Capitol Beat – Recap of Governor Brown’s Bill Activity

Aaron Read and Randy Perry
Legislative Advocates
Aaron Read & Associates, LLC

As previously reported, the 2017–18 legislative session officially adjourned August 31.  Governor Jerry Brown had until September 30 to sign or veto each of the bills that came across his desk. He signed 1,016 and vetoed 201. His 16.5% veto rate is a new high for his 16-year tenure. He set a historic low in 1982, when he vetoed 30 bills, just 1.8%.

Below is a summary of 2018 gubernatorial bill actions, Governor Brown’s final set of signatures and vetoes.

The total number of bills acted upon was 1,217.

The total number of bills signed was 1,016, or 83.5%.

  • 65% of the signed bills were Assembly bills.
  • 79% of the Assembly bills signed were authored by Democrats.
  • 14% of the Assembly bills signed were authored by Republicans.
  • 7% of the Assembly bills signed were committee bills.
  • 35% of the signed bills were Senate bills.
  • 77% of the Senate bills signed were authored by Democrats.
  • 13% of the Senate bills signed were authored by Republicans.
  • 10% of the Senate bills signed were committee bills.

The total number of bills vetoed was 201, or 16.5%.

  • 74% of the vetoed bills were Assembly bills.
  • 84% of the Assembly bills vetoed were authored by Democrats.
  • 13% of the Assembly bills vetoed were authored by Republicans.
  • 3% of the Assembly bills vetoed were committee bills.
  • 26% of the vetoed bills were Senate bills.
  • 94% of the Senate bills vetoed were authored by Democrats.
  • 6% of the Senate bills vetoed were authored by Republicans.

Overall, PORAC, as well as all law enforcement, was on the defense this year; however, there were a few good bills.

Below is an update on some of the major bills that the governor acted on since our report last month.

Oppose

AB 748 (Ting, D–San Francisco) This bill mandating that local agencies create policies on body-worn cameras and that those policies be made public, moved through the Assembly. After substantial amendments in the Senate, the bill required disclosure, with several tolling provisions and restrictions, of audio or video recordings when an officer discharges a firearm at a person or where the use of force by an officer results in death or great bodily injury. This measure was also amended to allow agencies up to one year before they had to release the footage. However, the agency must give reasons for the delayed release every 30 days. To our knowledge, law enforcement had not been consulted on any of these significant changes.

AB 748 was signed by the Governor September 30. PORAC was strongly opposed.

SB 1421 (Skinner, D–Berkeley) This bill requires the release of parts of an investigation involving uses of force causing death or great bodily injury, or the discharge of a firearm at a person. It also requires the same disclosure for a complaint where, after final adjudication, it has been sustained against the officer for force resulting in death or GBI, dishonesty or sexual crimes by that officer.  Simply put, this bill allows the sponsors —  the ACLU and newspaper publishers — to get around the Pitchess System that has been in law for 50 years. 

An unfair appellate process currently exists; disclosing the findings prior to a court fully reviewing and analyzing the matter would unduly prejudice what could be an innocent officer. In a case with mixed allegations, there is no way to parse out what should and should not be disclosed. Should information about law enforcement discipline be publicized, a wave of habeas corpus petitions from convicted criminals would follow.

This bill is an improvement over SB 1286 (Leno, D–San Francisco), which we killed two years ago. That bill would have released the information before an officer’s final adjudication.

SB 1421 was signed by the Governor September 30. PORAC was adamantly opposed, as was every other rank-and-file law enforcement group; however, the California Police Chiefs Association came out in support, which made it more difficult.

Support

SB 1086 (Atkins, D–San Diego) — This bill deletes the sunset clause on a law that provides an extended statute of limitations for workers’ compensation death benefits payable to the survivors of public safety officers who die of work-related cancer or other specified diseases. This bill extends the window of time during which the family of a public safety officer whose death is attributable to specified work-related illnesses is eligible to collect survivor death benefits.

By permanently extending the survivor death benefit eligibility from 240 weeks to 420 weeks, SB 1086 will ensure that these officers’ grieving families are not deprived of the benefits they deserve because of an arbitrary and unfair timeline. 

Governor Brown signed this bill September 23. PORAC co-sponsored this bill.

Election

The 2018 November General Election takes place November 6. All statewide officers are up for election, as well as all 80 assembly members and 20 senators — half of the 40-member Senate. Because senators hold four-year terms, they only appear on the ballot every other year. This year the even-numbered districts are on the ballot.

Statewide officers hold four-year terms; therefore, they only appear on the ballot every other election year. It is called a midterm election, essentially the election in between presidential elections. This year happens to be a statewide election year and the seats of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, controller, secretary of state, insurance commissioner and superintendent of public instruction are up for election.

Assembly and Senate Highlights

Democrats captured a two-thirds supermajority in the Assembly in 2016 when they expanded to 55-25. They hope to pick up a few more this election; however, they may lose a couple of seats as well. 

In the Senate, Democrats expanded to 27-13 in 2016, providing a supermajority in both houses; however, they lost their supermajority in 2018, when Senator Josh Newman was recalled and replaced by Republican Ling-Ling Chang. Democrats hope to pick up a seat this election to regain the supermajority.