Assembly Approves Bill Giving Hate-Crimes Protection to Homeless Victims

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homeless rights billLegislators on Tuesday approved Assembly Bill 312, by Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, during a morning hearing in the state Capitol. The bill gives homeless people the right to invoke hate-crimes protection when suing an assailant in civil court.

“Tragically, California has the highest rate of violence against homeless people in the country,” Lowenthal told the committee. “AB 312 raises the stakes without adding additional strain to our law enforcement or our corrections systems.”

Lowenthal, whose previous homeless’ rights measure was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, likened her bill to the Americans with Disabilities Act, because, like the ADA, it would be enforced exclusively by lawsuit. It adds homelessness to a list of characteristics or circumstances that qualify for enhanced civil judgments in cases in which a person is attacked because of that characteristic.

“It forces the bullies and thugs to pay the cost of keeping themselves in check,” Lowenthal told the committee, underscoring the fact that her bill would not add pressure to the state’s troubled general fund.

John Kraintz, a formerly homeless man and a community organizer, spoke in support of the bill, telling lawmakers: “Homeless people are being used for target practice.”

Paula Lomazzi, director of the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee, said the bill would “send a strong message that violence against homeless people is unacceptable in our society.”

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