Fresno lab transparency ordinance passes first vote by city council

The company behind the illegal lab in Reedley had also operated in a building on East Fortune Avenue in Fresno.

Brianna Willis Image
Friday, August 25, 2023
Fresno lab transparency ordinance passes first vote by city council
An ordinance calling for more transparency on infectious disease labs passed an introductory vote by the Fresno City Council on Thursday afternoon.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno leaders are taking the first step to prevent illegal labs in city limits.

This comes after health officials discovered and shut down the infectious disease lab operating under the table in Reedley.

Thursday, the Fresno city council voted on a law that could impact future medical labs, looking to set up shop in the city.

Councilmembers unanimously passed the first vote for a new infectious disease lab ordinance.

"This ordinance will begin to address any type of illegal lab. Certainly, that attempts to operate here, but certainly, we want to take a look at infectious diseases labs that are working," said Fresno city councilmember Garry Bredefeld.

This comes after officials discovered an illegal bio lab in Reedley that had infectious agents from chlamydia to hepatitis, nearly 1,000 mice, refrigerators with blood and serum, and medical waste.

As written, the ordinance would ensure no organization can have an infectious disease lab in the City of Fresno "without first obtaining all proper local, state, and federal licensing."

After that, they must "notify the city of such intent, and the planning director shall notify the city council."

Before the approval, "residents and businesses within 1,000 feet shall be notified."

Additionally, anyone who breaks the law "shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable up to one year in a county jail and a $1,000 fine."

Bill co-sponsor Miguel Arias says this law is to ensure Fresno residents that the council is addressing their concerns.

"The City of Fresno will continue to take action where the county has failed," said Fresno city councilmember Miguel Arias.

In emails obtained by Action News, an attorney representing the county reached out to the City of Fresno's attorney office with questions.

They also wrote to medical groups asking, "Have you seen the City's new proposed ordinance? Does this have any effect on any of your clients?"

One replied in part, quote, "As written, probably applies to every lab in town because they probably have most of those pathogens come through their labs on a routine basis. All the licensed and physician office labs need to be exempted out."

At Thursday's council meeting, Councilmember Garry Bredefeld asked city attorney Andrew Janz about the impact of the law on doctors and major lab companies.

"City attorney, does this ordinance in any way affect the way doctors in our City of Fresno -- or frankly, Fresno County operate their clinics?" asked Bredefeld.

"It does not," answered City Attorney Andrew Janz.

"Does it anyway impact quest labs?" asked Bredefeld.

"It does not," answered Janz.

We spoke with the County of Fresno's counsel, Dan Cederborg. He says it is important for local government to try and address the situation that happened in Reedley.

"It's not a bad idea for local governments to look at it. We're looking at what we can do in the county along those lines, too. But you know I think there are some obvious concerns with this ordinance because it's very, very broadly written," said County Counsel Dan Cederborg.

Cederborg also says it's up to the city to decide how they proceed.

"It's the city's ordinance, it's not ours. As long as it doesn't interfere with the operation of the healthcare system, that might implicate some of the issues with the Public Health department. You know that's every city -- is free to handle these things how they want," said Cederborg.

There will be a final vote at the city council meeting on September 14th. If it passes, it will go into effect 31 days after the approval.

It is important to note that the county counsel says typically, amendments and tweaking an ordinance can still happen in the next reading, but that's for the city to decide.

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