Happy New Year! We hope you all had the opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends over the holidays. Now that we have entered into 2017, it is time to buckle up, as we are all in for an E ticket ride!
2017–18 California Legislative Session
By the time you read this, the first year of the 2017–18 legislative session will be underway. Both the Senate and Assembly now have a two-thirds majority of Democrats. It remains to be seen how that will impact legislation. The Assembly Moderate Caucus, composed of moderate Democrats, will continue to have a tempering influence on legislation. We are pleased that our good friend Assembly Member Jim Cooper, who retired after a full career with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, is a caucus co-chair. He is a strong supporter of PORAC and all law enforcement.
There will be no shortage of legislative issues. Law enforcement will continue to be the focal point on many pieces of legislation. PORAC will be sponsoring legislation to deal with transparency issues while also protecting the safety and privacy of law enforcement. There may be legislation relating to body cameras and numerous other issues. We will report next month on new legislation that is either being written or has been introduced. Proposition 64, which PORAC opposed, passed and legalizes marijuana in California. It will be the subject of legislation to implement it. PORAC is deeply concerned about protecting the public from drugged citizens and drugged drivers and will be supporting legislation implementing roadside tests.
Of course, we have a new President of the United States who has shown he is very supportive of law enforcement. Most likely he doesn’t think much of California, since there are sanctuary cities here, and immigration and the environment are issues of contention. It remains to be seen if California will lose any federal funding, either at the city, county or state level. It certainly is something we have to pay close attention to, as it could adversely affect local government’s fiscal conditions if federal funds are cut.
Racial and Identity Profiling Act
PORAC has worked collaboratively with our partners at Aaron Read & Associates as well as the PORAC Legal Defense Fund to gather pertinent information regarding the implementation of AB 953, the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015 (RIPA), and how it will affect our members. Rains Lucia Stern also offered to assist PORAC in researching information on RIPA, similar to last year when Alison Berry Wilkinson assisted PORAC with combating the ill-conceived SB 1286. I would like to thank Aaron Read and Pat Moran from ARA, as well as LDF Chairman Fred Rowbotham, LDF Administrator Ed Fishman and Rocky Lucia from RLS, for detailed information on RIPA as well as their assistance in the research provided on CalPERS.
In response to the public sentiment toward policing, California passed RIPA in late 2015. This new law purports to accomplish three goals: First, it creates the RIPA Board, on which PORAC has a seat among the small minority of law enforcement personnel. Second, it provides for the mass collection and reporting of each department’s handling of racial profiling complaints. Third, it requires mass collection and reporting of data regarding law enforcement stops and detentions including, but not limited to, the reason for the stop, perceived race/ethnicity of the subject of the stop, and actions taken by the officer. Ultimately, RIPA may issue reports on the data collected, such that lawmakers, the public and law enforcement agencies can be better informed on what problems, if any, exist.
While PORAC endeavored to prevent the passing of RIPA, we and other stakeholders were assured that officers’ individual identifying information would never be released or made available to the public. Along the lines of these assurances, the statute included the following language: “… [T]he data reported shall be available to the public, except for the badge number or other unique identifying information of the peace officer involved …” However, earlier this month, the California Department of Justice issued suggested rules to be imposed on each department that require the data collected and transmitted to the state contain a unique identifier for each individual officer. This raises tremendous concerns. If such information is collected and available, ultimately, such information could be released to the public. RIPA itself provides the following: “All data and reports made pursuant to this section are public records within the meaning of subdivision (e) of Section 6252, and are open to public inspection pursuant to Sections 6253 and 6258.” Also, we can envision our California judges and courts, in response to allegations of racial profiling, ordering departments to release the data collected by individual officers.
While the ill effects of this poorly conceived effort to ease tensions between the community and the police are years down the road, from this vantage point, it appears to be a view full of perils and problems for law enforcement.
The next RIPA Board meeting will take place on January 26 at the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation. In the meantime, PORAC intends to research these issues further. At the January Executive Committee meeting, we will develop a plan for how best to address and prevent these foreseeable problems.
CalPERS’ Modification to the
In late December, the CalPERS Board will take action to reduce the discount rate, over a three-year phase-in, from 7.5% to 7%. The rate will be 7.375% next year, 7.25% the following year and 7% in the third year.
CalPERS’ rationale for this action is that their financial consultants project lower rates of return over the next 10 years. We note that the same consultants project earnings will average 7.83% over a 30-year period. CalPERS’ staff expresses concern over the current negative cash flow and lower returns in early years diminishing the compounding of earnings in later years.
We recognize these as legitimate concerns, but question whether CalPERS is operating in an overly conservative manner. The move to 7% establishes CalPERS as the most conservative pension plan in the nation among its 125 pension plan peers. Despite being the largest of them, and arguably the most capable of hiring top advisors and outperforming its peer group, CalPERS has chosen to adopt the lowest discount rate in the nation.
This conservative approach directly impacts public employees in the system, who will pay more toward their retirement benefits as a direct result of this decision. Since the Great Recession, public employees have barely scratched their way back to pre-recession levels, due to furloughs, pay cuts and years without raises. Many rely on CalPERS as their sole retirement income because they don’t receive Social Security, and the average pension is around $36,000 a year.
Nobody wants to ensure pension plans are solvent more than the retirees and employees who rely on them. But make no mistake about the fact that these same employees will be paying the price for the discount rate reduction out of their current and future paychecks.