be included within the  
          total expenses used for the calculation of the annual renewal  
          fee.  The Board believes this decision will reduce its annual  
          revenue by $30,000.  In response to this shortfall, this bill  
          would increase the Board's statutory authority to set annual  
          school renewal fees.
           
          Arguments in support  .  The California Council of the Blind  
          writes in support, "We believe the modest increase in  
          registration fees for guide dog schools provided for in this  
          bill will provide needed funds that will allow the California  
          State Guide Dog Board to continue its important work.  We also  
          believe the Board is striving to improve its ability to provide  
          effective oversight of the dog guide industry in California, and  
          to ensure the rights of guide dog handlers are protected."

          The Veterinary Medical Board writes, "Adequate funding is  
          necessary to provide an avenue for redress of consumer  
          grievances and to maintain minimum standards of practice.  The  
          Board of Guide Dogs must have the flexibility to set annual  
          renewal payments at a rate that insures protection for the  
          public and their animals and maintains minimum standards of  
          practice for instruction of guide dogs and their users."

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :

           Support 
           
          State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind (sponsor)
          California Council of the Blind
          Guide Dogs of America
          Veterinary Medical Board
           








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            Opposition 
           
          None on file.

           Analysis Prepared by  :    Rebecca May / B. & P. / (916) 319-3301