Melissa Melendez

State Sen. Melissa Melendez, R-Riverside.

A Republican state senator from Southern California introduced two measures on Monday that intend to prohibit fines against small businesses for failure to comply with COVID-19 regulations.

The measures introduced by State Sen. Melissa Melendez, who represents the 28th Senate District covering Riverside County, would also seek to give local governments more authority to handle the pandemic as opposed to following mandates from the state.

“The Governor continues to ignore the data illustrating the thousands of businesses closing their doors, the tens of thousands of Californians who are fleeing this state, and the hundreds of thousands of unemployed Californians still seeking assistance. Enough is enough; this unilateral control needs to come to an end,” said a press release from Melendez's office.

The proposed measures come at a time when multiple cities, counties and regions of the state are actively flouting COVID-19 regulations or not complying with state public health measures, despite the ongoing severity of the pandemic.

The City of Sonora recently considered a $250 fine against The Sportsman, a downtown bar and gun shop, for hosting a private celebration of life which defied mask mandates and social distancing guidelines.

The council opted to issue an educational warning against The Sportsman following a five-hour long meeting where dozens of residents spoke out against the COVID-19 regulations and defended the business.

If the city levied the fine, it would have been the first time it did so under an ordinance passed by the council in April that allowed it to fine businesses or individuals with noncriminal penalties for violating COVID-19 restrictions.

In her press released, Melendez cites the COVID-19 fines as "malicious" and takes aim at state agencies.

Senate Bill 102 would prohibit regulatory boards and agencies within the Department of Consumer Affairs and Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control from revoking licenses or penalizing small businesses for failing to comply with COVID-19 emergency orders. The next measure is a reintroduction of Senate Concurrent Resolution 5 which would end the state of emergency established by the Governor and give local governments more authority to make their own rules regarding the pandemic.

The press release also cites information about widespread restaurant closures.

At this time, much of California is under a renewed stay-at-home order due to the limited availability of ICU beds statewide. Under the stay-at-home order, many businesses have been forced to close and restaurants cannot provide indoor or outdoor dining.

The 28th Senate District includes the cities of Blythe, Canyon Lake, Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, Indio, Lake Elsinore, La Quinta, Murrieta, Temecula, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, and Wildomar.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at gricapito@uniondemocrat.net or (209) 588-4526.

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