Legislature Recesses for 2015

After midnight on Friday, September 11, the Legislature wrapped up its work for the first half of the 2015-16 legislative session. As usual, both houses saved the most hotly debated bills for the final weeks, with the most controversial being voted on as the clock neared and passed midnight.

In all, the Legislature sent 250 bills to Governor Brown in the last two weeks of session. Now he has until October 11 to sign, veto or take “no action” (in which case the bill becomes law).

To date, 1,217 bills have been sent to Governor Brown; he has signed 538 and vetoed 10, and 669 remain to be dispensed with. In addition, 1,167 bills have been made two-year bills, to be revisited when the Legislature returns on January 4.

Over the next month, Governor Brown has some significant issues to ponder: Californians’ right to choose how they end their life, workers’ right to sick leave and how our state can combat global warming. He will also be making decisions on many of the priority issues facing law enforcement today, including racial profiling and regulating medical marijuana.

Below is a brief recap of PORAC’s priority legislation. We will give another update next month after Governor Brown has taken his actions.

Sponsored Bills

AB 1072 by Assembly Member Tom Daly (D-Anaheim): Relief and benefit associations were created to provide help to survivors of deceased peace officers and firefighters through a charity-type mechanism wherein fellow peace officers and firefighters provided monies to the surviving families. These associations have evolved to provide valuable long-term disability coverage, long-term care coverage and other types of health and welfare plan coverage for their eligible members. This coverage is not available to the general public and is generally designated to address the needs of peace officers and firefighters specifically. Under current law, if an association has a “certificate of authority” and complies with minimum membership requirements, it generally will not be subject to oversight by the insurance commissioner. AB 1072 requires an association that holds a certificate of authority to submit to the commissioner an opinion of a qualified actuary as to whether the reserves and related actuarial items that support the policies or contracts issued are based on assumptions that satisfy contractual provisions, consistent with prior reported amounts and based on specified actuarial standards and procedures. PORAC is the co-sponsor of this legislation, with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the California State Firefighters’ Association.

SB 292 by Senator Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento): This bill clarifies an issue that came to PORAC’s attention subsequent to the enactment of the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act (PEPRA) on January 1, 2013. A section in the PEPRA calls for all new employees, and by 2018 most current employees, to contribute 50% of their “normal cost.” Normal cost is the basic cost of providing an employee’s future retirement benefit, not including unfunded liabilities or surpluses. Approximately two dozen cities and one county have a system wherein voters approved a tax to fund their local retirement obligations. The pension levies pay for both the employer and employee contributions out of their respective funds, thereby allowing that city or county’s general fund to be used in other areas important to that jurisdiction. The Governor’s stated intent for the passage of PEPRA was in large part to save employer cost for increasing pension obligations. Unfortunately, the PEPRA section mandating increased employee contributions will have the opposite effect for the cities and county impacted by Senate Bill 292. PORAC is co-sponsoring this legislation with the California Professional Firefighters.

SB 303 by Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego): This bill changes the cannabis evidence storage requirement to two pounds and five random samples. Currently, California law states that a law enforcement agency must store 10 pounds and five random samples of seized cannabis. This requirement has become a burden on agencies and evidence storage locations, as evidence lockers were not built to house such large quantities of marijuana. This bill will simply reduce the cannabis storage requirement to a more sustainable quantity, without interfering with the defendant’s evidence rights. PORAC is the sponsor of this bill.

Actively Supported Bills

SB 175 by Senator Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar): This bill would have required each department or agency that employs peace officers and elects to require them to wear body-worn cameras to develop a policy relating to the cameras’ use. Included in these policies, at a minimum, would be:

  1. The duration, time and place that body-worn cameras shall be worn and operational
  2. The length of time video collected by officers will be stored by the department or agency
  3. The procedures for, and limitations on, public access to recordings taken by body-worn cameras, in accordance with the California Public Records Act
  4. The process for accessing and reviewing recorded data, including but not limited to the persons authorized to access data and the circumstances in which recorded data may be reviewed
  5. The training that will be provided on the use of body-worn cameras

PORAC supported SB 175 from its inception throughout the entire legislative process, where it received no “No” votes. However, when the bill came up for a final vote on the Senate floor during the last weeks of session, a handful of legislators testified in opposition to the bill, stating that it did not go far enough in implementing and regulating body cameras. It appears that, to these legislators, no body camera legislation would be better than a legislative framework for body camera policies in California. PORAC will continue to work with Senator Huff during the next session to create body camera legislation that will protect officers and those they serve, while providing transparency in policing.

SB 643 by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), AB 266 by Assembly Member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and AB 243 by Assembly Member Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg): These are the three bill packages of medical marijuana legislation approved by both houses of the Legislature during the final days of session. PORAC’s leadership and our advocacy team have been in negotiations regarding regulating California’s medical marijuana problem for years. After dozens of meetings with stakeholders, policymakers and the Brown administration, these bills have created a statutory framework for every aspect of medical marijuana, from seed to sale.

Actively Opposed Bills

AB 953 by Assembly Member Shirley Weber (D-San Diego): This bill redefines racial profiling, changes the current training through the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) requirements, creates an advisory board to oversee profiling policies and practices and provide recommendations, and creates a system for collecting and analyzing data on law enforcement–community interactions.

PORAC officers pride themselves on the fact that all stops are made justly and for probable cause. Officers are rigorously trained by POST, which includes thorough training on racial profiling. In addition, officers have already been compiling, for many years now, most of the information set forth in AB 953, including race, ethnicity, gender, age, reason for stop, result of stop, whether the vehicle was searched and if so why, etc. The additional information required will take much more of the officer’s time and result in less service to the public. PORAC has actively opposed this measure since its introduction, as it would have required peace officers to profile citizens more than any time in the history of the state. After months of negotiations with the author’s office and stakeholders, the bill has been substantially amended to remove many of the characteristics required in the report. However, it is still a costly and overburdensome approach.

SB 443 by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles): This bill would have effectively eliminated California asset seizure income by creating obstacles in the Federal Shared Asset Program. Specifically, if California officers are involved in a joint task force with federal law enforcement officers and federal agencies are subsequently successful in seizing assets, California law enforcement would no longer receive any of the proceeds. The bill was sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Institute for Justice. While the bill enjoyed bipartisan support throughout much of the legislative process, PORAC stepped in during the last week of session to educate members on the negative impacts it would have on law enforcement throughout the state. PORAC leadership and our advocates were able to stall the bill during its final vote on the Assembly floor.