BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó

                             Senator Loni Hancock, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:    SB 556        Hearing Date:    April 28, 2015    
          |Author:    |De León                                              |
          |Version:   |April 6, 2015                                        |
          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
          |Consultant:|JM                                                   |
          |           |                                                     |

             Subject:  Victims of Crime:  Indemnification:  Applications


          Source:   Californian's for Safety and Justice

          Prior Legislation:                           AB 2685 (Cooley) -  
                         Ch. 508, Stats. 2014

          AB 2809 (Leno) - Ch. 587, Stats. 2008
          AB 2869 (Leno) - Ch. 582, Stats. 2006
          AB 2413 (Spitzer) - Ch. 571, Stats. 2006
          AB 105 (Cohn) - Ch. 539, Stats. 2006
          SB 972 (Poochigian) - Ch. 238, Stats. 2005
          SB 631 (McPherson) - Ch. 223, Stats. 2004
          SB 1423 (Chesbro) - Ch. 1141, Stats. 2002
          AB 2898 (Bowler) - Ch. 1077, Stats. 1996
          Support:  Unknown

          Opposition:         None known


          The purpose of this bill is to require the victims compensation  
          and Government Claims Board (the "board") to 1) annually post on  
          its website progress and current average time of processing  


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          applications, the number of incomplete applications received and  
          the number of applications approved and denied; and 2) define  
          "time processing applications" as the period of time that begins  
          with the date the board receives an application and ends when a  
          decision to approve or deny the application has been made and  
          notice sent to the applicant.
          Existing law establishes the Victims Compensation and Government  
          Claims Board (VCGCB or board) to operate the California Victim  
          Compensation Program (CalVCP).  (Gov. Code 
          §§ 13950 et. seq.)  

          Existing law provides than an application for compensation shall  
          be filed with VCGCB in the manner determined by the board.   
          (Gov. Code § 13952, subd.(a).)

          Existing law provides that the board shall approve or deny  
          applications within an average of 90 calendar days and no later  
          than 180 from "of acceptance" of the application by the board or  
          victim center.

                 The board shall report quarterly to the Legislature  
               until it has met the time requirements for two consecutive  
                 If the board does not approve or deny a claim within  
               "180 days of the date it is accepted," the board advises  
               the applicant in writing of the reasons for the failure to  
               rule on the application.  (Gov. Code § 13958.)

          This bill requires the board to annually post on its website the  
                 Progress and current average time of processing  
                 The number of incomplete applications received; and
                 The number of approved and denied applications.

          This bill defines "time processing applications" as the period  
          of time that begins with the date the board receives and  
          application and ends when a decision to approve or deny the  
          application has been made and notice sent to the applicant.



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          For the past eight years, this Committee has scrutinized  
          legislation referred to its jurisdiction for any potential  
          impact on prison overcrowding.  Mindful of the United States  
          Supreme Court ruling and federal court orders relating to the  
          state's ability to provide a constitutional level of health care  
          to its inmate population and the related issue of prison  
          overcrowding, this Committee has applied its "ROCA" policy as a  
          content-neutral, provisional measure necessary to ensure that  
          the Legislature does not erode progress in reducing prison  

          On February 10, 2014, the federal court ordered California to  
          reduce its in-state adult institution population to 137.5% of  
          design capacity by February 28, 2016, as follows:   

                 143% of design bed capacity by June 30, 2014;
                 141.5% of design bed capacity by February 28, 2015; and,
                 137.5% of design bed capacity by February 28, 2016. 

          In February of this year the administration reported that as "of  
          February 11, 2015, 112,993 inmates were housed in the State's 34  
          adult institutions, which amounts to 136.6% of design bed  
          capacity, and 8,828 inmates were housed in out-of-state  
          facilities.  This current population is now below the  
          court-ordered reduction to 137.5% of design bed capacity."(  
          Defendants' February 2015 Status Report In Response To February  
          10, 2014 Order, 2:90-cv-00520 KJM DAD PC, 3-Judge Court, Coleman  
          v. Brown, Plata v. Brown (fn. omitted).

          While significant gains have been made in reducing the prison  
          population, the state now must stabilize these advances and  
          demonstrate to the federal court that California has in place  
          the "durable solution" to prison overcrowding "consistently  
          demanded" by the court.  (Opinion Re: Order Granting in Part and  
          Denying in Part Defendants' Request For Extension of December  
          31, 2013 Deadline, NO. 2:90-cv-0520 LKK DAD (PC), 3-Judge Court,  
          Coleman v. Brown, Plata v. Brown (2-10-14).  The Committee's  
          consideration of bills that may impact the prison population  
          therefore will be informed by the following questions:

                 Whether a proposal erodes a measure which has  
               contributed to reducing the prison population;
                 Whether a proposal addresses a major area of public  
               safety or criminal activity for which there is no other  


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               reasonable, appropriate remedy;
                 Whether a proposal addresses a crime which is directly  
               dangerous to the physical safety of others for which there  
               is no other reasonably appropriate sanction; 
                 Whether a proposal corrects a constitutional problem or  
               legislative drafting error; and
                 Whether a proposal proposes penalties which are  
               proportionate, and cannot be achieved through any other  
               reasonably appropriate remedy.


          1.Need for This Bill

          According to the author:

               Through the California Victim Compensation Program  
               (CalVCP), California has been helping victims by  
               covering the cost of bills and expenses resulting from  
               certain violent crimes.  Many times, these expenses  
               include medical treatment, mental health services, and  
               lost income.  A person seeking assistance must first  
               submit an application to the program to determine  
               eligibility.  For various reasons, however, some  
               applications get held up in the process for extended  
               lengths of time, leaving many eligible victims stuck  
               with paying bills out of pocket or otherwise unable to  
               receive treatment or services.

               To curb delays, starting in 2003 the Legislature  
               required that CalVCP approve or deny applications  
               within an average of 90 day, but no later than 180  
               days, and required the program to report back to the  
               Legislature whenever the 90-day-average standard was  
               not being met.  In 2004, the board overseeing CalVCP  
               changed the method of calculating the processing time  
               by starting the period only when it accepts a  
               completed application and not including the length of  
               time an application was submitted as incomplete.  The  
               current method used by CalVCP is not a true reflection  
               of how long it takes the program to process  
               applications and may be masking a problem of lengthy  


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               processing times that hinders crime victims in their  
               efforts in rehabilitation and moving on with their  

          2.Purpose and History of the Victims of Crime Program (VCP)

          The victims' compensation program was created in 1965, the first  
          such program in the country.  VCGCB provides compensation for  
          victims of violent crime.  It reimburses eligible victims for  
          many crime-related expenses.  Funding for the board comes from  
          restitution fines and penalty assessments paid by criminal  
          offenders, as well as federal matching funds.  

          The other core function of the board is to review claims against  
          the state and request payment of claims by the Legislature in  
          annual legislation.  A person must present a claim for damages  
          against the state to the board before filing a lawsuit. 

          3.Audit of the VCP

          The Bureau of State Audit (BSA) report in 2008 included the  
          following highlights:

                 From fiscal years 2001-02 through 2004-05, program  
               compensation payments decreased from $123.9 million to  
               $61.6 million - a 50 percent decline.  Despite the  
               significant decline in payments, the costs to support the  
               program increased.

                 Administrative costs make up a significant portion of  
               the Restitution Fund disbursements - ranging from 26  
               percent to 42 percent annually.

                 The program did not always process applications and  
               bills as promptly or efficiently as it could have.  Board  
               staff took longer than 180 days to process applications in  
               two instances out of 49, and longer than 90 days to pay  
               bills for 23 of 77 paid bills.

                 The board did not adequately investigate alternative  
               sources of funding for victim reimbursement, such as  
               insurance and public aid.

                 The program's numerous problems with the transition to a  


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               new application and bill processing system led to a  
               reported increase in complaints regarding delays in  
               processing applications and bills.

                 Some payments in CaRES appeared to be erroneous.   
               Although board staff provided explanations for the  
               erroneous payments, the fact that they were unaware of  
               these items indicated an absence of controls that would  
               prevent erroneous payments.

                 The board lacks the necessary system documentation for  

                 There are no benchmarks, performance measures, or formal  
               written procedures for workload management.

          In 2010, BSA found that the program had partially corrected five  
          of the problems noted in the audit and corrected five others.   
          The BSA urged the board to continue correcting the problems  
          noted in the report.  For example:

                 The board reduced administrative costs, but processing  
               times for claims had increased.

                 The board increased collections, but it had not  
               determined whether outreach programs had been successful  
               and satisfaction with the program had increased.  

                 The board implemented better training program for  
               employees who examined claims submitted by crime victims.

                 The board developed an inventory monitoring system and  
               set performance benchmarks.  The monitoring should improve  
               identification and understanding of eligibility  

                 Board training does include an emphasis on alternative  
               funding sources.

                 The board did complete a chapter on appeals of denials  
               in its manual.

                 The board did improve its use of the CaRES computer  
               system.  However, claims were still more quickly processed  


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               in the local agencies with which the board contracts.

          It appears that the BSA has not issued a progress report or  
          update on the program since 2010.


          1.Legislative Analyst's Report  

          As noted in the author's statement, the Legislative Analyst  
          issued a report on the board.  LAO did recommend major changes  
          to the entire program.  At this point, a bill has not been  
          introduced to implement the LAO recommendations. It does appear  
          that changes made in this bill to the existing operation of the  
          program could be integrated into any reorganization of the board  
          and its functions.


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