Senate Committee Defeats Bates' Bill to Empower Locals to Regulate Sober Living Homes

Related Legislation Supported by Bates Advances in Assembly
Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Senate Health Committee this evening defeated Senate Bill 1283 by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) that would have allowed a city or county to craft health and safety standards for sober living homes. The bill received only two "aye" votes out of the nine member committee. Six members abstained with one voting against.

“It’s disappointing that the Senate Health Committee did not heed the voices of thousands of residents concerned about the proliferation of sober living homes in their communities,” said Bates. “The failure of some of these homes to meet the needs of their residents and ensure a decent standard of care demands a solution. The least the Legislature can do is empower local governments to take additional steps to ensure these homes and surrounding communities are safe.”

SB 1283 would have authorized a city or county to adopt health and safety standards for structured sober living homes that comply with state and federal housing laws and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. A structured sober living home is a place that provides alcohol-free or drug-free housing and provides structured activities for a group of unrelated adults who are recovering from drug or alcohol addiction.

This measure is modeled after legislation that recently advanced in the Arizona Legislature. SB 1283 specifies that an ordinance authorized under these provisions shall include, but not be limited to:

  • mandatory registration requirements, including the name and address of the home, the owner’s name, address, and contact telephone number, and a copy of the lease;
  • in-home supervision requirements for the residents; and
  • an operating plan that addresses maintenance of the property and noise abatement.

The proliferation of unlicensed and unregulated sober living homes has created concerns in many communities statewide. Group homes, including alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facilities, are licensed by the state. Sober living homes that do not provide services that alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facilities provide are not licensed by the state. Some local governments have adopted ordinances, but protracted and expensive litigation has created uncertainty.

Legislators have also authored three other bills this year to address sober living homes. Yesterday, the Assembly Health Committee approved two of those measures:

  • AB 2255 by Assembly Member Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) would allow cities and counties to require drug and alcohol free residences to be certified under operating standards, and allow them to monitor those residences through a good neighbor policy that addresses neighborhood concerns and complaints. The California Department of Health Care Services would be authorized to investigate complaints, and to impose sanctions and commence disciplinary actions, including revocation of the certification of a residence as a drug and alcohol free residence. Bates is a co-author of this measure.
  • AB 2403 by Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) would allow cities and counties to request the denial of a new alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facility license, and would authorize the California Department of Health Care Services to deny a license if its proximity to an existing facility would result in overconcentration. Bates supports this bill.

Both AB 2255 and AB 2403 will head to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for its consideration.

The third bill in the Assembly, AB 2772 by Assembly Member Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar), would have required a person who has to participate in a drug treatment program to seek treatment only from a treatment facility licensed by the California Department of Health Care Services. The Assembly Public Safety Committee rejected the bill on a partisan vote yesterday. Bates was a co-author of that measure.

Bates remarked, “While I wanted to see a different outcome for my legislation today that would have empowered locals, there is hope that the Legislature could take some steps this year to provide oversight for sober living homes. If enacted, the legislation by Assembly Members Melendez and Bloom would be an improvement over the status quo.”