Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on Thursday that would have forgiven at least $1,500 in unpaid parking tickets for homeless residents every year.
According to Assembly Bill 1685, authored by Assemblyman Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles), processing agencies would have had to forgive at least $1,500 in parking fines and fees annually for a qualified homeless person if they sought to collect an unpaid parking penalty by requesting the Department of Motor Vehicles to place a registration hold on the vehicle. In addition, agencies collecting fines would have also had to provide certain information regarding the parking citation forgiveness program, including on its internet website.
Assemblyman Bryan wrote AB 1685 due to how even one unpaid ticket could be a large burden to many homeless people, and how a hold on registrations due to unpaid parking tickets could deprive them of a way to get to work, as well as in many cases, their temporary place of living. Specifically, Bryan noted how unchecked fines could lead to larger homeless encampments in cities.
“Instead of continuing to penalize poverty, let’s save some money with good policy and use it to get people more of the housing and services they really need,” Bryan said during the legislative process. “Lose your financial stability, lose your house. Lose your house, live in your car. Lose your car, set up an encampment.”
Homeless advocates pushed for the bill in while in legislation, noting that one ticket or the loss of a car has devastating effects on people struggling to get by.
“A lot of homeless people sleep out of their cars and rely on them as the sole way to get to work,” explained Stacy Cardinal, a homeless advocate in Los Angeles, to the Globe on Friday. “A car is a difference of taking 15 minutes to work or a few hours through public transit here. One parking fine can erase groceries, or money going to save for a down payment of rent, or a doctor’s appointment. If it is unpaid and the car is towed away later as a result, then that means even more drastic consequences. They’re on the street just because they paid for food instead of a fine. That’s how much this bill was needed. To help stop this cycle.”
Meanwhile, many local municipalities and local lawmakers opposed the bill, pointing out that AB 1685 would take away a significant chunk of revenue that the state would not replace as a result, would encourage more illegal parking, and would take a way a key way that many cities reach out to homeless individuals.
“Parking enforcement serves the vital functions of helping cities keep streets and water systems clean, perform essential public works like tree trimming and sidewalk repair, ensure access to business and government services by promoting turnover and promoting alternative modes of transportation in heavily congested areas,” said the League of Cities last month to state lawmakers. “Without appropriate levels of fines, drivers will simply ignore these rules, making it incredibly challenging to meet these multifaceted goals.”
AB 1685 passed in legislature, vetoed by Newsom
While opposition remained high, with figures such as LA Mayor Eric Garcetti even coming out against AB 1685, Assembly and Senate lawmakers, save for a few GOP members, voted in favor of the bill. It passed the Senate 31-3 and the Assembly 76-0 last month before the deadline at the end of August.
However, once in front of Governor Newsom, many questions that the bill face earlier were amplified. Newsom objected to a statewide parking ticket forgiveness program due to no limit on how many times an individual could try and get relief from the program, as well as safe parking programs, in which homeless individuals can park for the night in an area without the risk of parking fines, being offered all over the state. Because of that, Newsom vetoed AB 1685 on Thursday.
“I am sympathetic to the author’s intent to provide financial relief to extremely low-income Californians, but a statewide requirement for parking ticket forgiveness may not be the best approach,” said Newsom in his veto message on Thursday. “Under this bill, there would be no limit to the number of times a person could ultimately seek relief from the program.
“Local governments should provide support to people living in cars in other manners, while continuing with parking enforcement to manage their public rights-of-way. Some jurisdictions have already taken it upon themselves to link people living in cars with housing and services, for example by establishing safe parking programs. These efforts have shown promise for both people living in their cars, as well as the surrounding communities. Safe parking strategies are an eligible use of discretionary funding from programs such as the Homeless Housing Assistance & Prevention (HHAP) – of which $1 billion has been allocated to cities and counties this year alone.
“In recent years, we have made record investments in the budget to produce affordable housing and address homelessness, but it is still not enough to make the progress we all wish to see. I remain committed to continuing the state’s leadership to address this critically important issue and I look forward to working with the author and the Legislature on proposals in the budget next year demonstrating this shared commitment.
“For these reasons, I cannot sign this bill.”
AB 1685 was one of 47 bills vetoed by the Governor on Thursday.
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