Committee Vote Cuts Swath Through Cleaning Board

Times Staff Writer

A bill to abolish the obscure state regulatory board that oversees dry cleaners was approved Monday by a key Senate committee that had killed similar attempts the past two years.

After the 5-2 vote, Assemblyman Ross Johnson (R-La Habra) said he had considered the Senate Business and Professions Committee to be “the most significant hurdle” in his two-year effort to do away with the Board of Dry Cleaning and Fabric Care.

Johnson’s bill, which now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee, is the sixth legislative attempt to abolish the 41-year-old licensing board.

Previous efforts have been led by Govs. Ronald Reagan and Edmund G. Brown Jr., but the agency--the nation’s only licensing board for dry cleaners--has survived, with its backers arguing that it played a significant role in protecting consumers and policing the use and disposal of toxic chemicals used in dry cleaning.


Johnson began warring with the board after Joe Kaska, 76, an Anaheim dry cleaner, was jailed in May, 1984, for failing to maintain a surety bond required as a condition of a dry cleaning license.

Board officials said Kaska had refused to cooperate with them. But Johnson, who did not mention Kaska’s jailing during Monday’s hearing, has maintained that violation was minor, technical and inadvertent.

It was an example, he said, of a board with no useful purpose trying to justify its existence.

Should Johnson’s bill succeed, it will mark the first time ever that the Legislature has abolished a licensing board that it created.


Last year, Johnson withdrew his bill, without a vote ever being taken, after failing to win support for it with committee members. In 1984, a bill to abolish the board that was sponsored by Sen. Leroy Greene (D-Carmichael) fell three short of the five votes needed.

Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier), the committee’s chairman, had opposed efforts to abolish the dry cleaning board before. But he cast the deciding vote in favor of Johnson’s bill Monday. Montoya could not be reached for comment.