California Legislative Summary

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

 

During the 2007-08 session, Consumer Action supported 48 bills and took a position on 51 bills introduced in the California State Legislature. In January, a new two-year session (2009-2010) will convene. All bills monitored by Consumer Action are listed with their current status on our web site. These are some of the highlights:

Health Care Reform

  • AB 8 (Nunez) - Speaker Nunez’ attempt at health care reform, among others, was supported by some consumer groups and opposed by others. Consumer Action had remained neutral on the health reform items introduced so far because each new set of amendments changes these measures considerably. AB 8, as drafted, contained gaps in coverage for part-time workers as well as lacking needed regulations for the insurance industry. It did not extend any coverage for seniors and did not address the issue of pre-existing conditions, which would have prevented critical coverage for some consumers. Amendments that were under discussion included proposing mechanisms to prevent price-gouging, single payer coverage provisions, affordability, part-time employee benefits and coverage for seniors. The governor vetoed AB 8 on October 12, 2007. Whatever comes out of informational hearings currently being planned on health care reform, none of the current proposals being discussed are felt to be the answer. There is much work left to be done and the issue of health care reform will remain on the legislative agenda going into 2009. All proposals discussed so far are either unacceptable, unaffordable or unfair to consumers.
  • SB 840 (Kuehl): single-payer health coverage. Failed passage. Consumer Action took no position.
  • SB 471 (Margett): Birth and death certificates/ID requirements. Senate Rules committee; no hearing date set. Consumer Action took no position.

Telecommunications

  • AB 891 (De La Torre): Requires phone companies to provide a consumer a contract in the non-English language used to market or sell a product. Held without final action in the Senate. Consumer Action supported.
  • SB 158 (Florez): This bill would have required a cell phone company to unlock a phone that is sold to allow a consumer to use that phone with another provider’s system. Bill was killed in committee. Consumer Action supported.
  • SB 831 (Lowenthal): A cell phone consumer protection bill that would have established protections dealing with service contracts/early termination fees, stolen phones/billing disputes, third party retailers/termination fees, contract cancellations/rate increases, and various limits on cell phone contracts. The bill was killed on the Senate floor. Consumer Action supported.

Privacy

  • AB 779 (Jones): Would have improved data breach notification and make payment card industry standards mandatory. Vetoed by the Governor. Consumer Action supported.
  • AB 1168 (Jones): Requires that SSNs be removed from public records to protect a consumer’s privacy. Would establish a task force within the OPP (Office of Privacy Protection) to conduct a review of the use by all public and private colleges and universities in this state of social security numbers in order to recommend practices to minimize the collection, use, storage and retention of social security numbers. Signed by governor. Chaptered by Sec’y. of State 10/14/07. Consumer Action supported.
  • AB 1298 (Jones): Extends California privacy laws to cover a consumer’s health care records. Would apply the prohibitions of the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act to any business organized for the purpose of maintaining medical information to allow an individual to manage his/her information, or for treatment or diagnosis of the individual. Signed by Governor. Chaptered by Sec’y. of State 10/14/07. Consumer Action supported.
  • SB 362 (Simitian): Would prohibit anyone from requiring, coercing or compelling any other individual to undergo subcutaneous implanting of an RFID device. (Ex. An ID chip implanted under the skin to track people - some schools are proposing to do this) Signed into law by Governor. Consumer Action supported.
  • SB 644 (Correa): This measure would shorten the numericals of an SSN in public documents. This would serve to protect personal information from being tampered with or used in the crime of identity theft. Also restricts exposure of SSNs on court documents. Signed into law by Governor. Consumer Action supported.

Retailers

  • SB 250 (Corbett): Allows gift cards with $10 or less remaining to be redeemed for cash. Signed into law by Governor. Consumer Action supported.
  • AB 1673 (Feuer): Would have required retailers to honor a price advertised in a rebate and do the paperwork to get the rebate themselves after awarding the rebate to the consumer. Vehicle dealers exempted. Vetoed by the Governor. Consumer Action supported.
  • SB 220 (Corbett): Requires that vended water and bottled water be clearly marked with place of origin. Signed into law by Governor. Consumer Action supported.

Automobiles

  • AB 493 (Ruskin): A bill which addresses greenhouse gas emissions in California and how rebates and surcharges on the purchase of new automobiles could ultimately lead to the purchase of cleaner automobiles as well as encouraging manufacturers to offer more low-emitting automobiles to California consumers. The bill would establish a market-based program of one-time rebates, surcharges or neither on the purchase of new vehicles. For example, if you were to purchase a Prius, you may be eligible to receive a one-time rebate of $2,500; if you were to purchase a Hummer, you could be charged a one-time $2,500 surcharge. (amounts of charges and rebates still to be determined—proposed amounts are no less than $2,250 and no more than $2,500) The program proposes to be self-funded, the rebate money coming from the funds paid in surcharges. Automobile dealers strongly oppose this bill for obvious reasons. Failed passage. Consumer Action supported.
  • SB 234 (Corbett): Deals with consumer warranties and members of the armed forces. A member of the armed forces can exercise his/her rights under auto warranties in California regardless of where the automobile was purchased or registered. Signed into law by Governor. Consumer Action supported.

Banking and Credit/Financial Literacy

  • AB 150 (Lieu): Would have established advisory programs for schools and other institutions in the community dealing with educational efforts around financial literacy. Also provided authority to the Superintendent of Public Instruction to convene an advisory committee and make financial literacy resources and materials that are grade-level appropriate available online and within existing school programs. After acknowledging in committee that financial knowledge is especially problematic for the most vulnerable members of society, since the poor, elderly and minority groups are often victims of fraud and deception, predatory lending and other such abuses, it was passed by the Assembly and the Senate and sent to the Governor for signature. The Governor vetoed the bill stating that such skills were already being taught in Life Skills and Economics classes, that the SPI already has the needed authority, and that many financial institutions and service providers already provide an abundance of information on financial literacy that is readily available on the Internet.
  • SB 500 (Corbett): Adds civil penalties and prohibitions to activities in which a credit service organization (CSOs) or its representatives and contractors cannot participate. For example, a CSO cannot extend credit, directly or indirectly, to its customers. Also, a CSO cannot receive any fees for referring a client to a lender. Includes other related provisions. Passed and signed into law. Consumer Action supported.
  • SB 611 (Steinberg): Financial abuse of elder and dependent adults. Allows a victim of financial abuse to sue a perpetrator and provides for procedures which allow resources to be frozen until case has been resolved in court. This would help prevent theft of assets while trial is conducted. Signed by Governor.
  • AB 262 (Coto): Regulates credit card marketing in all three segments of California’s public university systems. This includes the UC system, the California State University system and the California Community College system. Makes certain recommendations to UC systems as to how to implement policies regarding disclosure of marketing agreements universities make with financial institutions on campuses. Prohibits credit card companies from offering incentives to students who complete credit card applications and urges the Regents to provide the UC systems with policies on on-campus marketing of credit cards to students as they relate to future contractual agreements. Signed into law by governor.

Housing

  • AB 512 (Lieber): Bill provides crucial, clearly stated protections for home loan borrowers whose primary language is Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Chinese. Expands coverage of the current foreign language requirements in two respects: in-language contracts and loan documents as well as a requirement to state specifically what type of translated mortgage loan documents must be given to borrowers prior to closing. Died in Senate Banking Committee.
  • AB 1538 (Lieu): This bill would establish Housing Trust Fund with the additional charge of providing counseling services to first-time homebuyers. Bill is initial attempt to provide California with the authority to assist homeowners facing foreclosure proceedings, particularly those related to subprime variable rate loans. Bill would authorize CHFA (California Housing Finance Agency) to refinance home loans if: 1) the original lender agrees to waive fees and penalties, 2) the buyer’s income complies with current income limits for first-time homebuyers, 3) the property is the sole residence of buyer, and 4) the borrower has participated in a housing counseling program approved by HUD. Bill would have also also establish a California Housing Trust Fund which would be allowed to accept funds from public and private sources for the purpose of assisting first-time homebuyers facing foreclosure. Died in committee.

In summary, the status of these bills and additional information on the rest of the measures monitored by Consumer Action during this final year of 2007-08 session is available on Consumer Action’s web site under Advocacy/Legislative Positions. Click on State Legislative Bills for the listing. If you have any questions about the bills listed here or any others, please click here to send an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

 

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