San Diego (Again) Bans Sleeping in Cars

A homeless person sleeps on a beach near the Ocean Beach Pier in San Diego.

A homeless person sleeps on a beach near the Ocean Beach Pier in San Diego. Gregory Bull/AP

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Seminole Tribe stops casino payments to Florida … Texas moves to make internet more accessible in rural areas … Wisconsin passes crime victim rights bill.

Just months after voting to repeal a 1983 ban on people sleeping in cars, the San Diego City Council voted to re-establish the prohibition following a community outcry. The ban prevents people from living or sleeping in their cars wherever overnight parking is restricted, including in front of businesses, on city streets, and near the beach. The city had a similar ban on record from 1983, which was challenged by a class-action lawsuit claiming it was discriminatory. Last August, a federal  judge blocked enforcement of the ban, and the city council repealed it in February. A San Diego attorney who represents homeless people in court, Coleen Cusack, said the ban was too vague. “Imagine being told as a human being that you’re going to be charged with a crime because people that make more money than you think you make the city look dirty or ugly,” Cusack said. A month after the repeal, Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposed reinstating it, citing hundreds of complaints from city residents. The new ban is meant to help the homeless, while not endorsing "conduct that takes advantage of San Diego’s generosity and destroys the quality of life in our communities," Faulconer said. The ban is part of a broader plan to include a "safe parking program" that would allow homeless people to park their cars in designated lots overnight. Homeless rights activists, including Ann Menasche, who led the class action lawsuit that challenged the previous ban, are now debating whether to sue again. “This isn’t exactly what I would call a conciliatory gesture on the part of the city. If this issue comes before the court again, we can strike multiple holes into this ordinance as unconstitutional and discriminatory,” Menasche said. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported the law will take effect immediately because it is an emergency measure.  [News 7 San Diego; Courthouse News Service; Monterey County Weekly]

CASINO PAYMENT | The Seminole Tribe, which owns casinos throughout Florida, halted its $350 million annual casino fee to the state due to a dispute over gaming regulations. The tribe noted that they will not pay any fees to the state until the issues surrounding card banking and sports betting are resolved. The move wasn’t a surprise to lawmakers. Florida Senate President Bill Galvano removed the revenue from the state’s budget in March in anticipation of this decision, as “the Tribe made it clear that payments would end after [the legislative] session.” Tribal Council Chairman Marcellus Osceola said that “the Tribe and the State have enjoyed a good relationship and we are hopeful that we will be able to reach an agreement that will strengthen that relationship for many years to come.” But the Democratic representative whose district includes the Seminole Tribe’s headquarters was less forgiving. “This falls at the feet of [state] leadership. When you treat someone very poorly over that period of time, eventually it’s going to come to a point of no return,” said Rep. Evan Jenne. [Tampa Bay Times; South Florida Sun Sentinel]

BROADBAND ACCESS | Texas lawmakers passed a bill that could make it easier for rural residents to access broadband. Senate Bill 14 is the first bill regarding rural internet passed in Texas in over a decade, and allows cooperatives to deliver broadband and hang fiber cable in hard-to-reach areas of the state. State Sen. Robert Nichols, the bill’s author, hopes to help the 1.8 million Texans without internet, but recognizes that reaching people in rural areas will be difficult. “You’re dealing with 20 to 25 percent of the population of the state but you’re dealing with 70 percent of the geography,” he said. There are several other internet-related bills under consideration with the state legislature right now, including one that would set up a broadband commission, aligning Texas with the 34 other states who have one. Jordanna Barton, a researcher with the Federal Reserve, still thinks that Texas is lagging behind. “I think the new proposal to have a broadband council and the other bills mentioned are progress, but many states have had broadband councils. So we are behind, and we are in a special place in history,” Barton said. [KERA News; Texas Public Radio]

VICTIMS’ RIGHTS | The Wisconsin legislature voted to pass a constitutional amendment that would secure crime victim rights in legal proceedings. The measure now has to be approved by voters, and again by a second session of the legislature. Under what has been dubbed “Marsy’s Law,” victims have the right to speak at plea, parole, and revocation proceedings, and can refuse to interview with defense attorneys or participate in depositions. Christina Traub, who survived a violent crime in 2015, spoke in support of the measure. "Why does [my attacker] deserve rights that are backed by the Wisconsin state constitution and I do not," she said. The ACLU argued against the law, saying that a defendant’s rights are designed to prevent abuses by the government, and therefore cannot be equated with a victim’s rights, which are one individual’s rights against another. “Victims deserve to be protected and consulted during criminal proceedings. But adjustments to our current robust protections should be done through statutory provisions and without overburdening our criminal justice system and undermining defendants’ constitutional rights,” the ACLU said in a testimony. Marsy’s Law is part of a nationwide initiative to pass similar legislation started by Henry Nichloas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corporation, whose sister was murdered in California in 1983. [Wisconsin Public Radio; Minneapolis Star Tribune]

FACIAL RECOGNITION | San Francisco has officially banned city use of facial recognition technology following a 8-1 vote by the Board of Supervisors. This makes it the first major city in the U.S. to do so. Aaron Peskin, who sponsored the bill, said, “I think part of San Francisco being the real and perceived headquarters for all things tech also comes with a responsibility for its local legislators...to regulate the excesses of technology.” The ban is forward-looking, as police in the city do not currently use the technology, but the Police Officers Association opposed it on the grounds that it could prove useful in the future. “Although we understand that it’s not a 100 percent accurate technology yet, it’s still evolving. I think it has been successful in at least providing leads to criminal investigators,” said Tony Montoya, the president of the association. [New York Times; San Francisco Chronicle]

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