From the President

October 30, 2013

First, I’d like to take a moment to thank all of those who contributed to 30 years of making SCOPO a success! With the hard work of both active & retired members, support staff, and allied organizations, this year marks the 30th year of SCOPO’s existence. We wouldn’t have gotten here without their toil and sacrifice. This year’s 30th anniversary meeting in San Diego, just a few short weeks ago was also a success. Not only did we get a few things accomplished, but we made some time to have fun sharing stories and getting to know each other a little better.

Since my last update, SB 61 – juvenile solitary confinement – went dormant. If passed, the bill that would have forced counties to make changes to all current juvenile detention facilities, and to increase costs to make the necessary modifications, including the addition of probation staff and mental health practitioners. With the hard work of our legislative advocate Alberto Torrico, member organizations, and those allied with us, we were first able to amend it to properly define the terms "solitary confinement" and "facilities" and to clarify that the bill did not apply to juveniles who are classified as "high-risk" or who engage in any assault while in custody. Shortly after the amendments were made though, the bill was moved to the inactive file in the Assembly; effectively killing it for now. We should expect to see a similar bill in 2014, in addition to a bill addressing solitary confinement for adult offenders. It is our belief that SB 61’s author and those in support of prison reform view this most recent effort as a setback and not a defeat.

Another big issue, perhaps the biggest issue for us in 2014, will be pension reform yet again. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, and big-money backers from out-of-state, are pushing a ballot initiative that would allow the state and local governments to cut back retirement benefits for current employees for the years of work they perform after the changes go into effect. Passage of the initiative would effectively end the vested rights doctrine as it is currently interpreted. The vested rights doctrine is a legal doctrine under which retirement benefits in effect as of the date a public employee is hired cannot be thereafter reduced, subject to a few limited exceptions. The only good news, if the initiative is passed, is that it would be tied up with the courts for several years. The problem is that we don’t have a firm handle on how the courts would ultimately rule on the matter. This will be an ongoing issue for us moving into 2014. If you thought 2012’s Prop 32 campaign was big, wait till you see the fight on this initiative unfold.

It is incredibly important for us to become actively engaged in politics, whether it is at the local, state or national level. If we don’t act on our own behalf, who will? Whether you follow politics closely or not, know that decisions are being made every day by politicians; which will have an impact on your lives. The easiest way to get involved is to vote or volunteer to work on an issues campaign (i.e. measures or propositions). The next step is to become directly involved in advocating for individuals or issues that are important to you or your organization. That includes setting up a Political Action Committee (PAC) for your organization, endorsing political candidates, making contributions to candidates that support your interests, educating your legislators – locally and at the larger level, and promoting ideas and values that are relevant to the job you do. It is also important for organizations to involve their members, and for individuals to participate in their organization’s efforts. Let’s not forget the community at large, which not only benefits from the job related services we provide, but they can also act as a powerful ally if rallied to the right cause. Their support is critical to achieving your goals, and making a difference on the political landscape.

Its hard work, but we need to continue to be at the forefront of the battle to preserve and expand funding to probation, and be an active participant when probation and related labor issues are being discussed. If we aren’t, then we’ll surely be on the outside looking in.
Stay alert, stay safe, and stand committed.

Paul Brennan
SCOPO President