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California Governor Vetoes Bill Establishing Quality Standards for Sober Living Homes, Sparks Frustration and Controversy

Orange County officials in California are expressing frustration over the veto of a bill that aimed to establish quality standards for sober living homes. The Sober Living Accountability Act, championed by Assemblymember Kate Sanchez, would have required privately owned recovery residences that have contracts with county governments to meet certain criteria. This includes securing written permission from property owners, adopting a code of ethics aligned with national standards, implementing policies regarding access to medications, and ensuring the availability of naloxone. However, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the bill, stating that the requirements for privately-owned recovery residences would conflate with the existing regulations for licensed and certified addiction treatment facilities.

Sanchez, who was disappointed by the veto, plans to introduce a modified version of the bill in the next legislative session. She believes that the legislation would help prevent taxpayer dollars from going to unscrupulous sober living home operators and improve the quality of these facilities for residents and communities.

In a related development, Attorney General Rob Bonta is opposing Costa Mesa’s efforts to regulate sober living homes. The city’s regulations prohibit sex offenders, violent felons, and drug dealers from operating such homes. They also require 24/7 supervision, enforcement of no-drug and good-neighbor policies, communication with emergency contacts during problems, and adherence to distance requirements between facilities to avoid institutionalization. Costa Mesa’s rules were upheld by a federal jury in a discrimination case brought by Ohio House, a group operating sober living homes in the area. However, Ohio House has appealed the verdict, and Bonta has filed a brief in support of the appeal, arguing that the city’s ordinances violate state housing and antidiscrimination laws.

This situation raises concerns about whether cities should prioritize promoting and protecting sober living homes without enforcing quality standards. It remains to be seen how these issues will be addressed moving forward.

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