Aaron Read and
Aaron Read & Associates, LLC
The first half of the 2015-16 legislative session drew to a close at midnight on October 11, the constitutional deadline for Governor Brown to sign, veto or take no action on all legislation that made it to his desk. As we have reported in previous months, the Legislature debated dozens of hot-button issues this year, including many related to public safety.
Bills signed by Governor Brown will become law on January 1, 2016.
Out team at ARA would like to thank PORAC’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee for their input throughout the year on such a wide range of issues. Many of the bills would have had a significant impact on the day-to-day activities of law enforcement, and because of the efforts of your leadership, especially PORAC President Mike Durant, we were able to keep the most egregious legislation from making it to the Governor’s desk.
Below is a summary of all of PORAC’s sponsored, actively supported and actively opposed legislation.
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.
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. AB 1072 was signed by Governor Brown in October.
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 costs for increasing pension obligations. Unfortunately, the PEPRA section mandating increased employee contributions will have the opposite effect for these cities and county impacted by Senate Bill 292. The voters in each of these jurisdictions clearly wish to fund their pension obligations through a tax levy; SB 292 allows them to continue that practice.
Unfortunately, SB 292 was vetoed by Governor Brown, who included this veto message: “I am returning Senate Bill 292 without my signature. This bill exempts certain employees from making pension contributions if they work in a city or county that receives parcel tax revenue designated for pension costs. I believe the cost-sharing requirements in the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 are unrelated to whether a city or county has an existing parcel tax for pensions. The employee share-of-cost is a crucial standard that must be retained. I am unwilling to chip away at this reform. Sincerely, Edmund G. Brown Jr.”
SB 303 by Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego): PORAC is the sponsor of this bill, which 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 simply reduces the cannabis storage requirement to a more sustainable quantity, without interfering with the defendant’s evidence rights. SB 303 was signed by Governor Brown in October.
Actively Supported Bills
AB 65 by Assembly Member Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville): AB 65 requires the Board of State and Community Corrections to develop a grant program to make funds available to local law enforcement entities to purchase body-worn cameras and related data storage and equipment, and to hire the personnel necessary to operate a local body-worn camera program. AB 65 was held in Assembly Appropriations Committee.
AB 150 by Assembly Member Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore): Proposition 47, passed by voters in November 2014, made theft of a gun valued at less than $950 petty theft, punishable only as a misdemeanor. District attorneys no longer have the discretion to charge as a felony. Assembly Bill 150 addressed this serious flaw by making theft of a firearm grand theft in all cases. However, as with many of the legislative fixes for Proposition 47, AB 150 was held in committee and is now a two-year bill.
AB 511 by Assembly Member Mike Gipson (D-Carson): This bill would have expanded current presumptions to additional peace officers, including local probation officers, UC/CSU police officers and a variety of state investigators. Unfortunately, due to state-mandated costs, AB 511 was held in Assembly Appropriations Committee and is now a two-year bill.
AB 1104 by Assembly Member Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona): AB 1104 restores law enforcement’s authority to seek and obtain search warrants in cases involving controlled substance possession offenses as described in the Health and Safety Code by inserting a cross-reference in Penal Code Section 1524, the existing law that describes situations in which a search warrant may be issued. AB 1104 was signed by Governor Brown in July.
SB 6 by Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton): SB 6 would have exempted from medical parole and compassionate release eligibility a prisoner who was convicted of the first-degree murder of a peace officer or a person who had been a peace officer. SB 6 was held in Senate Appropriations Committee and is now a two-year bill.
SB 61 by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo): SB 61 extends the existing Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) Ignition Interlock Device (IID) pilot project to July 1, 2017. SB 61 was signed by Governor Brown in late September.
SB 372 by Senator Cathleen Galgiani: This bill would have prohibited a “transportation network company” (e.g., Uber, Lyft and Sidecar) operator from hiring or retaining a driver who is required by law to register as a sex offender. As these app-based ridesharing companies continue to grow in popularity, it is critical to protect riders by creating a system of regulations similar to that of the taxicab industry. SB 372 was stalled in Senate Energy, Utilities and Commerce Committee and is now a two-year bill.
SB 452 by Senator Galgiani: This bill was another attempt to address Prop 47’s gun theft loophole by making theft of a firearm grand theft in all cases. SB 452 was held in Senate Public Safety and is now a two-year bill.
Actively Opposed Bills
AB 66 by Assembly Member Shirley Weber (D-San Diego): This is the main body-camera bill mandating various body-camera policies for all agencies. PORAC has actively opposed this bill since its introduction. PORAC worked with the author’s office to address many of the concerns of its members, but the author was adamant about certain aspects, including restricting an officer’s ability to view the camera footage prior to writing his or her report. PORAC continued to work with stakeholders and participated in lengthy negotiations with Assembly Member Gatto, Chair of the Privacy and Consumer Protections Committee. Because they were unable to reach a compromise, the bill was held in committee and is now a two-year bill.
AB 86 by Assembly Member McCarty (D-Sacramento): This bill would have mandated that the attorney general complete an independent investigation of all officer use-of-force incidents resulting in death. District attorneys are elected by their counties to handle these types of investigations. District attorneys have made decisions for years, and have overseen difficult cases that have been scrutinized heavily by the media and public. The concern that there would be a conflict of interest between a district attorney and officers they may work with is unfounded. District attorneys routinely prosecute peace officers when they believe that there is sufficient evidence to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Due to PORAC’s adamant opposition, AB 86 was held in Assembly Appropriations Committee as a two-year bill.
AB 619 by Assembly Member Weber: This bill would have amended the death-in-custody report that agencies are required to provide to the attorney general by expanding the term “custody” to include not only jails or prisons, but any time an officer “deprives an individual of the freedom to move.” The bill also required a report to be filed with the attorney general on an annual basis any time that “serious use of force” was used by an officer. AB 619 was held in Assembly Appropriations Committee as a two-year bill.
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 actively opposed this measure since its introduction, as it would require 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, although it is still a costly and overly burdensome approach, Governor Brown signed this bill into law in October.
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.
SB 608 by Senator Carol Liu (D-La Cañada): This bill would have enacted the Right to Rest Act, which would afford people experiencing homelessness the right to use public space without discrimination based on their housing status. SB 608 would have effectively given citizens the right to live on the streets, thus creating unsanitary conditions, impeding business and creating an intimidating and uncomfortable environment for others. The bill was held in Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and is now a two-year bill.