The 63rd Annual PORAC Conference of Members was held November 19 to 22, 2015 at the Monterey Marriott and Portola Hotel & Spa. Hosted by Region I and co-chaired by Region I Executive Directors Barry Donelan and Jim Ryan, the event drew an impressive 688 attendees. Delegates representing 154 associations voted on executive officers and bylaws, received updates on the organization’s activities, attended training, and networked with colleagues, PORAC leadership and vendors.
Time and again, speakers presented examples of PORAC’s power and influence on public safety issues both statewide and at the national level, particularly the organization’s strong role in leading the debate and driving policy on body-worn cameras. Other dominant themes included ongoing vigilance against Chuck Reed and Carl DeMaio’s anti-pension initiatives, and the need to stand firm and stay safe in the face of continued attacks on law enforcement. As Chaplain Fred Huscher said in his invocation beginning Friday’s General Session, “Cops’ lives matter. That’s what PORAC is all about.”
Friday, November 20, General Session
U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell, a crucial partner to PORAC on public safety issues, gave the welcome address, describing how his background as a police officer’s son and an Alameda County prosecutor gave him a great appreciation for the sacrifices made by law enforcement officers: “What you do matters, and it makes a difference in the lives of those you serve, and now more than ever, we need you out there.” Referencing the brave police officers who stormed the Bataclan concert hall to rescue hostages during the November 13 Paris attacks, Swalwell warned that a similar terrorist threat could come to any of our communities and stated, “I predict that the next major attack in our country will be stopped by people like you.” He also expressed confidence that “we will continue to beat Carl DeMaio and a way of thinking that does not value public service and those who stand up for our community.”
Next came a surprise appearance by Erik Estrada. Declaring “My name is Erik Estrada, and I’m a cop lover,” the actor described his ambition to become an NYPD officer while growing up in Spanish Harlem. After famously portraying an officer on TV, Estrada looked for other ways to combine his passions for performance and law enforcement, serving as a reserve officer in Muncie, Indiana, and then becoming a full-time sheriff’s deputy on the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in Bedford County, Virginia. Estrada congratulated PORAC for representing the welfare of peace officers, and Mike Durant noted that Estrada’s role on CHiPs probably inspired the careers of many PORAC members.
President’s Report: After a motion passing the minutes from the 62nd Conference of Members, President Durant gave his report. Stating how proud he was of PORAC for passing the 2014 voluntary dues assessment to combat pension-reform initiatives, he reminded the delegates that the threat isn’t going away: “We need to keep up this fight.” Durant also highlighted PORAC’s political advocacy efforts, commending Steptoe & Johnson for their outstanding job in expanding the organization’s footprint in Washington, D.C., and Aaron Read & Associates (ARA) for navigating one of the toughest recent legislative years in Sacramento.
Vice President’s Report: Brent Meyer reported that “the state of PORAC membership is solid,” with 65,914 members in 915 associations. This year, the Recruiting and Retention Committee made eight significant membership presentations, and 20 new associations joined PORAC. Efforts to better attract and serve members include a complete makeover of the PORAC website, redesign of the recruiting materials and upcoming update of the PORAC app.
National Lobbyist Report: Jason Abel and Eva Rigamonti reported that Steptoe & Johnson met with more than 40 offices this year and PORAC representatives made two fly-ins to Washington, getting the organization’s concerns on lawmakers’ minds and shaping legislation before it was introduced. With sentencing reform gaining traction as a bipartisan issue and California having been a testing ground for many such concepts, PORAC is able to advise policymakers about pitfalls to avoid in federal laws. PORAC also led the way on body cameras, and lawmakers took notice. Most had no understanding of the logistics involved, and PORAC was able to inform them about the cost to agencies, funding for which was eventually incorporated into legislation.
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund: Chairman and CEO Craig Floyd described NLEOMF’s mission “to tell the story of American law enforcement and to make it safer,” explaining that the memorial and planned museum are important in helping citizens understand and appreciate the service and sacrifices of peace officers. He thanked PORAC for being a proud partner in this effort, noting that donations for the museum by the organization and its member associations add up to more than $1 million. Police Unity Tour Founder Patrick Montuore recognized the high participation from California and described an upcoming initiative, the Thin Blue Line program, encouraging officers to support the construction and maintenance of the museum through payroll deductions of a few dollars at a time.
CalPERS Report: Priya Mathur reported that last year CalPERS had a 2.4% return on investment, below the target rate of 7.5%, but that overall returns in the past three to five years have been over 10%. CalPERS invests 8.5% of its portfolio in California, and its retirement payouts represent 1.5% of the state’s GDP, contributing to economic growth and stability as well as more than 100,000 jobs. The fund has 75% of the assets needed to pay its future claims, but wants to build to 100% through additional contributions and investment returns. Given recent volatility and the fact that retirees are living longer than ever, CalPERS has adopted a new policy to minimize risk in its investments, reducing the target rate by .25% if returns surpass the current target rate by 4% or more. Mathur also explained the excise or “Cadillac” tax provision of the Affordable Care Act, which requires all employer-sponsored benefits exceeding a certain threshold to be taxed 40% starting in 2018. The taxes will be on the employer and the fund, but will likely be passed along to employees via higher rates. Because the threshold is not adjusted based on geography and Northern California is one of the most expensive regions in the nation, some CalPERS plans will exceed the threshold in 2018, and due to the low rate of inflation allowed by the ACA, all CalPERS plans soon will fall into this category. CalPERS is among many groups working for repeal or reform of this measure.
Bylaws: Secretary Buddy Magor reviewed the 14 proposed bylaw amendments provided in the Conference book.
Scholarship Committee: In the absence of Chairman Randy Beintema, President Durant reported that the Committee received about 200 applications and awarded 25 $2,000 scholarships to students throughout the state.
Nominations for President: Mike Durant was nominated by Javier Antunez, seconded by Jesus Montana. With no other nominations, a motion was made by Brent Meyer and seconded by Shaun DuFosee to elect Durant by acclamation. The motion carried unanimously, to great applause. “Thank you for your trust in me,” Durant told the delegates.
Nominations for Treasurer: Marcelo Blanco was nominated by Lon Teague, seconded by Mike Fender. Jon Rudolph was nominated by Tom Matheny, seconded by Dan Mitchell.
Saturday, November 21, General Session
Election of Treasurer: Marcelo Blanco was re-elected as Treasurer.
Bylaws: All but one of the proposed bylaw amendments were passed unanimously. Discussion arose about the Nevada Chapter’s proposal to equalize its dues with those paid by all other active PORAC-affiliated associations through two 50-cent increases over the next two years. A motion was made and seconded to require the dues increase to occur in a single $1 increment beginning in 2016. After a five-minute caucus, that amendment carried with the required two-thirds majority, and the bylaw change as amended passed by the same margin.
Legislative Report: Aaron Read recapped a year of “more problems than you can shake a stick at” in the state legislature. These included the “brutal fight” over AB 66, Shirley Weber’s body camera bill, which PORAC opposed and worked hard to amend to protect officers’ right to view footage before making a report. Read said that thanks to changes in term limits, 2016 will be “the last tough election cycle for a while,” with more than two dozen new members being chosen for the legislature, and that PORAC has a candidate questionnaire to help associations determine whom to support. Regardless of which anti-pension initiative moves forward, PORAC is prepared, and ARA has been asking its contacts in the business community not to support these measures. However, with the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association Supreme Court case on “fair share” fees likely to be decided against the unions next year, there will be less money available in the broader labor coalition to fight future pension attacks.
Randy Perry reviewed some of the key bills that PORAC has taken a position on for the 2015–2016 legislative session, and stated that “PORAC’s voice in the Capitol is unmatched.” Perry also evaluated some of the prospective initiatives on the 2016 ballot, and asked delegates to tell ARA about the negative effects they are seeing from Prop 47, to help compile statistics for a future campaign to roll back or amend the law.
Marketplace Communications: Chelsea Irvine and Terry McHale described the media’s current “gotcha” mentality when it comes to police, and detailed how MPC has helped PORAC provide timely and resonant responses to the attacks on law enforcement via articles, social media, PORAC TV’s YouTube channel, its PAC class and other initiatives. They stressed that any member associations that want help writing op-eds or press releases, using social media, or producing radio or TV pieces should contact them for help.
Labor and Training: Claude Alber referred delegates to his written report, highlighting that the 2016 Symposium will be held in Reno on April 5 and 6. He reminded attendees to cancel ahead of time if they can’t make it to a class they have registered for, so that people on the waiting list can have a chance to attend. He also asked members to stay in the PORAC-arranged hotels when attending classes, and to email him with any feedback about training.
POST Report: In his last year as POST Executive Director, Bob Stresak emphasized the close relationship between PORAC and POST, and provided updates on a variety of training issues, including upcoming guidelines on the new right-to-die law, revised best practices for pursuits, enhanced CPR mandates, new mental health training requirements, and the pending 10-year study on law enforcement officers killed and assaulted in the line of duty. POST’s budget remains tenuous thanks to the declining penalty assessment fund, but Stresak is cautiously optimistic that the state’s new amnesty program for traffic fines will generate a projected $10 million in revenue for law enforcement training. POST training records and certificates are now available online, and POST has a number of new videos, one of which recently won the organization its second Emmy Award.
LDF Report: Chairman Fred Rowbotham reported that the Legal Defense Fund has more money in the bank ($16,444,348) and more members participating (107,000 in 1,138 associations) than ever before, and has paid out more than $130 million in benefits since 2005. The Fund has noted increased criminal filings due to the recent atmosphere of distrust of law enforcement, with a current record-high number of actively prosecuted cases against members. Rowbotham remarked on the trend of “compromise verdicts,” where a jury will find an officer not guilty of the use of force, but feels compelled to find them guilty on a lesser charge. He also announced that the new panel attorney contracts are all in place, which are based on industry-standard best practices and include at-will status, audits as needed, and a clear code of conduct.
Noting LDF’s key role in helping PORAC shape policy on major issues such as body-worn cameras, President Durant presented Legal Administrator Ed Fishman with the Joe Farber Legislative Advocate Award.
Retiree Medical Trust: Chairman Terry Moore announced that the Trust has 17 participating associations, with a total of more than 1,500 participants and a balance of $24.5 million. Thanks to positive actuarial results, the Trust was able to raise the multiplier used to calculate benefits by 3.5%, from 67 to 70 cents. The newest group to join this year was Stockton POA, which needed a place for its retirement money after the city’s bankruptcy. Moore noted that as more cities and counties move to cut off benefits for public safety, those members will need somewhere to put their retirement money, and the RMT can help. Trustees are available to meet with any association that wants to join the Trust or merge its fund into the RMT.
Insurance & Benefits Trust: Chairman Damon Kurtz summarized the many different policies offered by IBT. The STD/LTD plan welcomed three new associations, bringing the total to 181 with 21,535 individuals covered. The various plans have paid out a grand total of more than $102 million to members since their inception, and the CalPERS health plan is offering its most competitive rates in years. Kurtz thanked PORAC and ARA for helping the IBT submit and pass a very important bill, AB 1072, which supports transparency by asking the Insurance Commissioner to ensure that organizations offering long-term disability or care coverage are fiscally sound.
Budget and Treasurer’s Report: Marcelo Blanco referred delegates to the proposed budget in the Conference book. He reported that the recent audit of PORAC noted only two areas of concern: first, the fact that the organization has only one accountant (not likely to change given PORAC’s size, but there are many checks and balances in place), and second, oversight of chapter spending by PORAC headquarters. Blanco and Kim Busman have established guidelines for the chapters, and once those are in place, PORAC will train chapter treasurers on the new procedures.
Blanco also highlighted changes to the budget designed to increase efficiency and promote the organization’s best interests. These include shifting half of the lobbying expenses to be paid from the PAC account, and reducing the Nevada Chapter’s advocacy funding from $14,000 to $9,000 but rolling it into the chapter’s overall budget to spend as they choose.
Finally, Blanco announced the upcoming Conference venues: Disneyland in 2016, the Marriott San Diego in 2017 and the Atlantis Resort in Reno for 2018.
Financial advisor Mark Sikorski reported that PORAC has more than $5 million in its account, spread out among 39 different managers, with 70% in equities and 30% in fixed income. Accounts are up about .5% and doing well on the comparative index. This year, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) were added to the portfolio for even more diversification and performance.
Sunday, November 22, General Session
Memorial Foundation: President Durant reminded delegates that PORAC has been instrumental in founding and maintaining the California Peace Officers’ Memorial and Foundation. In addition, for the past few years, the organization has provided the lunch for all attendees at the annual ceremony. Durant encouraged all associations to make an annual donation to the Foundation, noting that in 2015 only 58 of the more than 600 law enforcement associations statewide contributed. He also urged everyone to opt in to the Memorial’s check-off donation when filing income taxes.
RAM Report: Chairman Tom Snook reported that RAM has more than 7,200 members, and plans to work closely with PORAC in fighting the latest anti-pension initiatives. Representatives are always available to answer inquiries regarding CCWs, high-capacity magazines and membership issues, and to attend association meetings to provide more information.
SPAC Report: Chairman Jesus Montana recapped the two-year bills supported by SPAC: SB 332, to allow mandated reporters to report child abuse to a school police department, and AB 511, to expand workers’ compensation protections to include other categories of peace officers. He noted that the recently passed racial-profiling bill does not apply to specialized police, and that SPAC will work to ensure that specialized officers are specifically included under Penal Code 633 regarding recording with electronic devices. Montana announced that he has been elected chapter director and will step down as SPAC Chair, replaced by William Cho.
With no unfinished or new business, President Durant adjourned the session, concluding another successful Conference of Members.