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Western Center’s 2022 Legislative Wrap-Up

Western Center had an outstanding end to the 2022 legislative session, with 13 of co-sponsored bills signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. Among the highlights were (SB 972) modernizing street vending licensing and (SB 923), a first in nation bill on gender affirming health care. We also passed bills to repeal failure to appear (FTA) license suspensions and to repeal the use of license suspension for low-income parents in arrears on child support. Other wins included mandating counties waive work requirements for domestic violence survivors and expanded protections for low-income debtors from wage garnishments. Below is a list that includes WCLP sponsored bills and other bills of note that WCLP played a role in, such as AB 2594 and AB 2746.

 

PASSED BILLS

HEALTH

SB 923 (Wiener) – SB 923 WCLP co-sponsored this historic bill that creates a workgroup to establish first-in-the nation quality standards for transgender, gender diverse, and intersex (TGI) patient experience and recommends related training curriculum, mandates health plans to require TGI cultural competency training for their staff, and requires plan provider directories to identify providers who offer gender affirming services.

SB 644 (Leyva) – WCLP co-sponsored SB 644 which requires EDD to share with Covered California contact and income information about those who have recently applied for or lost income-replacing benefits to allow Covered California to reach out and help enroll these individuals in Medi-Cal or Covered California.

 

FINANCIAL SECURITY/FOOD ACCESS

SB 972 (L Gonzales) –SB 972WCLP co-sponsored this bill that modernizes vending policies and fully legalizes food street vending, providing pathways for vendors to obtain health permits and build their small businesses. You can learn more about the community organizing history and vendor led process to achieve this historic victory by watching our Meet the Advocates webinar on vendor justice as a food justice issue.

SB 1008 (Becker) – SB 1008 makes phone calls from prison and juvenile facilities free, keeping families connected. In partnership with co-sponsors and community groups, WCLP amplified the call to support this bill across our social media channels.

AB 2277 (Reyes)  –WCLP co-sponsored AB 2277 requiring counties to provide good cause to CalWORKs program requirements, including work participation, when a recipient identifies themselves as a survivor of domestic violence.

AB 2004 (C. Garcia) – WCLP co-sponsored AB 2004 which strengthens the California Dream Loan Program and establishes a loan forgiveness program for program borrowers.

SB 1200 (Skinner) – SB 1200 WCLP co-sponsored this bill to reduce the interest rate applied to unpaid government and private debt. The bill will reduce the interest from 10 percent annually to 5 percent. It also limits creditors to one renewal of a judgment against a debtor. There is currently no limit on how long creditors can try and collect old debt.

AB 2300 (Kalra) – AB 2300 – WCLP co-sponsored this bill that allows CalWORKs recipients to have good cause from not meeting work requirements if their employer violates state labor laws including the Crown Act, sexual harassment, and many other labor provisions.

AB 1686 (Bryan) –  AB 1686 establishes a presumption that, when a child is in foster care, requiring the parent or guardian to pay child support for the child is likely to impose a barrier to the family’s efforts to reunify.

SB 1055 (Kamlager) – SB 1055 WCLP co-sponsored this first of its kind in the nation bill to eliminate the use of license suspension when a low-income non-custodial parent is in arrears on making child support payments. The bill repeals license suspension for people with incomes at or below 70 percent of the area median income.

SB 1447 (Wieckowski) – WCLP co-sponsored SB 1447 which increases protections to income from wage garnishments to 48 hours times the minimum wage or 20 percent of disposable income.

AB 207 (Ting) – The Governor signed this budget trailer bill that included language approving full pass through of child support payments to CalWORKs children and mandates that CDSS form a stakeholder work group to evaluate whether there are any possible negative consequences from providing full pass through. The bill also requires CDSS to form a stakeholder work group to look at options for ending the TANF work participation pass-on penalty to counties that WCLP and CWDA have been urging repeal of the past two budgets. Lastly, the bill also mandates a stakeholder work group to come up with a proposal for implementing the child support Final Rule on determining how to establish child support orders. WCLP will be a participant in all three work groups.

HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS

SB 1017 (Eggman) – WCLP co-sponsored SB 1017 which expands the rights and protections of survivors of domestic violence in landlord/tenant proceedings, including clarifying when landlords can evict tenants if the perpetrator returns to the property.

AB 2339 (Bloom) –WCLP co-sponsored AB 2339 which strengthens housing element law to ensure zoning encourages and facilitates the production of emergency shelters and transitional and supportive housing.

SB 1083 (Skinner)  –WCLP co-sponsored SB 1083 which makes numerous changes to the CalWORKs Homeless Assistance Program including expanding the definition of homelessness to include an eviction notice and to reduce verification requirements for pregnant persons.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE/FINES AND FEES

AB 1355 (Levine)  – WCLP co-sponsored AB 1355, a bill that expands applicant protections related to alternating decisions in state fair hearings including requiring transcripts to be read before directors alternate and allowing additional evidence be entered after an alternated decision was returned to the ALJ.

AB 2746 (Friedman) – AB 2745 repeals the ability of traffic courts to suspend a driver’s license for failure to appear. 

AB 2147 (Ting) – AB 2147 reduces the use of jaywalking tickets by only allowing tickets when there is an imminent danger.

AB 2594 (Ting) – AB 2594 WCLP supported and negotiated this bill that makes numerous changes to toll agencies’ collection practices. It waives penalties on old violations, eliminates the requirement that a person must deposit all tolls and penalties in order to get an administrative review of a violation, and requires toll agencies to have payment plans for drivers with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and caps payments for these plans at $25 a month and caps the maximum civil penalty for a violation at $100.

 

OPPOSED BILLS:

SB 1338 (Umberg and Eggman) – WCLP joined the opposition to this legislation, widely known as “Care Court,” sponsored by Governor Newsom. You can learn more about why WCLP opposed this bill by watching our Meet the Advocates webinar on this topic. The passed bill will only funds six counties (SD, SF, Riverside, Orange, Tuolumne and Stanislaus). It delays implementation of a second cohort of unnamed counties until December, 2024. The earliest Care Court can go live in the first six counties would be October 1, 2023. The bill includes language allowing courts to appoint counsel for the respondent from either a willing LSC program or a public defender.

SB 1133 (Archuleta) – WCLP opposed this bill that would remove price gouging protections during states of emergency – including rental caps. The successful defeat of this bill ensured that thousands of vulnerable Californians will continue to be protected against unjust housing price gouging during the declaration of an emergency – including wildfires, pandemics, and natural disasters.


DEFEATED BILLS TO BRING BACK NEXT SESSION:

AB 1685 (Bryan)- AB 1685 would have required local governments using DMV holds to collect parking tickets to forgive up to $1,500 in parking debt if they were homeless. 

AB 2775 (Quirk-Silva) – AB 2775, co-sponsored by WCLP would have allowed an unhoused person to not pay a registration fee on their vehicle.

SB 1140 (Umberg) – SB 1140, co-sponsored by WCLP would have codified the decision in Ortega vs Johnson that CalFresh benefits stolen electronically would have to be restored promptly.

BUDGET RE-CAP:

The governor and legislature reached an agreement on the 2022-23 state budget, which includes a historic $100 billion budget surplus. Amid substantial inflation and continued economic fallout from the pandemic, the reason for the massive surplus must be named. California has 189 billionaires and counting, and substantially more extremely high-income households that do not have the same economic burdens as the 1 in 3 Californians living near or below the poverty line. Only fundamental reforms, including for seemingly untouchable issues like discriminatory tax laws, can address the significant disparities in our state. One-time investments targeting people with low incomes during flush budget years are good, but ongoing, dedicated investments are the only way to make the state better.

Despite concerns that surplus revenue would make it difficult to fund General Fund programs, the budget deal includes substantial General Fund investments. The budget also provides tax rebates to millions of Californians, with the majority going to Californians with incomes below $75,000. Even with that spending and many other investments, the state will have a $37 billion reserve.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE/ FINES & FEES

Civil Assessments – The budget substantially reforms court practices that result in tens of millions of dollars in penalties imposed on people who fail to pay traffic and criminal court fines on time or who fail to appear in court. The current $300 civil assessment is being reduced to $100. The budget agreement also discharges civil assessment debt that accrued prior to the change in law. This means tens of thousands of people will no longer have to make payments on that debt or be harassed by bill collectors. The budget also shifts all future civil assessment revenue to the state General Fund rather than to the courts. The past practice led to lawsuits alleging that judges are incentivized to impose the maximum assessment to increase court revenue. The civil assessment language will be subject to completion in August via budget trailer bill.

Tax Intercepts – The budget includes a change to the longstanding practice by the state of intercepting Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) and Young Child Tax Credits (YCTC) for unpaid debts. Going forward, the state’s Franchise Tax Board will no longer intercept such payments except in cases of child support or restitution.

FINANCIAL SECURITY/ FOOD ACCESS

CalWORKs – The CalWORKs budget provides a 21 percent increase in CalWORKs grants, the largest since the program began in 1998. It eliminates deep poverty for CalWORKs households of families of four or more. Deep poverty includes households with incomes below 50 percent of the Federal Poverty Level by family size. For smaller families that get tax rebates, their income will also be above the deep poverty threshold. The increase will begin on October 1, 2022 for the next two budgets, but must be renewed in 2024 when an additional grant increase will also be under consideration. Below is an estimated chart of the grants starting in October.

Child Support Pass Through – The budget includes a major change in child support policy by allowing families that receive a child support payment to receive all of it and not have it re-directed to the state and federal government to reimburse the cost for public benefits. This will begin in 2025. Currently, a CalWORKs family only gets child support for the first $100 for one child and $200 for two or more children. The governor proposed to pass through all child support to former CalWORKs households in the January budget proposal, and the legislature succeeded in expanding that into a full pass through of all child support, making California the second state in the country to do so. It is estimated that this will result in $430 million in payments going directly to families.

Food for All – The budget includes an additional $35.2 million, increasing the total to $113.4 million to expand the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to all Californians 55 years of age or older, regardless of immigration status. California will become the first state to provide food assistance to ensure all residents 55+ can access food. We will continue to work with our partners, the governor, and the legislature in future budgets to ensure all Californians have access to food.

SSI/SSP – The budget includes another increase for the state SSP grant of approximately $37/month. This will begin in January 2023. When combined with the anticipated 8.6 percent increase in the federal grant, the total grant comes to approximately $1,149, an increase of $107/month. While this grant increase is substantial, the grant is still below the federal poverty level for one person at approximately 98 percent.

Tax Rebates – The budget provides $9.5 billion in tax rebates. For families with incomes below $75,000 and who file taxes, a single person will get $350, a two-person household will get $700, and households of three or more will receive $1,050. People using ITIN tax filer status will be eligible but people receiving SSI will not be eligible. Unlike the proposal by the governor to distribute tax rebates to registered car owners via the DMV, the agreement instead utilizes the Franchise Tax Board to distribute payments. Currently, it is projected payments should arrive by October. These funds will benefit families on CalWORKs, CalFresh, and Medi-Cal if they filed tax returns.

Universal School Meals – Building upon the state’s historic investment in providing school meals for all students in California, this year’s budget provides 700 million in additional dollars to support school meals for all, with a focus on best practices and kitchen infrastructure. This funding will contribute to California students getting access to healthier options for school meals.

HEALTH CARE

Medi-Cal Expansion – The budget agreement includes notable health care investments including expansion of Medi-Cal to all adults regardless of immigration status (Health4All), with an implementation date ‘no later’ than January 1, 2024. It’s estimated that the expansion will result in roughly 700,000+ people becoming newly eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal at ongoing cost of $2.3 billion.

Medi-Cal Reform – The budget also reforms Medi-Cal share-of-cost so elders and people with disabilities can afford necessary Medi-Cal services and provides continuous Medi-Cal coverage for children up to age five. Both reforms have a delayed implementation date of January 1, 2025 and are subject to a budget appropriation at that time. The budget also zeroes out Medi-Cal premiums, expands Medi-Cal coverage of custom crowns for back teeth, and increases the Medi-Cal doula reimbursement.

Additionally, the budget provides navigator funding, Covered CA state premium subsidy funding, and establishes the Office of Health Care Affordability. More details of this budget’s health care investments can be found at Western Center’s updated 2022 Health Budget Scorecard.

HOUSING

As California faces dwindling affordable housing stock, skyrocketing rent increases, and as thousands of Californians wait for promised rent relief via the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), state leaders mostly funded existing programs in this budget and failed to make housing investments at the scale needed to tackle the housing crisis.

Eviction Prevention – Billions of dollars in emergency rental assistance have been requested, but the legislature capped assistance previously promised in SB 115 at $1.95 billion, while increasing application denials for unclear reasons. As such, this budget provides $30 million in increased funding for legal aid eviction defense to represent the thousands of tenants who will likely face eviction due to the state’s inability to properly manage ERAP.

Homelessness – This budget will result in more displacement of people experiencing homelessness with increased funding for encampment sweeps: $300 million for 2022-2023 and $400 million for 2023-24. There are no meaningful investments in permanent housing for our unhoused neighbors. This budget also does not include investments for AB 1816 (Bryan) to go toward workforce development and permanent supportive housing for people who were recently incarcerated and experiencing or at risk of homelessness; rather, this budget funds temporary programs that often contribute to a revolving door of recidivism. However, this budget does finally invest in a program created nearly eight years ago for veterans and their families experiencing homelessness by allocating $50 million to Proposition 41 (2014).

Affordable Housing – This budget makes a $2 billion multiyear investment in affordable housing. The budget allocates $150 million over two years to preserve California’s existing highly prized and disappearing affordable housing stock. Since many Californians rely on mobile and manufactured homes for affordable housing, the budget invests $100 million over two years for mobile and manufactured homes. In an attempt to add to California’s affordable housing stock, the budget allocates $250 million for the Housing Accelerator Program to build affordable housing where builders can’t access tax credits, as well as $325 million over two years for the Multifamily Housing Program, two critical programs that deserve a larger investment. The budget allocates $425 million over two years for the Infill infrastructure grant program for capital improvement projects and $410 million over two years for Adaptive Reuse to convert buildings into housing, including a $10 million appropriation of existing funding. There is also an additional investment of $50 million for ADU financing on existing lots. While greatly needed, this funding should come with more requirements for the creation of affordable units for households with low and extremely low incomes.

Homeownership – Since homeownership is nearly impossible for many first-time homebuyers in California, particularly for non-white people whose generational wealth was stripped due to intentionally racist housing policies, this budgets makes a commitment to assist first-time homebuyers by establishing the California Dream for All program, providing $500 million to assist first-time homebuyers with lower down payments, more than 1/3 reduction in monthly mortgage payments, and $350 million over two years for the CalHome program.

Housing for Farmworkers – This budget invests in farmworkers, whose hard labor keeps many of us fed, by appropriating $50 million for the Joe Serna Jr. Farmworker Housing Program. The program is intended to construct and rehabilitate housing for farm workers who often live in hazardous and uninhabitable housing conditions.

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For a PDF of this analysis, click here. For questions contact:

Access to Justice & Financial Security

Health Care

Housing & Homelessness

 

 

PRESS RELEASE: First-in-the-Nation Gender Affirming Bill Gets Signed by Governor Newsom

SB 923, the TGI Inclusive Care Act, ensures trans, gender diverse, & intersex (TGI) patients receive the affirming health care they deserve

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) Senate Bill 923, the TGI Inclusive Care Act was signed into law by Governor Newsom late Thursday afternoon. This first-in-the-nation bill will begin to set quality standards for transgender, gender diverse, and intersex (TGI) patients and ensure curriculum is relevant to TGI patients’ health needs. By March 1, 2023, the bill requires the California Health and Human Services Agency to convene a working group charged with establishing quality standards for patient experience to measure cultural competency related to TGI communities and recommend related training curriculum.

Specifically, SB 923 requires:

  • That the Health and Human Services Agency issue enforceable quality standards for treating TGI patients and recommend curriculum working collaboratively with Departments and TGI-serving organizations,
  • That health insurance companies provide TGI cultural competency training for their staff and delegated entities who are in direct contact with patients,
  • That health insurance companies, in their network directories, include a list of in-network providers who offer gender-affirming services, so that TGI people know where to go for care,
  • That the relevant oversight agencies track and monitor complaints relating to TGI-inclusive care and publicly post findings in their annual reports or website,
  • That physician Continuing Medical Education (CME) include evidence-based culturally competent curriculum to help physicians provide inclusive care for TGI people.

Many TGI Californians encounter discrimination and difficulty accessing the health care they need. TGI Californians report discrimination including being refused treatment, verbally harassed, physically or sexually assaulted, or having to teach the provider about transgender people in order to receive appropriate care. By signing SB 923 into law, California has prioritized creating protections to support the lives of TGI people and sets an example for the rest of the nation to follow.

“Senate Bill 923 will alleviate a lot of the trauma, anxiety, and depression that many TGI individuals experience when seeing a medical provider,” said Dannie Cesena, CA LGBTQ HHS Network Director. “Now in a medical setting, providers can’t just turn us away, treat us with disrespect or say ‘we don’t treat people like you.’ This bill isn’t just about access to health care, but it’s access to mental health too and knowing that TGI individuals shouldn’t have to experience any type of discrimination when seeking care.”

All TGI Californians deserve to be treated with dignity and respect by health care providers. SB 923 is an important stepping stone to ensure TGI people are able to live healthy and sustainable lives.

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SB 923 is co-sponsored by Break The Binary LLC, California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network, California TRANScends, Equality California, Gender Justice LA, National Health Law Program, Orange County TransLatinas, Queer Works, Rainbow Pride Youth Alliance, San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives, The TransPower Project, TransCanWork, Trans Community Project, Trans Family Support Services, Transgender Health and Wellness Center, Tranz of Anarchii INC, Unique Woman’s Coalition (UWC), Unity Hope, and Western Center on Law & Poverty.

Western Center Roundup –September 2022

Ending Poverty and Advancing Healing and Justice 

2021-2022 Legislative Session Wins 

With just 2 days left for Governor Gavin Newsom to sign hundreds of bills on his desk, we are buoyed by the recent signing of several of our co-sponsored bills and the budget and administrative advocacy wins secured for Californians with low incomes. These latest advances move Californians closer to new, viable pathways to higher education and entrepreneurship, increased safety in their homes and places of work, and more economic security through an expanded safety net and reduction of oppressive fines and fees. Below are a few highlights –

SB972 (Gonzalez) – this bill modernizes California’s Retail Food code to be more inclusive of small scale sidewalk vending operations, making the permitting process more accessible for food-specific street vendors.This bill was shaped by street vendors, community leaders, and policy advocates, aligning the work of economic, racial, and food justice movements. Come celebrate this win with those who made it possible, this Friday from 5-9PM at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights.

AB 2004 (Garcia) – this bill strengthens the California Dream Loan program ensuring undocumented students receive the same financial education and loan assistance options that federal loan programs offer every other student to help achieve their higher education goals.

SB1017 (Eggman) – this bill closes a housing loophole that allowed survivors of domestic violence to be evicted due to incidents of violence in their homes. Two years in the making, this bill ensures survivors can stay in their homes while healing from trauma.

AB 2300 (Kalra) – this bill that allows CalWORKs recipients to leave their workplace and not lose their benefits if their employer violates state labor laws including the Crown Act, sexual harassment, and many other labor provisions.

Health4All Medi-Cal coverage for people ages 26 to 49: As a result of a groundbreaking advocacy campaign, Medi-Cal will begin covering undocumented adults ages 26 to 49 starting January 1, 2024. This is the final immigrant group that Medi-Cal will cover, as children, young adults (19-25), and adults older than 50 were included in prior Medi-Cal expansions.

Implementing AB 199: In our work to address Civil Assessments: The Hidden Court Fee that Penalizes Poverty, this year, our budget advocacy resulted in several important victories: (1) discharging all unpaid civil assessment debt from prior to July 1, 2022 (which is hundreds of millions of dollars); (2) reducing the maximum civil assessment that can be imposed from $300 to $100; and (3) restructuring the use of civil assessment funds so that they go directly into the general fund.

Inspired by what we are working on? With the upcoming retirement of Mike Herald, our legendary Director of Policy Advocacy, we’ve opened the search for his successor. View the Director of Policy job description and please share widely with your networks. More Western Center employment opportunities can be viewed HERE.

Housing Justice and Trauma Informed Lawyering

As the housing crisis continues, eviction protections sunset, and the pool of available rental assistance winds down, housing attorneys and advocates are facing a historic demand for eviction defense and related services. In order to address the vicarious trauma the field experiences in representing tenants faced with the prospect of losing their homes, we developed a new partnership with Trauma Informed LA to provide a series of trainings focused on trauma informed lawyering, vicarious trauma and the impact of frontline housing work, and the tools available to promote regulation and self-care. The first session offered this month set the foundation for understanding trauma informed approaches to our work, how we hold trauma in our bodies, and the ways we can care for ourselves so we can care for others through our legal and advocacy practice. Future sessions will focus on vicarious trauma, integrating tools for regulation into daily work, and working with clients with trauma responses.
 

Garden Party 2022 is Just Two Weeks Away – Ticket Sales Close Next Week!

Join us on October 11th at the Wilshire Ebell for an indoor/outdoor event format as we celebrate our 55th Anniversary and our work to build a more just California. We are honored to recognize this year’s honorees: Maya Wiley, Tatyana Ali, Mayra Jimenez, Sarah Steinheimer, Richard Rothschild, and Robert Newman and toast Mike Herald’s upcoming retirement at a pre-event reception. It’s not too late to purchase a tribute ad or ticket! Ad sales close on September 30th and ticket sales close on October 6th. 

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California won’t forgive parking tickets for homeless after Newsom veto

Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on Thursday that would have required cities to forgive parking tickets for homeless Californians.

The move was a disappointment for anti-poverty advocates across the state — who have warned that parking-ticket late fees can lead to more debt for already low-income people — and a win for cities that receive revenue from those tickets.

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Waveney Ann Moore: A crowning glory with rights

African-American beauty salons in St. Petersburg were busy in recent days, as Black girls from kindergarten to high school and college prepared to head to classes in hairstyles from braids to blowouts.

At Shear Essence Hair Salon on 22nd Avenue S., owner Donna Bean and stylist Mitzi Hall were caught up in the whirlwind…

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Letter: Public Opposition Mounts to Newsom’s CARE Court

The undersigned individuals and national organizations are collectively dedicated to promoting equity and justice for people with mental health disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other People of Color (BILPOC), and others who will be disparately impacted by your proposed Community Assistance Recovery and Empowerment (“CARE”) Court system…

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Massachusetts Becomes Latest State to Ban Hair-Based Discrimination

Massachusetts has become the latest state to enact bans against hair-based discrimination after Gov. Charlie Baker signed The CROWN Act into law last month.

The bill – Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or CROWN Act – was introduced in March by Massachusetts state representative Steven Ultrino,, who said that he wished the state had done this earlier…

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