SACRAMENTO – The California Low-Income Consumer Coalition (“CLICC”), launched this year, is already at work keeping the interests of low-income consumers front and center in policy debates in Sacramento. When legislators are debating bills that would change debt collection practices in the state, or would make it easier to offer predatory payday loans, or would remove safeguards on used car sales, they hear from industry and other “experts” – but too often they don’t hear from the people whom the laws would actually affect.
That’s about to change. Eleven legal services and advocacy groups from across the state have come together to speak as one on behalf of those vulnerable Californians.
According to Ted Mermin, CLICC’s founder, low-income Californians are too often left out of discussions that will directly affect their financial well-being. “Poor people get plenty of attention from predatory lenders,” Mermin says, “but not enough from the legislature.”
That’s why CLICC has turned to established public interest lobbyist Jith Meganathan to lead its advocacy work in the Capitol. Meganathan worked for five years on behalf of low-income consumers at Central California Legal Services in the heart of the Central Valley before joining the Western Center on Law & Poverty, where he continues to represent low-income tenants on housing policy.
CLICC’s members have had some notable legislative successes in recent years, including the Fair Debt Buying Practices Act, laws easing wage garnishment and default judgments, and last year’s AB2819 (Chiu), which relieved tenants of the Kafkaesque burden of having an eviction proceeding show up on their credit reports even if they won the case, unless that victory was officially entered within 60 days of receiving the eviction notice. Informal coalitions helped get those bills through. Now those groups are making it formal.
Meganathan praises the Coalition. “This is a dedicated group of legal services organizations from all around the state,” he says, “and I could not be prouder to represent them in the Capitol.”
Coalition members include Bet Tzedek Legal Services and Public Counsel in Los Angeles, the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley, the Public Law Center in Orange County, Riverside Legal Aid, the Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino, Watsonville Legal Aid, the Justice & Diversity Center in San Francisco, the Center for Responsible Lending in Oakland, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley in San Jose, and Centro Legal de la Raza.