Although California Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, married into the insurance business, it seems to run in her blood, because it’s her blood that boils when she feels small businesses are being attacked by fellow state Legislators.
Gaines’ husband is state Sen. Ted Gaines, who recently announced his bid for the state insurance commissioner seat. Ted Gaines worked at his father’s Sacramento area insurance agency, Gaines Insurance, through high school and then after he graduated from college, eventually taking over the reins of the business.
After the two would-be politicians married, Beth Gaines began working at the insurance agency and rose to the position of vice president, and part of her role in that post as she sees it is ensuring the family legacy in the insurance business lasts.
“I love working with people and mentoring my own kids as they decide to go into the insurance business also,” Gaines said. “I love the insurance business. I just love working with people and also just helping my kids, because when my oldest daughter was 23, she said, ‘I don’t know what it is, mom, but I walk into a place of business, a restaurant, wherever I am, and I look for the sprinkler system. I look for the exits. I look at the stairs. I look at all the hazards and potential things.’ She said ‘We’re just a family of insurance.’ We think along those lines and we love insurance.”
As Gaines followed her husband into business, she also followed him into politics. She won a special election in 2011 to take her husband’s Assembly seat when Ted Gaines won a special election to the Senate.
“He, just as a small business owner, got sick and tired of the government telling him how he had to run his business, who he was going to hire, who he could not separate from,” Gaines said. “The hardships that businesses, our clients, were having to deal with were not because of the industry. They weren’t created by the market, but they were actually created by the government. He just got tired of the over‑regulation and wanted to get involved and do something about it.”
The adverse reaction her husband had to regulation is just as intense in Gaines, who has authored several pro-business bills since she was elected.
Among the legislation she wrote last year was a bill addressing the Assembly Bill 1878 . ADA was is Gaines calls a “very well‑meaning piece of legislation,” but with unintended consequences.
Gaines’ Assembly Bill 1878 addressed the liability of businesses that don’t adhere to ADA requirements regarding access rights of a disabled individuals. Her bill would have established notice requirements for aggrieved parties to follow before bringing an action, and would have required that party to provide a notice to the owner of the property, an agent or other responsible party where the violation occurred.
AB 1878 died in Judiciary Committee on a party line vote in 2012.
“When a person can singlehandedly shut down a mom‑and‑pop business overnight because of small infractions for the ADA requirements by state law, then there’s something wrong,” Gaines said.
Many of Gaines’ bills this year are business related, or are bills with which labor and public employees’ unions may take exception.
Among the bills she authored this year is Assembly Bill 902. The bill raises the $50 fine to $100 for failure to slow and pass cautiously stationary emergency vehicles, tow trucks and Department of Transportation vehicles displaying emergency or warning lights.
Gaines’ Assembly Bill 947 enables school districts to deviate from the rule of seniority when terminating employees for certain reasons, including authorizing school districts to terminate an employee on the basis of performance evaluations.
Her Assembly Concurrent Resolution 58 would designate Sept. 22, 2013, and Sept. 22, 2014, as “California Business Women’s Day” and would encourage Californians to celebrate the occasion.
And don’t be surprised to see even more business-friendly legislation from her.
“The whole reason that I got involved was to help improve this economy by reducing regulations and with limiting the size of government and the power of government,” Gaines said. “I don’t think that it’s a very business-friendly state. When we go down to the capitol in Sacramento, we’re not looking at ways that we can improve business and help small mom‑and‑pop businesses. We’re looking at ways to regulate. We’re looking at ways to penalize businesses.”
And like her husband, who serves on the Senate’s insurance committee, Gaines serves on the Assembly’s version, the Assembly Insurance Committee.
As such, she gets to offer her fellow legislators her insights as a person who is trying to successfully operate an insurance agency, and the perspective of a small business person.
“A lot of times, I find that the majority party is interested in focusing on things that don’t matter, that don’t help promote business, that don’t help businesses get healthy again,” she said. “My main focus seems to be a little bit different than theirs. I’m very much looking out for the businessman who has put everything on the line to make his business work and to try to keep afloat in this struggling economy.”
Whatever measure of success she achieves, her best bet may be placed on the Gaines Insurance legacy, which has a good shot at living on for quite some time.
Of the Gaines’ six children, one of the oldest daughters has worked for Allied for the past two-and-a-half years as a commercial underwriter, and one of the younger daughters is working at the agency as a licensed insurance agent.
“And she’s out there selling insurance,” Gaines said. “She’s doing a great job, and she’s in the office answering phones and just helping a whole lot with the family and with our business.”
More articles in the Insurance Pros in Politics series from Insurance Journal: