BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó



                                                                     SB 519


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          Date of Hearing:  July 14, 2015


          Counsel:               Sandy Uribe








                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY


                                  Bill Quirk, Chair





          SB  
          519 (Hancock) - As Amended June 2, 2015


                       As Proposed to be Amended in Committee








          SUMMARY:  Makes reforms to rules governing the processing of  
          claims by the California Victim Compensation and Government  
          Claims Board (board). Specifically, this bill:  










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          1)Prohibits the board from requiring an applicant to submit  
            documentation from the Internal Revenue Service, the Franchise  
            Tax Board, the State Board of Equalization, the Social  
            Security Administration, or the Employment Development  
            Department in order to determine eligibility for compensation.

          2)Requires all correspondence by the board to an applicant to be  
            written in specified languages.



          3)Prohibits the denial of a claim for a victim who is a minor  
            based on the grounds of failing to cooperate with law  
            enforcement.



          4)Provides that a felon on probation or parole is eligible for  
            compensation for mental health counseling despite this status.



          5)Prohibits the board from establishing policy or regulations  
            limiting the amount recoverable for funeral expenses to less  
            than $7500.



          6)Requires the board to approve or deny an application within 90  
            days of acceptance.



          7)Allows an applicant to be accompanied by a service animal at a  
            hearing to contest the denial of a claim.











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          8)Permits a crime victim to testify at a restitution hearing or  
            a modification hearing by live, two-way audio and video  
            transmission, if it is available at the court.





          EXISTING LAW:  





          1)Establishes the board to operate the California Victim  
            Compensation Program (CalVCP).  (Gov. Code, § 13950 et. seq.)   


          2)Provides than an application for compensation shall be filed  
            with the board in the manner determined by the board.  (Gov.  
            Code, § 13952, subd.(a).)

          3)States that, except as provided by specified sections of the  
            Government Code, a person shall be eligible for compensation  
            when all of the following requirements are met:

             a)   The person form whom compensation is being sought any of  
               the following:

               i)     A victim.

               ii)    A derivative victim.

               iii)    A person who is entitled to reimbursement for  
                 funeral, burial or crime scene clean-up expenses pursuant  
                 to specified sections of the Government Code.

             b)   Either of the following conditions is met:









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               i)     The crime occurred within California, whether or not  
                 the victim is a resident of California.  This only  
                 applies when the VCGCB determines that there are federal  
                 funds available to the state for the compensation of  
                 crime victims. 

               ii)    Whether or not the crime occurred within the State  
                 of California, the victim was any of the following:

                  (1)       A California resident.  

                  (2)       A member of the military stationed in  
                    California.

                  (3)       A family member living with a member of the  
                    military stationed in California.  

             c)   If compensation is being sought for derivative victim,  
               the derivative victim is a resident of California, or the  
               resident of another state who is any of the following:

               i)     At the time of the crimes was the parent,  
                 grandparent, sibling, spouse, child or grandchild of the  
                 victim.  

               ii)    At the time of the crime was living in the household  
                 of the victim.  

               iii)   At the time of the crime was a person who had  
                 previously lived in the house of the victim for a person  
                 of not less than two years in a relationship  
                 substantially similar to a previously listed  
                 relationship.  

               iv)    Another family member of the victim including, but  
                 not limited to, the victim's fiancé or fiancée, and who  
                 witnessed the crime.  

               v)     Is the primary caretaker of a minor victim, but was  








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                 not the primary caretaker at the time of the crime.

             d)   And other specified requirements.  (Gov. Code, § 13955.)

          4)States that an application shall be denied if the board finds  
            that the victim failed to reasonably cooperate with law  
            enforcement in prosecution of the crime.  (Gov. Code, § 13956,  
            subd. (b)(1).)

          5)Disqualifies certain individuals from eligibility, including a  
            participant in the crime for which compensation is being  
            sought, and persons convicted of a felony who are currently on  
            probation or parole.  (Gov. Code, § 13956.)

          6)Authorizes the board to reimburse for pecuniary loss for the  
            following types of losses (Gov. Code, § 13957, subd. (a)):

             a)   The amount of medical or medical-related expenses  
               incurred by the victim, subject to specified limitations.

             b)   The amount of out-patient psychiatric, psychological or  
               other mental health counseling-related expenses incurred by  
               the victim, as specified, including peer counseling  
               services provided by a rape crisis center.

             c)   The expenses of non-medical remedial care and treatment  
               rendered in accordance with a religious method of healing  
               recognized by state law.

             d)   Compensation equal to the loss of income or loss of  
               support, or both, that a victim or derivative victim incurs  
               as a direct result of the victim's injury or the victim's  
               death, subject to specified limitations.

             e)   Cash payment to, or on behalf of, the victim for job  
               retraining or similar employment-oriented services.

             f)   The expense of installing or increasing residential  
               security, not to exceed $1,000, with respect to a crime  








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               that occurred in the victim's residence, upon verification  
               by law enforcement to be necessary for the personal safety  
               of the victim or by a mental health treatment provider to  
               be necessary for the emotional well-being of the victim.

             g)   The expense of renovating or retrofitting a victim's  
               residence or a vehicle to make them accessible or  
               operational, if it is medically necessary.

             h)   Expenses incurred in relocating, as specified, if the  
               expenses are determined by law enforcement to be necessary  
               for the personal safety or by a mental health treatment  
               provider to be necessary for the emotional well-being of  
               the victim.

          7)Limits the total award to or on behalf of each victim to  
            $35,000, except that this amount may be increased to $70,000  
            if federal funds for that increase are available.  (Gov. Code,  
            § 13957, subd. (b).)

          8)Requires the board to approve or deny applications, based on  
            recommendations by the board staff, within an average of 90  
            calendar days and no later than 180 calendar days of  
            acceptance by the board.  (Gov. Code, § 13958, subd. (a).)



          9)Requires the board, if it fails to meet the 90-day average, to  
            report to the Legislature on a quarterly basis its progress  
            and current average processing time.  (Gov. Code, § 13958,  
            subd. (b).)





          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown










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          COMMENTS:  



          1)Author's Statement:  According to the author, "It should not  
            be surprising that crime incurs all kinds of costs on its  
            victims. In 2004, a National Institute of Justice report  
            estimated that the nationwide costs of crime are $105 billion  
            per year. When factoring in pain-and-suffering and reduced  
            quality of life, that figure jumps to $450 billion. Making  
            sure that victims are compensated by their victimizers is not  
            only good economic policy, but morally sound.

          "Providing justice and compensation to Californians who are the  
            victims of crime are among the paramount missions of our  
            government. The intent of SB 519 is to improve the way that  
            the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board provides  
            compensation for crime victims."

          2)Background:  The CalVCP provides compensation for victims of  
            violent crime.  It reimburses eligible victims for many  
            crime-related expenses, such as medical treatment, mental  
            health services, funeral expenses, home security, and  
            relocation services.  Funding for the board comes from  
            restitution fines and penalty assessments paid by criminal  
            offenders, as well as federal matching funds.  (See CVGCB  
            Website <  http://www.vcgcb.ca.gov/board  >.)

          3)Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) Report:  The LAO's March  
            2015 report, Improving State Programs for Crime Victims, made  
            several recommendations.  The LAO agreed with the Governor's  
            proposal to restructure the VCGCB to focus solely on  
            administering victim programs, and shifting victim programs  
            administered by other departments to the VCGCB.  The LAO also  
            found that the board needs to develop a comprehensive  
            strategy, which among other things should assess the  








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            appropriate number, scope, and priority of the state's  
            existing programs, as well as conducting periodic program  
            evaluations to see which victim programs are most effective  
            and should be expanded in the future.  (Improving State  
            Programs for Crime Victims, supra, pp. 18-20, <  
             http://www.lao.ca.gov/reports/2015/budget/crime-victims/crime-v 
            ictims-031815.pdf  >.)

          4)Bureau of State Audit Recommendations:  In 2008, the Bureau of  
            State Audits conducted a review of the CalVCP.  (Victim  
            Compensation and Government Claims Board: It Has Begun  
            Improving the Victim Compensation Program, but More Remains to  
            Be Done, (Dec. 2008),  
            <  http://www.bsa.ca.gov/pdfs/reports/2008-113.pdf  >.)  One of  
            the areas the bureau considered was how long it took the board  
            to process applications.  The bureau concluded that, at times,  
            applications were not processed in a timely manner:

               State law related to eligibility determinations for  
               the program requires the board to approve or deny  
               applications, based on the recommendation of board  
               staff, within an average of 90 calendar days, and no  
               later than 180 calendar days after the acceptance date  
               for an individual application.  For the 49  
               applications we reviewed, the board's average  
               processing time was 76 days, which is well within the  
               statutory average.  However, the board did not make a  
               determination within 180 days in two instances.  We  
               also noted various instances in which the board did  
               not demonstrate that it approved or denied the  
               applications as promptly as it could have after  
               receiving the information necessary to make the  
               determination.  (Id. at pp. 30-31.)

               For the 49 applications we reviewed from fiscal years  
               2003-04 through 2007-08, we found that the board's  
               average processing time was 76 days, which is well  
               within the 90day average required under state law.  
               However, we noted that in 16 of the 49 applications we  








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               reviewed, the board took more than 90 days from  
               acceptance to notify the applicant of its recommended  
               decision to approve or deny the application. Although  
               taking more than 90 days to approve or deny an  
               individual application is not a violation of state  
               law, any unnecessary delays in processing contribute  
               to crime victims waiting longer than necessary to be  
               reimbursed for outofpocket expenses. Delays may also  
               cause providers to become frustrated and stop  
               participating in the program, reducing services  
               available to crime victims and their families.  (Id.  
               at p. 31.)

            Because the delay in disbursing payments has persisted,  
            this bill requires the board to approve or deny an  
            application within 90 days, not within an average of 90  
            days.
            
          5)Argument in Support:  According to Californians for Safety and  
            Justice, "Through our outreach, time and again we have  
            encountered victims and survivors of crime in need of support  
            opportunities to heal from trauma. The overwhelming impact of  
            serious crime is often exacerbated by the justice system  
            process and crime victims often face challenges finding the  
            right supports for recovery. We often hear survivors talk  
            about how support services to heal from trauma are an ongoing  
            unmet need.  Our 2013 survey of crime victims in California,  
            the first of its kind, found that four of the five services  
            available to crime victims, including assistance accessing  
            victims' compensation and navigating the criminal justice  
            process, were unknown to the majority of victims.  SB 519 will  
            begin to address these barriers and help more crime victims  
            get the support they need."   
          
          6)Related Legislation: 

             a)   AB 1140 (Bonta) revises various rules governing the  
               CalVCP.  AB 1140 is pending hearing in the Senate Public  
               Safety Committee.








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             b)   SB 556 (De León) defines "application processing time"  
               for the approval or denial of a victim's compensation  
               claim.  SB 556 is pending hearing in the Assembly  
               Appropriations Committee.

          7)Prior Legislation:

             a)   AB 1911 (Patterson), of the 2013-2014 Legislative  
               session, would have shortened the time period in which the  
               board must approve or deny an application to within 30  
               calendar days of the date of acceptance, and also would  
               have shortened the time period in which the board must make  
               disbursements of funds for emergency awards.  AB 1911 was  
               never heard by this committee.

             b)   AB 2809 (Leno), Chapter 587, Statutes of 2008, allowed a  
               minor who suffers emotional injury as a direct result of  
               witnessing a violent crime to be eligible for reimbursement  
               for the costs of outpatient mental health counseling if the  
               minor was in close proximity to the victim when he or she  
               witnessed the crime.

             c)   AB 2869 (Leno), Chapter 582, Statutes of 2006, specified  
               that the provisions authorizing reimbursement for funeral  
               and burial expenses apply without respect to any felon  
               status of the victim.



          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:





          Support










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          San Francisco District Attorney (Sponsor)


          California Catholic Conference of Bishops
          California Department of Justice
          Californians for Safety and Justice
          City and County of San Francisco
          Crime Victims United of California
          Institute on Aging
          Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
          Santa Clara County District Attorney



          Opposition


          


          None



          Analysis Prepared by:Sandy Uribe / PUB. S. / (916)  
          319-3744