Legislation

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Bulletin to California Law Enforcement Agencies Detailing Eviction Protections for Californians

April 28, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued an information bulletin to California law enforcement agencies to reinforce integral eviction procedures under the California Homeowner Bill of Rights. Under current California law, occupants of a foreclosed property who are not named in eviction documents - such as tenants - can present a “Claim of Right to Possession” form to temporarily stop the eviction process up to and including when the Sheriff comes to remove them from the property.

Following the 2012 national mortgage settlement, Attorney General Harris sponsored the landmark California Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR), which took effect on January 1, 2013. The legislation package included additional protections for homeowners and tenants facing foreclosure. Although HBOR has been in effect since 2013, advocacy groups have reported cases in which Sheriffs proceed with the eviction process despite being presented with a Claim of Right to Possession form. This bulletin provides guidance for Sheriffs performing evictions following a foreclosure. 

“This bulletin clarifies integral protections and due process available under the Homeowner Bill of Rights,” said Attorney General Harris.  “I sponsored this bill to provide a fair process for vulnerable Californians who are facing the loss of their homes. I thank the advocacy organizations for their tireless work on behalf of those affected by the foreclosure crisis."

Prior to HBOR, occupants who were not named in an Unlawful Detainer Complaint were required to respond to a “Prejudgment Claim of Right to Possession” within 10 days of service. This is no longer the case.  Under HBOR, certain post-foreclosure occupants, such as tenants, can temporarily stop the eviction process by presenting a Claim of Right to Possession, including at the time of the lockout, to the Sheriff at the property. Once a claim is presented, the Sheriff should take no further action until notified by the court.  The bulletin further instructs Sheriffs on how to respond when presented with a Claim of Right to Possession. 

“HBOR provides critical protections for tenants in foreclosed properties.  Western Center on Law & Poverty is grateful to the Attorney General for providing guidance to the sheriffs who play a key role in implementing these protections and ensuring that innocent tenants will not be evicted without notice,” said Madeline S. Howard, Senior Staff Attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty. 

“Over 1 million California tenants suffered displacement after their landlords’ foreclosure from 2008-2012.  The tenant protections of HBOR helped address this crisis, and the Claim of Right to Possession gave tenants a new tool to assert their rights. However, many tenants have had difficulty using this procedure because it was new and education was limited.  Tenants Together believes that this Bulletin will significantly improve the use of the Claim of Right to Possession and ensure that Sheriffs across the state are able to properly follow the legal process,” said Leah Simon-Weisberg, Legal Director at Tenants Together. 

Western Center and Tenants Together have received calls asking for assistance with the prejudgment claim process and reports of post-foreclosure eviction abuse from tenants in the Central Valley, Inland Empire, and the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Attorney General Harris has worked to ensure that California’s homeowners are treated fairly and with consideration during the foreclosure process. In 2011, she created the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force, which was tasked with the responsibility to investigate and prosecute misconduct related to aspects of the mortgage process. In February 2012, Attorney General Harris secured more than $20 billion for struggling California homeowners from the nation’s five largest banks.

The Attorney General has also taken steps to improve relations between the public and law enforcement agencies. In 2015, she directed a review of her Division of Law Enforcement's policies on implicit bias and the use of force. Following the 90-day Review, Attorney General Harris created the first POST-certified course on Procedural Justice and Implicit Bias in the United States. In 2016, she sponsored legislation that would create a stand-alone course for peace officers on principled policing, procedural justice and implicit bias. She later formed the 21st Century Policing Working Group, which has convened several times to discuss its current progress and strategies to improve policing policies to fit the needs of today.   In addition, Attorney General Harris sent a bulletin to law enforcement making clear that federal immigration detainers are voluntary and that law enforcement agencies should direct resources in a manner that best serves their community.

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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Support for SB 1150, Homeowner Survivor Bill of Rights

April 20, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced her support for the Homeowner Survivor Bill of Rights, California Senate Bill 1150, legislation authored by Senators Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton).  The proposed bill would require companies that collect payments from borrowers—mortgage loan servicers— to communicate with the widowed spouses and survivors of homeowners to ensure that survivors receive accurate information about assuming responsibility for a mortgage and avoiding foreclosure. This legislation builds on Attorney General Harris’ work in 2011, when she secured $20 billion in relief for California homeowners.

“Following the devastating loss of a loved one, too many Californians also face the possibility of being stripped of their home. This proposed legislation requires mortgage servicers to communicate with spouses and children of deceased homeowners and gives them a fighting chance to stay in their homes,” said Attorney General Harris. “I thank Senators Leno and Galgiani for their efforts to extend critical financial and legal services to Californians facing unnecessary foreclosures.”

The proposed legislation would allow survivors or heirs to simultaneously apply for both loan assumption and loan modification and provide a single point of contact with the lender. The California Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on the legislation this afternoon.

“Instead of getting basic information on how to proceed with a home loan following the death of a loved one, surviving spouses and children face a labyrinth of paperwork and conflicting directions and requests, which only prolongs their grief,” said Senator Leno. “Many family members unnecessarily lose their homes without ever knowing they had the right to assume the loan or seek foreclosure remedies. Before more families give up, we must step in.”

"As California's senior population increases, so does this problem. Through its common-sense protections, SB 1150 would prevent additional, unnecessary, ‘red-tape foreclosures’ on widows, widowers, and other heirs,” said Kevin Stein, Associate Director at California Reinvestment Coalition.

In 2013, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued guidance stating that “servicer[s] must have policies and procedures reasonably designed to ensure that, upon notification of the death of a borrower, the servicer promptly identifies and facilitates communication with a successor in interest of the deceased borrower with respect to the property that secures the deceased borrower’s mortgage loan.”  Despite this guidance, the California Department of Justice continues to receive reports that mortgage servicers are refusing or failing to communicate with widows and orphans of deceased homeowners.  SB 1150 would require servicers to communicate with successors and prevent families from facing unnecessary foreclosures after the deaths of their loved ones. 

In 2012, Attorney General Harris helped to enact the California Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR), a landmark package of laws establishing key mortgage and foreclosure protections to California homeowners and borrowers.  The laws, which took effect on January 1, 2013, restrict dual-track foreclosures, guarantee struggling homeowners a reliable point of contact at their lender, impose civil penalties on fraudulently signed mortgage documents, and require loan servicers to document their right to foreclose.  Dual-track foreclosures refer to a practice whereby a lender forecloses on a home while homeowners are simultaneously seeking a loan modification.

The California Homeowner Bill of Rights also extended the statute of limitations to prosecute mortgage fraud-related crimes to three years and allowed the Attorney General’s office to use statewide grand juries to investigate and indict the perpetrators of financial crimes involving victims in multiple counties.  For more information, see http://oag.ca.gov/hbor.

In May 2011, Attorney General Harris created a Mortgage Fraud Strike Force within the California Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute misconduct at all stages of the mortgage process and in February 2012, Attorney General Harris secured an unprecedented settlement with the nation’s five largest banks, securing $20 billion in relief for California homeowners.

SB 1150 is sponsored by the California Alliance for Retired Americans, Housing and Economic Rights Advocates and California Reinvestment Coalition.

Attorney General D. Kamala Harris Sponsors Legislation to Expand Principled Policing Training for Law Enforcement

April 19, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and Assemblymembers Reggie Jones- Sawyer and Rob Bonta have introduced legislation to expand Principled Policing training to law enforcement agencies across the state to address issues of implicit bias and community trust.

The legislation, AB 2626, would require the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to create and offer a course for peace officers on procedural justice and implicit bias. The new law enforcement training would be modeled on the POST-certified course created by Attorney General Harris last year, the first of its kind in the country.

“Bias in policing undermines the public’s trust and has devastating effects on the safety and well-being of our communities,” said Attorney General Harris. “AB 2626 will establish a critical new law enforcement training that leads with the community policing principles of respect and dialogue, and directly addresses the crisis of confidence between peace officers and the communities we are sworn to protect.”  

"As Chair of the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color in California, I was proud to introduce AB 2626 with Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer to address implicit bias," said Assemblymember Bonta. "AB 2626 will strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the community and help ensure better outcomes during police-community interactions. We know that working with the community, and truly understanding the community’s experiences, can reduce crime and promote respect for the rule of law. AB 2626 will help rebuild community trust in law enforcement, stop the disproportionate flow of boys and men of color in to our criminal justice system, and ensure that every Californian experiences real, unfettered justice."

Procedural justice is an approach to policing that emphasizes the importance of treating everyone equally and with respect. Implicit bias, which is thoughts or feelings about social groups that can influence decisions or actions, can be a barrier to procedural justice. The training proposed in AB 2626 would work to create statewide awareness of both procedural justice and implicit bias in order to build trust and improve public and officer safety.

In addition, AB 2626 would require POST to develop guidelines and trainings enabling peace officers to teach the course to other officers in their agencies. If passed, the bill will require POST to offer the basic principled policing course and the trainer course beginning in June 2017.

“It is undeniable that racial profiling continues to exist within policing and the criminal justice system,” said Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer. “In order to reduce incidents of police brutality it is critical that law enforcement receive training on how  to overcome implicit racial bias.”

“On behalf of POST, we are proud to join Attorney General Harris in offering this innovative course on Principled Policing.” said Bob Stresak, Executive Director of POST.  “The high enrollment in this course is a testament to California's law enforcement leaders recognizing that California's communities deserve the highest levels of professional service and that they are  committed to making every effort to accomplish this goal.”

In November 2015, the California Department of Justice held the first trainings of its POST-certified course, Principled Policing:  Procedural Justice and Implicit Bias. The trainings were conducted in partnership with the Stanford University Center for Social Psychology Answers to Real World Questions (SPARQ), Stanford Professor Jennifer Eberhardt, Reverend Ben McBride from the Empower Initiative, the Oakland and Stockton Police Departments, and the community organization California Partnership for Safe Communities.

A white paper evaluating the Principled Policing training, published jointly by the Department of Justice and Stanford University Center for SPARQ, assessed the effectiveness of the course in educating police officers about procedural justice and implicit bias, as well as shifts in perceptions about police-community relations. According to this evaluation, the course unearthed tremendous hidden potential for the principled policing training to build greater understanding between law enforcement and communities.

This training was developed as part of the California Department of Justice’s 90-Day Review of its own special agent training programs on implicit bias and use of force which were announced in April 2015.

Since January 2015, Attorney General Harris has taken several steps to strengthen the trust between law enforcement and California communities. These actions include:

  • Directing the Department of Justice’s Division of Law Enforcement to conduct a 90-Day Review of its special agent trainings on implicit bias and use of force.
  • Instituting a body camera policy for all DOJ special agent personnel conducting field operations.
  • Convening law enforcement, youth and community organizations.
  • Creating the 21st Century Policing Working Group to foster discussion regarding implicit bias and building community trust.
  • Launching OpenJustice, a first-of-its-kind criminal justice open data initiative that will release unprecedented data while being interactive and easy to use. The tool spotlights key criminal justice indicators and embraces transparency in the criminal justice system to strengthen trust, enhance government accountability, and inform public policy.
  • Creating a POST-Certified Training on Implicit Bias and Procedural Justice.

 

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Introduces Legislation to Improve the Collection and Publication of Criminal Justice Data

March 21, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) today unveiled legislation to modernize California’s collection and publication of criminal justice data. The OpenJustice Data Act builds on Attorney General Harris’s historic open data initiative, OpenJustice, to improve accountability and transparency in California’s criminal justice system.

“Data and technology have the power to dramatically increase transparency and accountability in our criminal justice system,” said Attorney General Harris. “This legislation will bring criminal justice data reporting into the 21st Century. I thank Assemblymember Irwin for standing with me to support the adoption of technology by law enforcement.”

Assembly Bill 2524 will convert Crime in California and other annual reports published by the California Department of Justice into digital data sets that will be published on the Attorney General’s OpenJustice Web portal.  These reports provide statistical summaries including numbers of arrests, complaints against peace officers, hate crime offenses, and law enforcement officers killed or assaulted. The OpenJustice Web portal will transform the way this information is presented to the public with interactive, accessible visualization tools, while making raw data available for public interest researchers.

"Right now we are sitting on mountains of valuable criminal justice data that local law enforcement work hard to provide in the public interest.  We need to make sure that this information is available to the public and that we are using it effectively.  AB 2524 is a common-sense measure that will help bring California into the 21st century,” said Assemblymember Irwin.

Additionally, AB 2524 will bring the state’s data collection into the 21st century by requiring local law enforcement agencies to submit all currently required statistical reports digitally.  Despite the fact that electronic reporting provides for more accurate and efficient data submission, approximately 60% of local law enforcement agencies still submit required data to the California Department of Justice (DOJ) on paper.  The OpenJustice Data Act will direct all agencies to transition to digital reporting, which will improve the quality and completeness of data, allow for more frequent updates to data contained within the OpenJustice Web portal, and ensure a much more efficient use of taxpayer resources in the long-term.

“I look forward to working with Attorney General Harris and Assemblymember Irwin to further advance our commonly shared goal of strengthening the relationships between law enforcement and the communities in which we live and serve.  Law enforcement leaders across California stand ready to ensure that the modernization of data reporting is feasible for even the smallest of police departments.  The alchemizing of this data will serve to better inform Californians about the crime our officers encounter every day and the subsequent actions taken,” said Oxnard Police Chief Jeri Williams.

Attorney General Harris first launched the OpenJustice initiative in 2015 as a mechanism for improving community trust in law enforcement, enhancing government accountability, and informing public policy. 

Last month, the Attorney General announced the release of OpenJustice 1.1, which enriched the Web portal’s initial data sets with city, county, and state level context including population and demographic information, unemployment rates, poverty rates, and educational attainment levels.  In addition to providing greater transparency, this information enables policymakers to craft informed, data-driven public policy.

Attorney General Harris has announced that the Department of Justice will augment the OpenJustice Web portal with new criminal justice datasets created through recent legislation, including reports on racial and identity profiling (AB 953, Weber) and officer and civilian-involved uses of force (AB 71, Rodriguez). 

Attorney General Harris has also taken several steps to strengthen the trust between law enforcement and California communities.  She directed a 90-day Review of her Division of Law Enforcement’s policies on use of force and implicit bias, convened the state’s law enforcement leaders to share best practices through her 21st Century Policing Working Group, created the first POST-certified course on Procedural Justice and Implicit Bias in the U.S., and developed a pilot for body-worn cameras for DOJ Special Agents.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, Speaker Emeritus Atkins Sponsor Legislation to Combat Human Trafficking

March 9, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO – Today, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced her sponsorship of legislation to combat human trafficking, Assembly Bill 1731 by Assembly Speaker Emeritus Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego).  The bill creates the Statewide Interagency Human Trafficking Task Force, which would be a permanent collaborative entity led by the California Department of Justice in partnership with other government agencies.

“Human trafficking is one of the world’s most heinous and profitable criminal enterprises,” said Attorney General Harris.  “This legislation will help combat human trafficking by ensuring coordination between a wide range of agencies and partners.  I applaud Speaker Emeritus Atkins for fighting this abhorrent crime.”

The task force created through AB 1731 is a successor to the California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery (CA ACTS), a temporary entity established by AB 22 (Lieber) in 2006.  That bill, which was sponsored by Attorney General Harris while she served as San Francisco District Attorney, made human trafficking a crime in the state, provided restitution to trafficking victims, and directed the CA ACTS to produce the first comprehensive report on human trafficking in California.

In 2012, Attorney General Harris temporarily reconstituted a Human Trafficking Work Group to publish a second report.  Both reports dramatically expanded the state’s understanding of the scope and nature of modern day slavery, and the Attorney General has since sponsored previous legislation based on their findings.

As a sponsor of AB 1731, Attorney General Harris will assist Speaker Emeritus Atkins in developing a new task force that builds on the success of California’s previous collaborative models.  This permanent entity demonstrates a long-term commitment from California to ending both sex and labor trafficking within the state.  The task force’s initial priorities will be to identify data-driven solutions to combatting slavery, improving interagency cooperation, and increasing public awareness.

“Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and it will take vigilance, collaboration, and hard work among many different sectors to end it,” said Speaker Emeritus Atkins. “Attorney General Harris’ backing of this legislation will go a long way in ensuring California develops the kind of taskforce we need to effectively battle human trafficking in our state.”

In addition to her sponsorship of AB 1731, Attorney General Harris also announced her support for AB 1730 by Speaker Emeritus Atkins, a bill to establish housing programs that provide trauma-informed mental health services for child sex trafficking victims.  Both bills unanimously passed out of Assembly Public Safety Committee last week.

Attorney General Harris has made fighting human trafficking a priority for the California Department of Justice.  Last year, the Office of the Attorney General released a Resource Guide to help companies comply with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, a law requiring large retailers and manufacturers in California to post their supply chain policies online.  In 2014, Attorney General Harris released Gangs Beyond Borders, a report that highlighted the growing role of transnational criminal organizations in the human trafficking underground economy.

In February 2015, Attorney General Harris created the Bureau of Children’s Justice to enforce criminal and civil laws to hold those who prey on children accountable; work with local, state, and national stakeholders to increase support for vulnerable children; and identify and pursue improvements to policies impacting children.  One of the Bureau’s core priorities is human trafficking of vulnerable youth, including foster children.

For more information on the Attorney General’s work on human trafficking, visit oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Legislation To Promote Statewide Tracking of DNA Evidence

February 25, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced her sponsorship of two bills which will improve statewide tracking of forensic evidence through the adoption of technology.  The legislative package directs law enforcement to take advantage of two secure databases operated by the California Department of Justice: the CODIS Hit Outcome Project (CHOP), which enables agencies to share confidential information about the outcomes of DNA matches; and the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Tracking (SAFE-T) database, which will enable the state to track the collection and processing of sexual assault evidence kits.

“DNA evidence is a tool that provides law enforcement with critical evidence to bring justice to sexual assault victims,” said Attorney General Harris.  “By taking full advantage of the state’s existing forensic tracking technologies, these bills will bolster and modernize law enforcement efforts to solve sexual assault crimes.”

AB 1848 by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) will direct all local law enforcement agencies to use a second tracking system within the California Department of Justice, the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Tracking (SAFE-T) tool.  This database was specifically designed by the Attorney General’s Bureau of Forensic Services to allow local law enforcement agencies to log and track the status of all so-called “rape kits” collected from victims of sexual assault.  The bill will include annual reporting to the state on metrics relating to how many kits were collected and how many kits were indeed analyzed by a DNA lab.  In cases where local agencies decide not to test a kit, they will be required to provide a reason.

“Survivors of sexual assault who are submitting sexual assault evidence kits aren’t getting the answers they need and deserve,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco). “To get at the crux of the backlog problem, we need to know how many kits are collected each year, and if they’re not analyzed, we need to know why.  This data will help shed a light on what areas of law enforcement need to change and whether or not they need more resources to get the job done. I look forward to working with Attorney General Harris on this crucial effort.”

SB 1079 by Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) will achieve universal use the state’s CODIS Hit Outcome Project (CHOP) database.  This advanced technological database helps streamline criminal casework and enables law enforcement agencies to confidentially share information on the outcomes of DNA matches when their own evidence comes back with a positive match to the same known perpetrator.  The database also features a tracking system that assists local agencies in tracking the progress of a DNA hit once crime scene forensic evidence has been matched against a sample in the national database.  Universal adoption of CHOP will ensure that California’s law enforcement agencies are able to fully leverage this technology to promote public safety.

“My bill ensures that local agencies use cold hit information to its full potential for case investigations. Proper use of a statewide system will mean investigations will be more efficient, repeat offenders will be found in the system, and rape kits will be accurately tracked, among other benefits,” said State Senator Glazer (D-Orinda).

Both CHOP and SAFE-T are secure, web-based databases made available to local law enforcement agencies free of charge.  The California Department of Justice, which manages the state’s DNA Data Bank Program, created CHOP in 2009.  SAFE-T was created in 2015 in part as a response to recommendations from a report by the State Auditor.  When evidence taken from a sexual assault kit is analyzed and matched to a sample in CODIS, the SAFE-T profile is automatically linked to a database entry in CHOP. 

In California, law enforcement collects DNA samples from all felony offenders and arrestees, which are submitted into the CODIS database.  When a DNA sample is taken from a crime scene involving an unidentified suspect, the database is checked for possible matches.  In January 2012, Attorney General Harris announced that, for the first time ever, the backlog of untested DNA evidence in state labs had been eliminated. Since that time, the Department’s Bureau of Forensic Services has assisted counties in clearing their own backlogs.

In April 2014, the Attorney General’s innovative RADS program received the United States Department of Justice’s Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services, and in 2015 the program was awarded a $1.6 million grant to test sexual assault evidence kits at local laboratories.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Statement Applauding Effort by CA Department of Education to Collect Statewide Data on Students who are Chronically Absent

February 5, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued the following statement applauding the California Department of Education for its efforts to collect statewide data on students who are chronically absent. The Attorney General has made the fight against elementary school truancy and chronic absenteeism a top priority. She issued  the first statewide report on California’s elementary school truancy crisis and sponsored legislation to address the issue.  

“Until now, California was one of a handful of states that did not track student attendance. I applaud the California Department of Education for taking this monumental step toward addressing California’s elementary school truancy and chronic absence crisis,” said Attorney General Harris. “I have called for this data collection since 2013 and was proud to sponsor a legislative package in 2014 that aimed to modernize California’s attendance records system and establish the support that schools, parents and communities need to ensure our students are in school and on track from kindergarten through high school. I look forward to working with our partners to build on this action and guarantee that every  child has the opportunity to succeed.”

In 2013, Attorney General Harris issued the first statewide report, In School + On Track, on California’s elementary school truancy crisis, which made a direct link between public education and public safety. Eighty-three percent of students who miss more than 10% of kindergarten and first grade cannot read at grade level by the end of third grade, which makes them four times more likely to drop out of high school. Annually, dropouts cost California taxpayers an estimated $46.4 billion in incarceration, lost productivity and lost taxes. 

The Attorney General issued subsequent reports in 2014 and 2015, reporting on the state’s on-going elementary school truancy crisis and the progress that has been made to address the issue. In School + On Track 2015 found that our state continues to face an attendance crisis, reporting that 230,000 students are chronically absent – missing more than 10% of the school year – and more than 1 in 5 are truant, having three or more unexcused absences. In addition, the report highlighted stark disparities in attendance and discipline for vulnerable students, including students of color, low-income students, and students in foster care. The report also highlighted the effects of chronic absenteeism in addressing issues such as unemployment, crime, economic development, public health and public safety. 

Each of the Attorney General’s reports stress the need to consistently and accurately track attendance data at the state level so that students do not fall through the cracks.    

In 2014, Attorney General Harris sponsored legislation to help schools, parents and government leaders effectively intervene when children are chronically absent, and improve local school districts’ and counties’ ability to track attendance patterns. The bills included efforts to assist school districts and county offices of education working with parents to address high truancy rates by giving them the tools to comply with attendance tracking requirements in the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), and a proposal to modernize the way California collects and monitors student attendance data. Two of the bills, AB 2141 (Hall, Bonta) and AB 1643 (Buchanan), were signed by the Governor. AB 1866 (Bocanegra), which would have required the data collection announced today, was vetoed.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and 11 Attorneys General Urge Limiting Preemption of State Protections Against Toxic Chemicals in Reconciliation of TSCA Reform Bills

January 21, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO – On Tuesday, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and eleven State Attorneys General urged Congress to limit any preemption of states’ authority to protect their residents and the environment from toxic chemicals when reconciling the bills passed by the House and Senate to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (“TSCA”).  The Attorneys General also commended members of Congress for undertaking efforts to improve the TSCA and for their progress in moving the bill closer to final passage.

In the letter, the Attorneys General set forth seven principles regarding the vital, complementary roles that the states and the federal government must play, and historically have played, in chemicals regulation.  The letter notes that in a few areas of core priority to the Attorneys General, such as the timing of preemption and the requirements for obtaining a waiver, the bills differ in the extent to which they address the states’ concerns.

“California’s environmental standards lead the nation in protecting our residents from harmful chemicals and pollutants, and my office has fought diligently to enforce them,” said Attorney General Harris.  “As Congress moves closer to reforming the Toxic Substance Control Act, it is critical that states' ability to protect communities from toxic chemicals is not preempted.”

As the letter notes, existing TSCA and the House Bill avoid problematic “regulatory void preemption,” and provide a traditional two-part waiver standard that the federal government, states and the courts have ample experience implementing.  In these areas, the Senate’s language introduces the risk of regulatory void preemption and unnecessarily complicates the waiver process.

In other areas, the letter explains that both the House and Senate have made significant progress in addressing the Attorneys General’s principles regarding the state-federal relationship.  For example, both bills allow states to co-enforce federal standards through the adoption of identical requirements in state law; preserve longstanding state chemicals programs such as California’s Proposition 65 from preemption; and exempt from preemption state water quality, air quality and waste treatment or disposal laws.  In each of seven areas, the letter offers specific reasoning and recommendations for reconciling the language of the House and Senate Bills.

California was joined by Attorneys General from Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington in submitting this letter to Congress.

The Attorneys General letter can be found attached to this release at www.oag.ca.gov/news

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, Assemblymember David Chiu Announce Firearms Legislation to Close “Bullet Button” Loophole

January 14, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO - Today, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and Assemblymember David Chiu announced legislation to close the “bullet button” loophole.  This loophole enables a firearm owner to use a bullet or other pointed object to quickly detach and replace a weapon’s ammunition magazine, converting a rifle into a semi-automatic assault weapon.  An individual can switch magazines on a gun with a bullet button within seconds.  This bill would expand the classification of assault weapons to include semi-automatic center fire rifles, which are capable of accepting detachable magazines.  

“The devastation wrought by gun violence on innocent victims, children and families in this country is an international embarrassment,” said Attorney General Harris. “This is a common sense solution that closes a dangerous loophole in California’s assault weapons ban.  We simply must do everything we can to keep dangerous, high capacity firearms off of our streets and out of our communities.”  

Assembly Bill 1663 will broaden the classification of restricted firearms to include dangerous assault weapons that are currently easy to purchase and manufacture.  In 1989, passage of the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act (the AWCA) made it a felony to manufacture any of the assault weapons listed in the statute.  In 1999, the Legislature expanded the AWCA to include more technologically advanced semiautomatic weapons, including firearms with a “fixed magazine” and/or firearms with “the capacity to accept a detachable magazine.”  Under current law, manufacturers have been able to create firearms with detachable magazines that evade classification as assault weapons that are prohibited from being possessed, sold, transferred or imported into the state without a permit.  “Bullet buttons” require the tip of a bullet or tool to release a magazine and insert a new one.  Because a device is needed to eject the magazine, bullet button firearms are not restricted under the AWCA statute.

“We must close the loopholes in our assault weapons ban so that guns like the ones used in San Bernardino, Newtown, and Aurora cannot be bought legally in our state,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), who first worked on gun legislation as a United States Senate aide in the mid-1990s.  “Detachable magazines cost lives, and it is more important to save lives during future mass shootings than to be able to reload assault weapons in the blink of an eye.  I appreciate the sponsorship by Attorney General Harris and look forward to working this year with my colleagues and the Governor’s office on this and other efforts to prevent gun violence.”

Attorney General Harris has made the implementation of effective gun safety measures a priority.  Since November 2013, Attorney General Harris has brought the number of individuals in the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) database to a historic low of 12,691—effectively removing 20,573 prohibited individuals.  Over the last two years, the California Department of Justice has also doubled the average number of guns seized annually and increased the number of investigations per month by nearly 300 percent.

In 2011, Attorney General Harris sponsored SB 819 (Leno) to allow the Department of Justice to use existing regulatory fees collected by gun dealers (“DROS fees”) for purposes of regulatory and enforcement activities related to firearms, including management of APPS.  This went into effect January 2012.  In 2013, Attorney General Harris sponsored SB 140 (Leno) to appropriate $24 million in funding from the DROS Account to help support the APPS program; this urgency legislation went into effect immediately in May 2013.

In 2013, Attorney General Harris convened a Leadership Group of California’s district attorneys to collaboratively develop recommendations to reduce gun violence through enforcement of existing laws and prevention efforts.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Harris issued a statement in support of President Obama’s executive actions to reduce gun violence through enhanced background checks, increased mental heath treatment and improved gun safety technology.

 

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Children Now Announce Legislation to Provide Trauma-Informed Mental Health Services for Children

January 12, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO - Today, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), and Children Now announced legislation aimed at improving the mental health of children who have experienced childhood trauma, including abuse, neglect, and community violence.  The bill would establish a four-year pilot program to assist elementary schools in providing mental health services to students, prioritizing schools in communities with high levels of childhood trauma and adversity. 

"Childhood trauma can have a devastating and lasting impact not only on our children but also on our families and our communities.   The evidence is clear that when we don't intervene, many children are more likely to be either victims or perpetrators of crime,” said Attorney General Harris. “This legislation will connect our most vulnerable children with the support they need and is a smart investment in the health and safety of our state.”

Assembly Bill 1644 will help schools and communities address the extensive impacts of childhood trauma, which can result in negative educational, health, social, and economic outcomes for children across the state.  Left unaddressed, exposure to childhood trauma can have devastating effects on children’s developing brains and leave children less ready to learn and more likely to exhibit anxiety, withdrawal, and aggressive behavior in school.  Providing trauma-informed interventions, including mental health supports, are critical to promoting healthy childhood development and addressing the root causes of crime.

“I’m excited to author AB 1644 with the support of Attorney General Harris and a stellar group of advocates in order to provide children suffering from trauma with the healing they need to survive and thrive. A child’s exposure to trauma is one of the greatest public health threats of our time, seriously compromising a child’s long-term physical and emotional wellbeing. As Chair of the Assembly Health Committee and the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, I’ve had the opportunity to extensively address the impact of trauma on our most challenged communities in the state, and I am confident that AB 1644 will provide our kids with the transformative support they need to heal.”

AB 1644 builds upon the former Early Mental Health Initiative (EMHI), a highly successful evidence-based program aimed at helping elementary school students experiencing difficulty in adjusting to a school setting.  EMHI awarded matching grants to local schools to fund prevention and intervention programs from 1992 to 2012, before the program was defunded in 2012.

Over 75 percent of children who completed the EMHI program showed an improvement in learning behaviors, attendance, school adjustment, or school-related competencies.  AB 1644 would provide schools that have continued to offer EMHI services with technical assistance to strengthen and expand existing programs, while also expanding EMHI services to more schools, particularly those serving students who have experienced high levels of childhood trauma and adversity.   

Children Now President Ted Lempert said, “Childhood trauma is a public health crisis that can impede emotional well-being, diminish kids’ school performance and set children up for a lifetime of problems. This bill would help kids exposed to trauma reach their full potential by helping schools provide quality mental health supports to their youngest students.”

Attorney General Harris has long been at the forefront of this issue and last year created a first-of-its-kind Bureau of Children’s Justice within the California Department of Justice to protect children and respond to the most pressing challenges facing California’s children, including childhood trauma and exposure to violence.

Under Attorney General Harris’s leadership, California was one of three states nationwide selected by the U.S. Department of Justice to be a part of its national Defending Childhood Initiative.  Attorney General Harris’s office is leading the California Defending Childhood State Policy Initiative—a collaboration of state agencies—in its work to prevent, identify, and heal the impacts of violence and trauma on children across the state. 

Attorney General Harris has spent her entire career prosecuting those who commit sexual and physical crimes against children and defending every child in California.  Attorney General Harris served two terms as District Attorney of San Francisco, where she created a child sexual assault unit and helped found the nationally recognized Center for Youth Wellness, an organization in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood working to improve the health of children exposed to childhood trauma.  She also led the San Francisco City Attorney’s Division on Children and Families and specialized in prosecuting child sexual assault cases at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.