BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                AB 508
                                                                Page  1

        CONCURRENCE IN SENATE AMENDMENTS
        AB 508 (Ian Calderon)
        As Amended June 17, 2013
        Majority vote 
         
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        |ASSEMBLY:  |77-0 |(April 22,      |SENATE: |37-0 |(August 15,    |
        |           |     |2013)           |        |     |2013)          |
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         Original Committee Reference:    JUD.  

         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" 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  








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             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 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.

         The Senate amendments  shift the legislative findings and  
        declarations from the Penal Code to a new uncodified section of the  
        bill without making any substantive changes to the rest of the bill.
         








                                                               AB 508
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        FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Senate Appropriations Committee,  
        pursuant to Senate Rule 28.8, negligible state costs.

         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 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  








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        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 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.

        Based on Penal Code Section 1463.007 and the findings of the Gartner  
        study (Judicial Council, Report to Legislature on Statewide  
        Collection of Court-Ordered Debt (January 2010) p.10.), 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  








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        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:  
        0001310