Administration of Justice End-of-Session Bill Roundup
September 16, 2021
Both chambers of the Legislature adjourned before 9 p.m. last Friday night, bringing an end to the 2021 session. Following is an update on major bills of interest or concern for the Administration of Justice policy area that are now among the 800+ bills awaiting action by Governor Gavin Newsom. CSAC staff will continue to monitor and advocate for County priorities during the signing period, which ends October 10, 2021.
The top three priorities for the CSAC Administration of Justice policy area this year were criminal justice fines and fees, bail, and juvenile justice. Below is a summary of the most noteworthy legislation in each of these areas.
SB 586 (Bradford), in its original form, would have eliminated 67 criminal justice-related fines and fees. The measure aimed to reduce the disproportionate impact that the current system of criminal justice fines and fees has on low-income individuals. However, the bill did not provide sustainable backfill funding to counties and essentially would have shifted the fiscal burden for core programs and services from court-involved individuals to the counties.
Late last week, SB 586 was “gutted and amended” on the Assembly Floor as the negotiations to finalize another round of fee repeals were fully shifted to the budget process. SB 586 transitioned into a smaller scope AB/SB 177 which effective January 1, 2022, would eliminate 17 administrative criminal fees; make past debt for these fees uncollectible; and allocate backfill funding to counties for the associated loss of revenue from these fee repeals. In 2021-22, the backfill will total $25 million for counties. In 2022-23 and ongoing, the backfill will increase to $50 million for counties. Given the inclusion of this funding, CSAC submitted a letter of support for this legislation. AB/SB 177 also indicates the Legislature’s intent to pursue additional legislation by March 1, 2022, to finalize the funding allocation methodology for distribution. CSAC will continue conversations with stakeholders and share further information as it is available. AB 177 passed off of the Senate floor and is awaiting action from the Governor.
SB 262 (Hertzberg) would require the Judicial Council, by January 1, 2023, to adopt a statewide bail schedule for criminal offenses. The bill also specifies that if the court sets money bail, the court shall conduct an inquiry into the arrestee’s ability to pay and shall make a finding that the arrestee has the present ability to pay the amount of monetary bail without substantial hardship. Lastly, the bill requires the court to order a return of money or property paid to a bail bond company under specified circumstances, including when the individual makes all court appearances in a criminal case charged in connection with the arrest. SB 262 was moved to the inactive file as the author decided to postpone working on the measure until 2022.
SB 493 (Bradford) would have redirected 95 percent of existing county Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA) funds away from county probation departments and to Community Based Organizations or non-law enforcement departments. The bill would have also revised the composition of local Juvenile Justice Coordinating Councils and recast various elements of required multiagency juvenile justice plans. CSAC, UCC, and RCRC were strongly opposed to SB 493 as it would have inappropriately decimated a constitutionally protected funding stream at a time when counties are assuming vast new responsibilities on the juvenile justice continuum (SB 823, 2020; SB 92 2021). This measure was a top oppose for counties with CSAC closely partnering with county affiliates. SB 493 did not move forward in the legislative process.