California’s controversial FAST Act legislation, also known as Assembly Bill 257 — which would create a fast-food industry regulatory council and could raise the minimum wage to $22 an hour — is on pause for now, at least until the signatures of the petition are verified, and likely until Nov. 2024, following a lawsuit by the Save Local Restaurants Coalition and subsequent injunction hearing in their favor.
The coalition, comprised of the National Restaurant Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the International Franchise Association, filed a lawsuit on Dec. 30 to prevent the law from going into effect on Jan. 1, after the coalition received enough signatures (over one million) to send the legislation to a referendum vote in Nov. 2024. The solicitors were granted a temporary injunction until the hearing on Jan 13.
On Friday afternoon, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled that the legislation had to go through the referendum process before being put into effect. Judge Shelley Chang stipulated that county officials have until Jan. 25 to verify enough signatures on the ballot. If these signatures are verified, then the next step will be to put the proposed legislation to a vote.
“Today’s court decision protects the rights of over one million California voters who demanded their say on this law before bearing its burden,” the Save Local Restaurants Coalition said in a statement. “We appreciate the court upholding the state’s 100-year-old referendum process as well as the well-established legal precedent that ensures California voters are able to consider the laws passed by their legislature.”
The controversial legislation was initially passed in September and would allow the state government to appoint a fast-food council, with representatives from both employees and operators in the restaurant industry. The council would then be able to pass employee-facing rules for fast-food restaurants, including setting a minimum wage, with a ceiling of $22 an hour. The restaurant industry has protested the fairness and merits of the legislation and warns that it could set a precedent for other industries and laws in other states as well.
Now that the referendum vote has been approved, if the signatures are verified, the FAST Act will go on the ballot and be voted on by California residents on Election Day in 2024.
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