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).

Capitol Beat – Officer Wellness, Elections and the Future

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

Officer Wellness Budget Proposal

Peace officers experience more trauma throughout their careers than most people do in a lifetime. What others only see in headlines, our officers will likely come face to face with during their career. Without the resources to cope and manage the stress and trauma associated with being in law enforcement, our officers’ health and well-being are compromised. This year, PORAC is standing in strong support of the Officer Wellness Budget Proposal submitted by the California Police Chiefs Association (CPCA). This proposal appropriates $40 million out of the general fund to support peace officer wellness and mental health programs across California.

A report from the United States Department of Justice analyzing programs from around the country has highlighted successful approaches to improving officer wellness and mental health that are proven to decrease depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI) among officers. Many of these conditions have resulted in a suicide rate that may be three times the rate of the general public. The health and safety of our officers is of the utmost importance to us, and we will support any effort to improve the quality of life for the brave men and women who protect our families, homes and streets.

The $40 million proposed from the general fund will go to supplement existing funds to expand eligible programs that must meet the goal of improving officer wellness. Funds to each county will be used to support the following best practice programs that have been effective in improving officer residency and overall health:

  • Stress management training
  • Training in personal nutrition, exercise and self-care
  • Counseling with mental health professionals with expertise in first responder trauma
  • Access to self-service apps
  • Establishment of early warning systems
  • Expanding access to exercise and physical fitness
  • Development of mentorship programs
  • Access to mindfulness and yoga classes
  • Funding for Mental Health Services Units
  • Expanding access to crisis hotlines
  • Incentivized mental and physical health checks

Elections

In every election cycle, PORAC works very closely with our local associations on endorsements. We are a grassroots association, and the power of our group comes from listening closely to our members. The POAs, DSAs and chapters provide direction to the PORAC Executive Board of Directors on endorsements in their area.

Below is a survey of the results from the primary election on March 3.

PORAC chose to actively endorse in 39 of the 80 Assembly races. With the exception of Sylvia Rubio in Assembly District 57, our endorsed candidates came in either first or second, which allows them to move on to the November 3 general election. The competitive nature of the primary races requires us to research the candidates with greater intensity and understand more completely the politics of California’s neighborhoods.

Half of the 40-member Senate is up for election every two years. This year, the odd-numbered seats were on the ballot. After listening to our local members, PORAC made the decision to endorse in seven of the 20 Senate races. Working together, we successfully predicted the winner in six races.

There was one special election in Senate District 28, where former Senator Jeff Stone was appointed by President Trump to the U.S. Department of Labor. Assemblymember Melissa Melendez, whom PORAC endorsed, was one of five candidates in the race. While she received a majority of the vote, she did not receive more than 50%, which means a runoff will take place on May 12. As of this writing, the race is still too close to call for second place.

Fifty-three California congressional races were presented to the voters. PORAC membership asked for an endorsement in 20 races. We successfully predicted the outcome in 19 races.

Legislation

PORAC is following hundreds of bills during this legislative session that have a direct and significant impact on the way you do your job. The bills are consequential and, unfortunately, many are drawn from headlines rather than research. The target of these bills is the way the laws of California are enforced, which means they could impact the manner in which PORAC keeps the streets of our neighborhoods safe.

To follow PORAC’s current list of priority bills, please see the legislative bill chart in this issue, or go to PORAC.org/advocacy/legislation-overview for a link to PORAC’s interactive bill chart.

The Future 

The next couple of years are not going to be easy for any of us associated with law enforcement. Tough stories appear almost daily, and all of us read them. They impact us on the job and they impact the way we will prepare for our job. PORAC will continue to be the voice for law enforcement in California and provide the real-world insights that come from being the first line of defense.

Capitol Beat – Legislation on PORAC’s Radar

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

CPOMF Tax Check-Off Legislation

On Monday, May 4, the California Peace Officers’ Memorial Foundation (CPOMF) will host the 44th annual California Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony at the California Peace Officers’ Memorial Monument on State Capitol grounds in Sacramento. The ceremony serves to formally enroll peace officers who have died in the line of duty the previous year, to pay tribute to the over 1,600 officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice since California became a state and to honor the families left behind. Our law enforcement family continues to experience tremendous loss, and this ceremony helps honor those who laid down their lives and ensure their legacy will live on.

In addition to hosting the ceremony each year and maintaining the grounds in which the monument stands, CPOMF also subsidizes survivor support groups and supports the families of our fallen heroes through educational grants and financial assistance programs. CPOMF is a nonprofit charitable organization that is fully funded through contributions; donations can be made directly to the fund. California law also allows taxpayers to make voluntary tax-free contributions directly to CPOMF on their personal state income tax returns. This tax check-off, dedicated directly to CPOMF, was first established in 1999 through a PORAC-sponsored bill. However, the initial bill had a sunset date, meaning it had a certain time period to fulfill its obligation of meeting a minimum contribution amount of $250,000 for any calendar year, or it simply expired, repealing the tax check-off on the tax return form. In the case of sunset dates, legislative action must be taken in order to extend the date. This year, PORAC, along with California Professional Firefighters (CPF), introduced AB 2068 by Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), legislation that extends the CPOMF and California Firefighters’ Memorial Fund (CFMF) personal income tax check-off until January 1, 2031. AB 2068 will ensure the continuation of the Peace Officers’ Memorial and Ceremony, as well as continue the successful programs within CPOMF that provide support and services in recognition of fallen peace officers and firefighters in California. Please remember this important program during your tax preparation time.

PTSI Follow-Up Legislation

In 2019, PORAC co-sponsored SB 542 by Senator Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park), legislation relating to post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI). The bill passed through the Legislature and was signed by the governor on October 1. SB 542 creates a rebuttable workers’ compensation presumption for peace officers and firefighters in instances where they sustain occupational PTSI. Despite alarmingly high rates of PTSI and suicide among law enforcement officers and firefighters, up until now, California law did not contain a PTSI presumption. The issue with SB 542 is that it excluded certain specialized officers from the presumption. Senator Stern agreed to author follow-up legislation to SB 542 in an effort to incorporate many of those specialized officers into the new law. PORAC has submitted language to add to the bill, which is not yet in print, that includes our specialized members, as defined in Sections 830.31, 830.33 and 830.35 of the Penal Code. With our language added, PORAC has agreed to co-sponsor the bill. We believe the PTSI presumptions will help provide timely access to needed treatment, raise awareness and destigmatize these conditions for those whose mental health may depend upon seeking treatment.

L.A. County District Attorney’s Race

PORAC continues our aggressive efforts in support of incumbent Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who is facing recently retired San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón in the race for LADA. Gascón left his DA position in San Francisco specifically to relocate and run for LADA. Lacey is the first woman and first African American to serve as LADA in the history of the office. She has cracked down on human trafficking and fought for the most vulnerable populations. PORAC has joined with other supporters of Lacey to reach voters through targeted digital media, live phone banking and radio. By the time you read this, the results of the March 3 primary election will likely be known; however, it is projected that Lacey and Gascón will receive the most votes, thereby guaranteeing that this battle continues to the November general election.