(Above): (L-r): Jessica Bartholow, Western Center on Law and Poverty; Matt Campbell, Attorney General Kamala Harris’ Office; Ted Mermin, East Bay Community Law Center; Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont); Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).
Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and representatives of consumer organizations spoke in support of the Economic Equity and Financial Stability Initiative, a three-bill package, authored by Wieckowski, to reform California’s bankruptcy and debt collection laws to help low-income families get back on their feet. A representative from Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office also attended in support of the package
“This Legislature is taking action to address the growing gap in our society caused by income inequality,” Wieckowski said. “We have approved minimum wage increases and passed an Earned Income Tax Credit. Today we stand together in support of a bill package that will bring further aid to low and middle income Californians. These three bills take another approach to fighting income inequality – all three tackle consumer debt, which is a crushing burden for many people in our state.”
SB 308 reforms bankruptcy laws to help people start over financially and to make sure they have a better chance at becoming self-sufficient.
SB 501 respects local voter-approved minimum wage ordinances and creates a tiered wage garnishment system to assist the working poor.
SB 641 allows a consumer who didn’t receive notice of a debt buyer’s lawsuit against her to file a motion to set aside a default judgment and try the case on the merits. It will help prevent consumers from having their wages garnished for debts they don’t owe.
“Too many Californians are being left out of our positive economic resurgence,” De León said. “Income inequality is real. There is no place in the country where it is starker than here in the state of California … This legislative package is intended to provide financial stability for California families still struggling to make ends meet.”
A recent study conducted by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau concluded that the CFPB has handled more complaints about debt collection than any other type of complaint for 22 consecutive months. By a wide margin, the number one complaint is continued attempts to collect debts not owed.
Senator Wieckowski, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, represents the 10th Senate District, which includes southern Alameda County and part of Santa Clara County.
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced, Aug. 26, her support for State Senator Bob Wieckowski’s Economic Equity and Financial Stability Initiative, a three-bill package to protect consumers from abusive debt buyer practices and help struggling Californians manage their personal debt and gain a fresh financial start.
“This legislation will help many Californians manage their debt without being abused,” said Attorney General Harris. “Low-wage earners fighting to pay down debt are often harmed by abusive debt collection practices that keep them from reaching financial stability. This legislation will offer consumers a path to getting their finances back on track and give them the tools to fight back against predatory practices.”
“Attorney General Harris is fearless when it comes to standing up to some of the abuses of banks and debt collectors, whose sloppy work and misconduct puts consumers in harm’s way and threatens their financial futures,” Wieckowski said. “She is a tireless fighter for consumers and I am proud to join countless working families throughout California in welcoming her support for this initiative.”
All three bills have passed the state Senate and SB 501 and SB 641 are on the Assembly floor. SB 308 is currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The bills enjoy a broad array of support from a diverse coalition of organizations ranging from AARP to labor to legal aid groups.