Legislature Returns From Summer Recess

Aaron Read and
Randy Perry

Legislative Advocates

Aaron Read & Associates, LLC

 

On Monday, August 17, legislators returned from the summer recess and after a month off, they are hitting the ground running. The final month of the first year of the 2015-16 legislative session ends on Friday, September 11. This means that the Legislature has until midnight on September 11 to pass all bills out of both houses, at which time they are enrolled and Governor Brown has 30 days to sign, veto or take no action (in which case the bill will become law).

Over the break, legislators returned to their respective districts to handle local issues, while also lobbying their bills to pass out of Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committees, the final step before bills are heard on the floor and sent to the Governor or held for the year. Fiscal committees have until August 28 to meet on bills, giving them two weeks to pass off the floor.

The last month of session is always a wild ride, and we expect this year to be no different. While there are rules governing the amount of time a bill must be available for public view after being amended, and no bills may be sent back to policy committees (that deadline was July 17), there are ways to work around these rules, as we have seen every year in memory.

Our team continues to monitor bills for amendments every day, and we will keep you in the loop as the session draws to a close. Be sure to check www.porac.org for any important bill alerts, which can be found at the bottom of the home page.

SB 227 (Mitchell): Grand Juries

During the recess, Governor Brown took action on dozens of bills that reached his desk before the break. One such bill is SB 227 by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles).

SB 227 prohibits a grand jury from inquiring into an offense or misconduct that involves a shooting or use of excessive force by a peace officer that led to the death of a person being detained or arrested by the peace officer, unless the offense was declared to the grand jury by one of its members.

In the wake of the incidents in Ferguson and New York, many states have introduced legislation to update the process by which officer-involved shootings are handled. Senator Mitchell explained that she introduced this bill to increase accountability and transparency in officer-involved shootings.

While we understand that the scrutiny surrounding grand juries has reached a fever pitch over the last year, PORAC joined the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) in opposing SB 227. California’s rules regarding grand juries are already fairer than anywhere else in the country.

After careful consideration of all legislative priorities this year, PORAC leadership made the decision to let the CDAA take the lead on opposition to SB 227, as grand juries are their jurisdiction. This year, issues such as body cameras, police oversight and use-of-force reporting are on the top of PORAC’s priority list, and while grand juries are important, it was clear from the beginning that the overwhelming public and legislative support for SB 227 could not be overcome.

As was expected, SB 227 passed out of the policy committees and floors of both houses in a nearly unanimous bipartisan vote.

PORAC will continue to work with the CDAA on next steps as this legislation becomes law.

Reed/DeMaio Pension Initiative

As you read in our article last month, the former San Jose Mayor and former San Diego City Council Member are back at it again, introducing the so-called Voter Empowerment Act, a statewide initiative to gut current and future public employee pensions.

In early August, California Attorney General Kamala Harris released her title and summary of the initiative. While the summary is fair, we can’t help but notice that AG Harris left out specific mention of peace officers, firefighters, nurses and teachers. While the statement accurately reflects the aim of the initiative as a backdoor route to repealing constitutionally vested retirement and health care rights, the short summary does
not go nearly far enough in explaining the potentially devastating consequences this initiative would have on retirement security for public safety employees, as well as all public employees.

Our team is working with Marketplace Communications to formulate a strong message against this sweeping and ill-conceived initiative. We will be sharing message points with you in the coming months, but until that time, please remind your families, friends and colleagues not to sign any initiative mentioning public employee pensions. Make sure that they get the facts and do not buy into the hype.

Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.