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Clean Slate? : Fabric Care Board Would Get New Name Under Senate Bill

Times Staff Writer

Saying “no one knows what it is,” a senator convinced the Assembly Consumer Protection Committee Thursday that the embattled state Board of Fabric Care needs a new name.

Should the 40-year-old agency survive the sixth legislative attempt to abolish it, it would be renamed the Board of Dry Cleaning and Fabric Care under a bill by state Sen. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles).

Committee members, who had voted two months ago to abolish the agency, balked at another bill by Rosenthal that would have given the board’s agents authority to retrieve customers’ clothing from abandoned dry cleaning establishments.

A bill by Assemblyman Ross Johnson (R-La Habra) that would abolish the board was approved by the Assembly last week and is now pending in the Senate. Meanwhile, both of Rosenthal’s bills have passed the Senate and face a test in the Assembly next Thursday.

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Bill Sent to Assembly Panel

The bill changing the agency’s name was approved and sent to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. But Rosenthal withdrew the other measure before a vote because committee members indicated they would not support it.

Rosenthal and Michael Siegel, the Fabric Care board’s executive director, said scores of dry cleaning stores had closed in recent months, and the agency has no authority to enter closed firms and return garments to customers.

Johnson, angered over the jailing of an elderly Anaheim dry cleaner and arguing that the board serves no useful function that can’t be performed better elsewhere, introduced his bill in January to abolish the board, which was created in 1945.

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Five previous legislative attempts to abolish the board, including earlier efforts by former Govs. Edmund G. Brown Jr. and Ronald Reagan, have all failed.

Johnson said he had never heard of the Fabric Care Board until he was contacted by Joe Kaska, the 76-year-old owner of Anaheim’s Ritz Cleaners.

Kaska was arrested by board agents in May, 1984, in a dispute that grew out of a licensing violation involving a required surety bond. Johnson said the violation was inadvertent, but board defenders say Kaska had refused to cooperate.


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