In addition to the six bills our Women’s Policy Institute fellows are working on this year, the Foundation is supporting these California Assembly and Senate bills. To read each bill language in full and to learn more about the bills, please visit this website.
AB 4 (Ammiano) – This bill wants to prohibit law enforcement officials from detaining people in United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities unless they have been convicted of a serious or violent felony. Far too often, California’s immigrant residents are arrested on non-violent and non-serious charges and then held in ICE detention. Prolonged detention creates family crises and does nothing to increase public safety. At the same time, people who are victims of a crime—particularly victims of domestic violence—often choose to refrain from reporting crimes against them out of fear of being themselves detained. As a result, rather than increasing public safety, present law may put more people in danger as well as place more families in financial crisis.
Assembly Bill 139 (Holden) – This bill would clarify an already existing law that imposes an administrative fee of $500 on every person who is granted probation for a crime of domestic violence. Once probationers remit their payments, each county is required to deposit two-thirds of the payments into a special fund dedicated to supporting local domestic violence shelters. The remaining one-third of the payment goes to the State. AB 139 clarifies that the $500 payment is an administrative fee—and not a punitive fine—and that therefore the offender must pay it unless the judge determines they are financially unable. This clarification is important because it will ensure that the accurate portion of the fees is used to support local domestic violence programs.
Assembly Bill 156 (Holden) – This bill would expand a provision of an already existing bill. Currently a judge can enter an ex parte order approving wiretapping if he or she determines there is probable cause to believe that an individual is committing, has committed, or is about to commit (1) murder, (2) importation, possession for sale, transportation, manufacture, or sale of controlled substances or (3) a crime utilizing weapons of mass destruction. AB 156 would expand these provisions by adding human trafficking to this law. This expansion would enable the law enforcement personnel in California to crack down on what has become a lucrative human trade in female minors.
AB 218 (Dickinson) – This bill would remove the criminal history question from state, city and county job applications while permitting a background check later in the hiring process. As a result, this bill would help level the playing field for qualified Californians looking for employment while, at the same, it would promote public safety by reducing unnecessary job barriers for the nearly seven million adult Californians with a criminal record.
AB 241 (Ammiano) – This bill, better known as the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, would extend equal labor rights to domestic workers. At least 200,000 of California’s domestic workers–comprised of housekeepers, nannies and caregivers for children, the elderly and the disabled–are excluded from basic labor laws. This bill seeks to provide these workers–the vast majority of whom are women–with equal labor rights and industry-wide standards so that they can continue providing quality care as well as work toward economic security.
Assembly Bill 271 (Mitchell) – This bill would do away with the Maximum Family Rule (MFG), a law that prevents parents from receiving assistance through the CalWORKs program for any child born to the household while any member of the household is receiving aid. Without the MFG rule, the amount most households would receive in additional benefits for the newborn child is $122/month, hardly enough to pay for the child’s basic needs. But without it, these children face increased risk of homelessness and other hardship associated with extreme poverty.
AB 545 (Mitchell) – This bill would extend the definition of “nonrelative extended family member” to an adult caregiver who has an established familial relationship with the parent and the child. It provides a technical, but significant fix to Welfare & Institutions Code because it allows a parent to designate a family friend as a caregiver to his or her dependent child. The alternative would otherwise be foster care and studies have shown that young children are particularly vulnerable when they are forced into foster care. Having a loving family friend take care of the child until the family is able to reunite is a much healthier solution for the child.
AB 625 (Quirk) – This bill would allow notaries public to accept as valid form of identification the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) identification. Most incarcerated women are mothers of dependent children and they often need access to a notary to establish temporary custody of their children, set power of attorney for financial and health care matters for their children and to give authority to a trusted adult to bring their children to prison for a visit. According to current notary public standards, the identification provided by CDCR is not a valid form of identification, so an incarcerated individual must request a second form of identification (at the her expense) to access notary. The CDCR goes through a lot of trouble to create their identification cards and it makes sense to allow that the CDCR identification card be used for notary purposes.
AB 720 (Skinner) – This bill would require county sheriffs to assist eligible individuals held in county jails with applying for Medi-Cal 30 days prior to their release from jail. Several studies have shown that people coming out of county jails are often eligible for Medi-Cal upon release and have significant medical, mental health and substance abuse needs. Further, it has been shown that people who have Medi-Cal on the day of their release commit fewer repeat offenses and that the time between offenses is longer. At the same time, Medi-Cal is extremely inexpensive to the counties because its expansion is 100% paid for by the federal government until 2017; after that, the counties will be obligated to pay only 10% of the cost. With the reduction in incarceration, this program will pay for itself.
AB 721 (Bradford) – This bill would prevent prosecutors from charging individuals who are arrested for possession of drugs for personal use only with a second felony charge for transportation of drugs. Existing law has been subject to common misinterpretation which has exposed individuals who possess drugs for personal use to harsh punishments including long prison sentences and felony charges. The current law exposes drug users to the same punishment as drug traffickers. AB 721 does not legalize any currently illegal drugs. This bill simply clarifies the description of transportation to include intent to sell.
AB 752 (Jones-Sawyer) – This bill would allow a person sentenced to county jail for a felony to participate in a work furlough program. Employment and employment training are key to success when a person is released from jail or prison. Work furlough creates a real opportunity for an incarcerated person to begin developing relationships necessary to maintain employment after their sentence is completed.
SB 61 (Yee) – This bill would limit the harmful practice of solitary confinement against minors and wards in the juvenile justice system. SB 61 seeks to remedy current deficiencies in law regarding the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities and to curb its overuse and abuse in juvenile facilities. A robust body of research demonstrates the traumatic toll and mental health breakdown that solitary confinement causes in healthy adult prisoners with no mental illness history. Youth who are still in their development stages, who are emotionally and mentally immature, are at an even greater risk of permanent damage caused by isolation.
Senate Bill 260 (Hancock) – This bill wants sentencing courts to review the sentence of a person who was under 18 years old at the time of an offense, was prosecuted as an adult, and has served ten years in prison. There are now more than 6,500 people serving sentences in California’s adult prisons for an offense committed under the age 18. More than 90 percent of them are people of color and more than half are serving life sentences. SB 260 will hold youth accountable while creating incentives for their rehabilitation. Judges will carefully consider objective criteria, including the person’s progress towards rehabilitation, their behavior while incarcerated, the circumstances surrounding the offense and any other factors the court considers relevant.
SB 400 (Jackson) – This bill aims to protect the survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking from work-related discrimination or retaliation for requesting reasonable safety accommodation. SB 400 will promote safety for survivors and for all employees in the workplace. It will also strengthen businesses’ ability to prevent violence at the workplace. The effects of these forms of violence have a harmful effect on the ability of victims to maintain employment and can trickle into the workplace, jeopardizing a victim’s safety and stable source of income. Firing an employee who discloses that she/he is a victim of domestic or sexual violence or stalking undermines California public policy to protect the economic independence and safety of victims and to encourage reporting of safety concerns in the workplace without fear of retribution.
SB 612 (Leno) – This bill would allow survivors of human trafficking to terminate residential leases in a timely manner. California law currently allows survivors of domestic violence to break their residential leases with documentation of abuse. The documentation is limited to a court-issued protective order, or a police report. However, it is not always feasible or advisable for a survivor of domestic violence or human trafficking to obtain a restraining order or a police report. Survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking are often reluctant to involve the court system or law enforcement out of fear of retaliation or increased violence from their abusers, fear of the child welfare system, or fear of being reported to immigration officials for deportation. SB 612 extends the definition of documentation of abuse to include a statement from a medical professional, health care provider, or victim counselor/caseworker who is acting in a professional capacity, as an alternative to obtaining a court-issued restraining order or a police report.
SB 649 (Leno) – This bill would revise the state penalty for drug possession for personal use from a felony to an alternate misdemeanor/felony (called a “wobbler”), thereby giving local prosecutors a new option to charge simple possession as misdemeanor. The legislation will not change the penalties for sale, transportation, manufacture, or possession for sale. SB 649 will continue to hold law-breakers accountable. A misdemeanor conviction carries a penalty of up to one year in county jail and a period of probation (typically three years). Participation in drug treatment and/or other programs may be ordered as a condition of probation. SB 649 will give counties a chance to avoid the state’s failed over-reliance on incarceration in response to drug possession and instead more wisely invest taxpayer dollars in the kinds of community-based treatment, rehabilitation, and education programs proven to reduce recidivism, prevent crime, and make our communities safer and healthier.