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SACRAMENTO � California trial lawyers and homebuilders dropped dueling construction-defect initiatives Thursday after lawmakers promised to seek a legislative solution to their ongoing squabble. “It is our sincere hope that with legislative attention, a costly and divisive initiative course of action will be avoided,” state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu�ez wrote in a Feb. 22 letter to the initiative proponents. “We are encouraged by this new development in our efforts to seek reform and commend the leaders of both houses of the Legislature for their involvement,” said Bob Rivinius, president and CEO of the California Building Industry Association. The apparent detente ends a game of political chicken that started in December when the California Building Industry Association and the California Restaurant Association filed “The Opportunity to Repair Act” with the attorney general’s office. The proposed initiative, slated for the November ballot, would have given contractors and property owners time to fix building defects or disability-access problems before facing lawsuits. The Consumer Attorneys of California fired back in January with three of their own initiatives that would have yanked the licenses of contractors who repeatedly violate building codes. The deal with lawmakers derails a potential election-year initiative fight among three groups that have poured millions of dollars into past political campaigns. Consumer Attorneys President Frank Pitre said he was “encouraged” by the compromise but added that his organization remains committed to “protecting the legal rights [of] all Californians.” California Restaurant Association President and CEO Jot Condie said the agreement was welcome after years of watching CRA-sponsored measures die in legislative committees. “This is one of, if not the most important issues to our members,” Condie said in a prepared statement. “A legislative solution is a win-win for everyone that really wants to get access problems fixed.” Representatives of all sides said they expect meetings to hammer out possible legislation in the Senate and Assembly judiciary committees to start quickly. The initiatives deal is reminiscent of one struck last year between the Consumer Attorneys and the pharmaceutical industry. After negotiations that featured former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America agreed to drop its initiative that would have capped lawyers’ contingency fees. In exchange, the trial lawyers withheld their money and endorsement from efforts to cut prescription drug prices. The current deal does not address another trial-lawyer targeting initiative that would limit punitive damages. That measure, filed in December, is backed by the Civil Justice Association of California.

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