SACRAMENTO, Calif. -
Homeless people would be allowed to sit, sleep and panhandle in public under a bill that passed a legislative committee on Tuesday, even as some lawmakers cited concerns about its potential effect on local governments.
The measure from Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, says every person has a right to use public spaces, regardless of housing status.
However, in recent years, several cities concerned about the number of people on the streets have passed local ordinances banning them from sitting and lying on streets and sidewalks. The cities include San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and Palo Alto.
Ammiano's so-called "Homeless Bill of Rights" prohibits police from enforcing ordinances regarding resting in public places unless a county has provided sufficient support to homeless people. AB5 also requires state government to pay for creating local "hygiene centers" with restrooms and showers open 24 hours a day.
"Citations, arrests and jail time do not solve homelessness," he told the committee. "They just route crucial public dollars that could be spent on housing to an already impacted court and corrections system."
Local governments and business groups oppose the legislation, saying it would lead to costly mandates and lawsuits. In particular, opponents said the provision limiting whether police could enforce ordinances was unfair to cities because county governments are responsible for managing public housing waiting lists and providing cash assistance.
"We have no control over what services the county does or does not provide," said Kirstin Kolpitcke, of the League of California Cities.
The bill passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee on a 7-2 vote, with Republican Assemblymen Donald Wagner and Brian Maienschein opposing.
It must be approved by at least one other committee before possibly going to the full Assembly.
Similar legislation was approved last year in Rhode Island.