Capitol Beat – Priority Legislation

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

Over 2,750 bills have been introduced this year. Of those bills, PORAC is tracking over 215 that potentially have an impact on law enforcement or the safety of the communities we serve. All hands are on deck as we diligently work to pass PORAC’s sponsored bill, SB 230 by Senator Anna Caballero (D–Salinas), and actively oppose AB 392 by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D–San Diego). Last month’s PORAC LE News highlighted SB 230, which was introduced by law enforcement to proactively address use-of-force policies, guidelines and training. Law enforcement in California is setting the national standard for how officers interact with the public or respond to an emergency, and it will continue to be the voice for officers nationwide on these issues. SB 230 is a comprehensive approach to reducing use-of-force incidents and ensuring that peace officers can continue protecting California’s communities. 

To break it down, SB 230 will require all of California’s over 500 law enforcement agencies to:

  • Adhere to the use-of-force standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Establish the most comprehensive use-of-force policies and guidelines in the nation.
  • Undergo the best use-of-force training available.
  • Continue to uphold their commitment to protecting all Californians.

AB 392 has been proposed as an “alternative” to SB 230. However, AB 392 fails to include any proactive measures to reduce the use of force. This bill does not in any way change use-of-force policies, training or guidelines; rather, it creates a subjective standard for evaluating use of force that aims to criminalize officers for their split-second decisions during life-or-death situations. AB 392 authorizes police officers to use deadly force only when it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death — that is, when given the totality of the circumstances, there was no reasonable alternative to using deadly force, including warnings, verbal persuasion or other non-lethal methods of resolution or de-escalation. 

An officer takes an oath to run toward danger when everyone else is running away. However, the legal standard AB 392 seeks to implement will have a chilling effect on the men and women in uniform by undermining their ability to respond in an immediate and decisive manner — creating a hesitation that would threaten the safety of our families, communities and officers.  

While these bills are PORAC’s highest priority this legislative session, it is critical that PORAC stays active in supporting and opposing all legislation relating to public safety, at any level. Over the next few months, we will introduce you to more of PORAC’s priority bills this session. The following are just a few:

SB 266 by Senator Connie Leyva (D–Chino)

SB 266 will protect a retiree’s promised and paid-for collectively bargained benefits in cases where the benefit is disallowed by CalPERS after the member has already retired. It also sets parameters for resolving future disputes over active and retired employees’ collectively bargained pensionable compensation.

Employers have a legal and actuarial obligation to correctly report pension-eligible compensation to CalPERS as a result of employer bargaining. If an item of compensation is later determined to be improper, it is appropriate policy to require the employer to bear the actuarial liability of that promise made to their retiree. If pensionable compensation is misapplied, it should be corrected. But that misapplication should not come at the cost of breaking the promise made to someone already retired and living on a fixed pension that they depend upon in retirement. PORAC is co-sponsoring this bill.

SB 542 by Senator Henry Stern (D–Canoga Park)

SB 542, “the Trauma Treatment Act,” is co-sponsored by PORAC, alongside California Professional Firefighters (CPF), California Association of Highway Patrolmen (CAHP) and CAL FIRE Local 2881. This bill was introduced to address the trauma associated with the occupational duties of law enforcement officers and firefighters. SB 542 creates a rebuttable workers’ compensation presumption for these professions in instances where they sustain occupational post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI). Despite alarmingly high rates of PTSI and suicide among law enforcement officers and firefighters, currently, California law does not contain a PTSI presumption. PORAC hopes the passage of SB 542 will provide first responders timely access to needed treatment, raise awareness and destigmatize these conditions for those whose mental health may depend upon seeking treatment.

AB 582 by Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R–Fresno)

AB 582 is named after Gavin Gladding, a beloved Clovis Unified School District vice principal who was tragically killed in a hit-and-run incident in 2018. Currently, the penalty for an individual who leaves the scene of a vehicle accident that results in permanent or serious injury or death is a maximum of four years in prison and/or a fine of $1,000–$10,000. The potential sentence for leaving the scene of an accident is not enough to deter drivers, especially those who may be under the influence, from leaving the scene.

Hit-and-runs involving injury or death are seemingly on the rise; 42% of fatal collisions in Fresno in the past three months have involved a driver who left the scene. Right now, there is an inadvertent loophole in the law that encourages drivers under the influence to flee the scene of an accident — not to stay and help. By fleeing, they can avoid additional charges for driving under the influence and causing injury or death.

This bill will address this loophole by increasing the penalty for hit-and-runs that result in great bodily injury or death. AB 582 will encourage drivers to stay at the scene of a crime, even if they may be under the influence, as opposed to fleeing the scene. PORAC supports this measure.