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Legislature Approves Bill to Expand Tax Exemption for Veterans With “100 Percent” Disabilities

Senate Also Sends Bipartisan Bill to Combat “Ransomware” plus DUI Ignition Interlock Bill to Governor Brown

Sacramento CA— The California State Senate unanimously approved on Thursday, Senate Bill 1458 by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) that would expand eligibility for the state’s property tax exemption to military veterans who previously did not qualify. The State Assembly unanimously approved the bill on August 18. It will next go to Governor Jerry Brown for his consideration.

“I am pleased that Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature approved my bill to help veterans with 100 percent disabilities,” said Bates. “This bill is about tax fairness for veterans and I am hopeful Governor Brown will sign the bill into law.”

Senate Bill 1458 is sponsored by Board of Equalization Member George Runner and is part of the Senate Republican “Make California Affordable” bill package.

The bill makes California law consistent with federal law so that any veteran receiving service-connected disability benefits at 100 percent will be eligible to receive the state’s disabled veterans’ property tax exemption on their home. While some veterans have received a 100 percent disability rating from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, they are unable to qualify for California’s disabled veterans’ property tax exemption because they did not receive an Honorable Discharge, which California law requires.

Bates and numerous veterans groups believe a 100 percent disabled veteran should qualify for the state property tax exemption as long as they did not receive a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge, and if they qualify for existing federal disability compensation benefits.

California’s Board of Equalization has said that SB 1458 would result in an annual property tax revenue loss of $127,000 for every 100 newly-qualified disabled veterans. While the number of people who could benefit from the bill is unknown, Bates believes that any minor revenue loss to the state is significantly outweighed by the sacrifices made by veterans with 100 percent disabilities.

SB 1458 is supported by veterans’ organizations including: the American G. I. Forum of California; AMVETS-Department of California; American Legion-Department of California; California Association of County Veteran Service Officers; VFW-Department of California; and Vietnam Veterans of America, California State Council.

Ransomware

Also on Thursday, the California State Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1137 authored by Democratic Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and co-authored by Republican Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) and others that would make “ransomware” the criminal equivalent of extortion. It would be a crime punishable by up to four years in jail. The Assembly approved the bill on Tuesday and will next go to Governor Jerry Brown for his consideration.

“With cyber-attacks becoming more frequent, it’s important to update the law to give state law enforcement every tool they need to combat ransomware,” said Bates. “I applaud Senator Hertzberg for his bipartisan leadership on this issue and am hopeful Governor Brown will sign the bill into law in the near future.”

Ransomware involves infecting a user’s computer with a virus that locks it until a ransom is paid. Senate Bill 1137 would define “ransomware” in state law and make it a crime to introduce it into any computer, system or network. The range of punishment (up to four years imprisonment) is equivalent to the punishment under current law for extortion.

Earlier this year, the Orange County Transportation Authority spent $660,000 to fix servers that were held for ransom by unknown hackers. In another case, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid a $17,000 ransom in bitcoin to a hacker who seized control of the hospital’s computer systems and would give back access only when the money was paid. In addition, computer systems at two Southern California hospitals were held hostage by hackers after being hit with ransomware. While patient records were not compromised, such attacks have become more common and more brazen.

Last year’s 2,453 reports of ransomware hackings to the FBI totaled a reported loss of $24.1 million, making up nearly one-third of the complaints over the past decade. They also represented 41 percent of the $57.6 million in reported losses since 2005.

SB 1137 is supported by TechNet, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, California State Sheriffs’ Association, California Police Chiefs Association and other organizations.

DUI Ignition Interlock

The California State Senate unanimously approved bipartisan legislation written by Democratic Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties) and co-authored by Republican Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) and others that would expand California’s pilot program for ignition interlock devices statewide, requiring all convicted DUI offenders to use them.

“The Legislature sent a powerful message today that California should increase the use of life-saving ignition interlock devices,” said Bates. “I commend Senator Jerry Hill for his steadfast leadership on this issue and we hope that Governor Brown will sign the bipartisan bill into law in the near future.”

Ignition interlock devices are currently required for DUI offenders in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare counties. The devices test the breath of a driver and prevent a car from starting if the driver has been drinking. Senate Bill 1046 would expand the use of ignition interlock devices to all 58 California counties. According to a recent Mothers Against Drug Driving (MADD) study, these devices have prevented more than 1 million attempts to drink and drive in California between 2010 and 2015.

SB 1046 will next go to the governor for his consideration. The Assembly unanimously approved the bill on Tuesday.

Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) represents the 36th Senate District in the California Legislature, which covers South Orange County, North San Diego County and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.