Updated homeless ‘bill of rights’ passes CA legislative committee
An amended version of a bill that would extend new protections to California’s homeless population cleared theon
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, framed Assembly Bill 5 as an attempt to create a statewide baseline of homeless civil rights, citing a proliferation of municipal ordinances cracking down on behavior like lying or sleeping on the sidewalk as examples of the “criminalization of poor people.”
“Today numerous laws infringe on poor peoples’ ability to exist in public space, to acquire housing, employment and basic services and to equal protection under the laws,” Ammiano said at ahearing.
Ammiano’s legislation faced a backlash from critics who said the bill would sanction behavior like urinating in public while exposing businesses to new litigation, undercutting the will of voters who had passed local ordinances and handcuffing city-level efforts to deal with homelessness. Theincluded AB 5 on its annual list of “job killers” because it imposes “costly and unreasonable mandates on employers.”
The amendments addressed those concerns, Ammiano and supporters of the bill argued. A widely derided provision establishing “the right to engage in life sustaining activities” including “urinating” was deleted. Another amendment jettisoned language prohibiting discrimination by business establishments.
But those changes were not enough to allay the concerns of critics like thewhich argued that the bill still imposes onerous new requirements. Lobbyist Kirstin Kolpitcke pointed to a provision requiring governments to compile statistics on arrests and citations for offenses like loitering or obstructing sidewalks.
The bill would also bar localfrom applying laws governing things like eating, sitting or panhandling in public places unless the county has satisfied a set of requirements that include a relatively low rate, a short wait for public housing and readily available public assistance.
“The city does not control the county’s numbers or what they do or do not provide,” Kolpitcke said.