Assemblymember Marie Waldron
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, employing well over 90% of California’s workers. As a small business owner, my experience coping with overbearing bureaucracy and unnecessary regulations were some of the main reasons I first ran for public office.
Obviously, California should do more to encourage small business formation and their ongoing success, including removing unnecessary barriers. That’s why I supported AB 626 in 2018. This bipartisan bill authorized Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKOs), allowing people to sell “cottage food” from their homes.
MEHKOs empower home cooks to attain self-sufficiency, turning neighborhoods throughout California into hotbeds of food innovation, while eliminating so-called “food deserts” where people lack access to grocery stores and restaurants. The bill also empowers many women, immigrants and others to become entrepreneurs, able to provide stable incomes for their families.
But the bill had limitations. MEHKOs could generate no more than $50,000 in gross annual revenue and were restricted to serving less than 60 meals per week. These restrictions left little room for profit after expenses, and severely limited the growth of home kitchen enterprises. That’s why I have introduced AB 1325, which raises the sales cap to $100,000 per year and allows MEHKOs to sell up to 90 meals per week. The bill has bipartisan support – Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D – Coachella) and I are joint authors.
Safety standards in place for restaurants also apply to MEHKOs. The home kitchens must pass approved and accredited food safety certifications, must meet existing food handler requirements, and must provide local enforcement agencies specified information regarding operating procedures and the types of food being prepared. Like traditional restaurants, operating permits must be obtained from local enforcement agencies after inspections.
California needs to encourage small business entrepreneurs and improve its reputation for being unfriendly to business. With passage of AB 1325, we’ll be taking a big step in that direction.