BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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         ASSEMBLY THIRD READING
         AB 508 (Ian Calderon)
         As Amended April 9, 2013
         Majority vote 

          JUDICIARY           9-0         APPROPRIATIONS      17-0        
          
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         |Ayes:|Wieckowski, Wagner,       |Ayes:|Gatto, Harkey, Bigelow,   |
         |     |Alejo, Chau, Dickinson,   |     |Bocanegra, Bradford, Ian  |
         |     |Garcia, Maienschein,      |     |Calderon, Campos,         |
         |     |Muratsuchi, Stone         |     |Donnelly, Eggman, Gomez,  |
         |     |                          |     |Hall, Holden, Linder,     |
         |     |                          |     |Pan, Quirk, Wagner,       |
         |     |                          |     |Ammiano                   |
         |-----+--------------------------+-----+--------------------------|
         |     |                          |     |                          |
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          SUMMARY  :  Prohibits courts from garnishing the wages or levying a  
         bank account of a homeless veteran for outstanding unpaid  
         citations related to loitering, curfew violations, or illegal  
         lodging for a period of up to five years, as provided.   
         Specifically,  this bill  :   

         1)Makes Legislative findings about homeless veterans, the  
           garnishment of their wages and savings for offenses inevitably  
           associated with being homeless; and the negative effect these  
           debt collection practices have on the ability of homeless  
           veterans to escape the cycle of homelessness.


         2)Provides that, notwithstanding any other provision of law, if a  
           court, during the course of its routine efforts to collect  
           delinquent court-ordered debt, obtains information indicating  
           that a person who has been issued a citation for loitering,  
           curfew violations, or illegal lodging that is outstanding or  
           unpaid, served in the military within the last eight years and  
           is homeless or has no permanent address, the court shall not  
           garnish the wages or levy against bank accounts of that person  
           for five years from the date the court obtained the information.


         3)Provides, for the purposes of this act, that a person is  
           considered to be "homeless" or as having "no permanent address"  








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           if that person does not have a fixed, regular, adequate  
           nighttime residence, or has a primary nighttime residence that  
           is one of the following:


            a)   A supervised publicly or privately operated shelter  
              designed to provide temporary living accommodations,  
              including, but not limited to, welfare hotels, congregate  
              shelters and transitional housing for the mentally ill; 



            b)   An institution that provides a temporary residence for  
              individuals intended to be institutionalized; or,



            c)   A public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily  
              used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.


         4)Provides that nothing in this act shall be construed to:


            a)   Prevent a court from engaging in any other lawful debt  
              collection activities;



            b)   Require a court to perform any further investigation or  
              financial screening into any matter beyond the scope of its  
              regular duties; 



            c)   Prevent the Judicial Council from altering any best  
              practices or recommendations for collection programs pursuant  
              to Penal Code Section 1463.010; and,



            d)   Prevent a court from garnishing a person's wages or  
              levying against a person's bank accounts if the court  
              subsequently obtains evidence that the person is no longer  








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              homeless, or that the court had on a previous occasion  
              suspended garnishment of that person's wages or levying  
              against that person's bank accounts pursuant to these  
              provisions.

          FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Assembly Appropriations  
         Committee, minor absorbable costs for the courts to implement the  
         bill's requirements within the existing scope of its current debt  
         collection efforts, as required in the bill. 

          COMMENTS  :  According to the author, homeless veterans are often  
         caught in a catch-22 situation where their homelessness inevitably  
         results in citations for offenses like loitering or illegal  
         lodging, but wage garnishment to collect unpaid fines makes it  
         more difficult for these veterans to escape the cycle of  
         homelessness - virtually ensuring that further citations for the  
         same type of offenses will continue to occur.  To address this  
         problem cycle, this bill seeks to prohibit courts from wage  
         garnishment of homeless veterans for outstanding unpaid citations  
         related to loitering, curfew violations, or illegal lodging for a  
         period of five years from the date the court obtains information  
         indicating the veteran is homeless in the course of its routine  
         efforts to collect fines.

         The author contends that wage garnishment of homeless veterans to  
         collect unpaid citations for infractions associated with living on  
         the street perpetuates the cycle of homelessness, making escape  
         more difficult for veterans trying to legitimately work and  
         establish stable housing.  The author states "By making it harder  
         for homeless veterans to save money to end their homelessness,  
         such garnishments paradoxically also increase the likelihood that  
         the public safety offenses the tickets are meant to dissuade will  
         in fact occur."

         Sadly, the problem of homelessness among veterans who have proudly  
         served our country is not a minor one.  According to the United  
         States Department of Housing and Urban Development's most recent  
         annual survey for point-in-time estimates of homelessness, there  
         were 16,461 homeless veterans in California in January 2012, of  
         whom 11,949 were considered unsheltered and living on the streets.  
          (Located at:   
          http://www.hudhre.info/CoC_Reports/2012_ca_pops_sub.pdf  )  A recent  
         national survey of over 23,000 homeless Americans conducted by the  
         100,000 Homes Campaign found that homeless veterans reported  








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         having been homeless for an average of 5.77 years as compared to  
         3.92 years for homeless non-veterans.  In addition, the study  
         found that veterans were 11% more likely than non-veterans to  
         suffer from at least one health condition linked to increased risk  
         of death among the homeless population.  ("National Survey of  
         Homeless Veterans in 100,000 Homes Campaign Communities" by the  
         100,000 Homes Campaign.)

         This bill seeks to prohibit courts from wage garnishment of a  
         homeless veteran for outstanding unpaid citations related to  
         loitering, curfew violations, or illegal lodging for a period of  
         five years - a temporary suspension of the court's authority to  
         garnish the wages or levy the bank account of the veteran.  If the  
         court subsequently obtains evidence that the veteran is no longer  
         homeless before five years have elapsed, then the court may resume  
         wage garnishment or bank levy upon the veteran once again.

         The author notes that the bill does nothing to absolve the veteran  
         of the offense, relieve the legal obligation to pay any associated  
         fine, or prohibit any ticket from being issued.  As such, it does  
         not appear this bill dismisses accountability for so-called  
         "quality of life" offenses committed by homeless veterans as much  
         as it represents an effort to give them a better chance of working  
         to escape homelessness before wage garnishment can resume.

         Under this bill, a court is prohibited from garnishing the wages  
         of a person when "during the course of its routine process to  
         collect" unpaid fees or fines, the court "obtains information"  
         indicating that the person meets the criteria for an eligible  
         homeless veteran.  Penal Code Section 1463.007 describes the types  
         of actions that courts already take to enhance the collection of  
         delinquent court-ordered debt where the court runs a comprehensive  
         collections program.  In these debt collection cases, the court  
         will typically attempt to mail an account statement and/or a  
         warning notice to the debtor's address, if known, and also contact  
         the debtor by telephone.  Among other things, the court may  
         request a credit report of the debtor or initiate the use of wage  
         or bank account garnishments.  Under this bill, however, if the  
         court in the process of its ordinary collection efforts (emphasis  
         added) obtains information indicating the person is:  a) a  
         military veteran who has served within the last eight years; b)  
         has unpaid citations for offenses associated with homelessness,  
         like loitering, curfew violations, or illegal lodging; and c) is  
         homeless or has no valid permanent address, only then would the  








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         court be prohibited from garnishing the wages of the debtor  
         because such indicators, in all likelihood, demonstrate that the  
         debtor is a homeless veteran covered under the bill.  



         The author also contends that the bill may actually help conserve  
         judicial resources by reducing debt collection efforts that are  
         empirically cost-ineffective, because of the difficulty and  
         expense involved in garnishing the wages of veterans who are  
         homeless and lack any permanent address.  In a study commissioned  
         by the Judicial Council and published in December 2009,  
         researchers from Gartner, Inc., examined the relationship between  
         the "inherent collectability of debt" and factors such as the size  
         of the debt, age at referral, and validity of address information.  
          They found, generally, that the rate of study cases where  
         collection efforts resulted in the debt being paid-in-full was 13  
         percentage points below the average, and 19 percentage points  
         lower than cases where there was a valid initial address.   
         (Judicial Council, Report to Legislature on Statewide Collection  
         of Court-Ordered Debt (January 2010) p.10.)  As a result, this  
         bill may reduce court debt collection efforts that, according to  
         the Gartner study, would likely prove cost-ineffective for courts  
         because homeless persons by definition lack reliable address  
         information.

         Based on Penal Code Section 1463.007 and the findings of the  
         Gartner study, it appears likely that every court collector, in  
         the course of current practices, will already obtain information  
         as to whether a debtor meets the applicable definition of  
         homeless.  In addition, the bill specifically provides that  
         nothing in its provisions shall be construed to require a court to  
         perform any further investigation or financial screening into any  
         matter beyond the scope of its regular duties, nor prevent a court  
         from engaging in any other lawful debt collection activities.  In  
         addition, suspension of court collection efforts would apply once,  
         at most, to an individual veteran, even if that individual  
         unfortunately becomes homeless again more than five years later.

          
         Analysis Prepared by  :    Anthony Lew / JUD. / (916) 319-2334 


                                                                 FN: 0000216








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