A bill that would extend additional legal and financial protections for active duty and reserve component service members was introduced to the California Senate on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 1311, authored by Senator Susan Eggman (D-Stockton), would add an additional $2,500 in civil penalties per violation on top of the already standard $2,500 maximum for committing unfair competition actions such as fraudulent, unlawful, or unfair businesses acts or deceptive, untrue, or misleading advertising committed against members of the military. Active service members, when in small claims court, would be allowed to appear remotely in court if serving 100 miles or more away from the courthouse in question.
SB 1311 would also prohibit individuals or businesses from using a service member’s Common Access Card (CAC), PIN number associated with the CAC, or having the service member from logging into a Department of Defense or Department of Homeland Security computer system for transactions. The bill would prohibit a person from conditioning the receipt of a military or veteran discount on the waiver by the person of any right under state or federal law. The bill would make a waiver of any right provided by specified laws to service members, former service members, or their dependents void and would make a violation of these provisions a misdemeanor.
Service members would also be allowed to cancel a purchase or lease of a vehicle up to 30 days from the date they obtained the vehicle or received the title. While in military service, if a service member has to change places of duty more than 100 miles away, the number of days would be expanded to 90 days. Deferred payments on mortgages and other loans would also be guaranteed for service members when deployed to avoid interest from being accrued.
A loophole in the Military Lending Act that allows businesses to not give service members full protections would also be closed in the bill, as would laws that would waive veterans rights or the rights of their family members when accepting certain military discounts.
SB 1311 introduced in Senate
Senator Eggman, in conjunction with Attorney General Rob Bonta and Senate President Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) wrote the bill following the results of a California Depart of Justice investigation into businesses and individuals that target service members financially and take advantage of the lack of consumer protections.
“As a veteran myself, and coming from a family with a long history of service, I am familiar with how the very nature of serving in the military creates vulnerabilities to consumer scams and unfair business practices,” Senator Eggman said in a statement. “This legislation will provide service members with the consumer protections they need and deserve.”
“Military life and deployment place unique demands on service members and their families,” added AG Bonta. “With SB 1311, we are looking to shore up California’s military consumer protection laws to better serve our military community. I commend Senator Talamantes Eggman and Senate President pro Tempore Atkins for their leadership and efforts to implement stronger consumer protections for our military. Our brave service members and their families deserve nothing but our unwavering support, which is why I am honored to announce my sponsorship of this important legislation.”
As of Tuesday, no opposition has come forward against SB 1311, with insiders noting that there would likely not be any.
“The general feeling on this one is that it will move up either unanimously or near unanimously,” said “Dana,” a State Capitol staffer to the Globe on Tuesday. “GOP lawmakers won’t find anything wrong in expanding armed service member protections, and Democrats that sometimes vote against bills involving the military won’t do it either. And even if they wanted to, they have to worry about primaries in June and the big one in November, at least the ones going for reelection. Do you have any idea what the words ‘voting against the troops’ will do to you then?”
“But, back to SB 1311. Protecting veterans from scams and being taken advantage of? It will be hard to find someone against that.”
SB 1311 is to be heard in Senate committees soon.