Capitol Beat – Taking Action on COVID-19

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

Legislative Update

As many of you know, the Legislature adjourned on March 15 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Both Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon have proposed May 4 as a potential date to reconvene; however, that date is still to be determined as new information about the virus continues to be brought to light.

With that said, our legislative leaders have put in a request to their committee chairs asking them to limit their legislative packages to critical bills and issues surrounding COVID-19. Pro Tem Atkins shared in a recent press release that, personally, she would only be moving forward with two bills this year. All other efforts will be geared toward helping businesses, school districts and local governments find solutions to the more immediate problems brought forth by COVID-19. 

At this point, we are not sure what to expect with our priority bills; however, PORAC and Aaron Read & Associates (ARA) are steadfast in continuing to track the nearly 200 bills that could potentially impact our membership. We are receiving new updates daily, so by the time you read this article, we will likely have a better understanding of how our state plans to move forward.

For more information on PORAC’s highest legislative priorities, please see the bill chart on page 37 or online at https://bit.ly/2XxR7mA.

PORAC Virtual Town Hall Meetings

On March 25 and 26, PORAC virtually hosted four regional COVID-19 town hall meetings. ARA worked with PORAC, as well as PORAC’s federal advocates, Steptoe & Johnson, to invite and encourage our California federal and state elected officials from each region to participate. PORAC’s town halls proved to be successful, as many elected leaders and staff attended and shared their support for our members. Many legislators reached out individually after the meetings to ask what they could do to assist PORAC in our ongoing efforts to ensure the safety and security of our officers and their families, knowing full well the great risk you all are taking every day on the front lines of this pandemic. PORAC is encouraged by the vast support of many of our federal and state leaders and plans to continue holding town hall meetings to educate and inform our elected officials of PORAC’s needs and concerns as our officers bravely respond to COVID-19.

PORAC’s Requests to Policymakers

PORAC has worked diligently to draft legislation that establishes COVID-19 as a presumptive occupational illness to be covered under workers’ compensation. Because of the uncertainty around when the Legislature will return, and because it takes months to get legislation passed, we are also pursuing an executive order from the governor.  As we write this report, it is too soon to predict how this will turn out, but it’s imperative that we push to get appropriate relief for our officers who have or will come into contact with the virus. 

In addition to the workers’ comp presumption, PORAC has also asked the governor to assist in requesting the federal government to increase the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE). PORAC has also asked for expedited testing and testing sites for all first responders who have been exposed to COVID-19, as well as to make quarantine space (i.e., local hotels, CSU or UC campus dorms and other facilities) available to officers who have been infected so as not to infect their co-workers and families. Furthermore, we encouraged our governor to address and put forth a list of best practice protocols for first responder agencies with mandatory minimum responses when it comes to PPE and quarantines offsite when an exposure has occurred.

As the largest law enforcement organization in the country, PORAC stands united as we meet the challenges presented by COVID-19.

Budget

The current budget is being severely impacted, and tax revenues, apart from capital gains taxes, have been severely reduced. Some estimates say there will be $7–$9 billion less in capital gains taxes this year. That’s not to mention lower personal income taxes from those who are at the top 1%, and for the tens of thousands of workers who have been laid off. We don’t know when this will end, nor do we know the full fiscal impact — and we likely won’t know for a few months. Pro Tem Atkins has established a special Senate Budget Subcommittee that will meet regularly to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Speaker Rendon announced a similar hearing for the Assembly to be held on April 20.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Aaron Read (aread@aaronread.com), Randy Perry (rperry@aaronread.com) or Michele Cervone (mcervone@aaronread.com).