From the President

August 15, 2014

I would like to take a moment to thank our hosts from our August 8th meeting in Aptos, Santa Cruz County; thank you to the Santa Cruz County Probation Officers Association, the Monterey County Probation Association, and Silver & Katz Attorneys at Law! Our guests included State Assemblymember Mark Stone and State Assemblymember Luis  Alejo. Having Assemblymember Alejo at our meeting gave us an opportunity to personally thank him for his work on carrying our bill, AB 1708. The bill would have exempted peace officers covered under section 830.5 of the Penal Code from voir dire in criminal proceedings. This would have included probation officers, and any employee having custodial responsibilities in an institution operated by a probation department (i.e. juvenile correctional officers). SCOPO plans to review our options for the bill’s  reintroduction next year.

Our other three bills from this year made progress through the legislature, but fell short of the governor’s desk. AB 2314 - arming of probation officers and AB 2526 - CCP membership both cleared the Assembly, yet experienced resistance from the governor’s office while they were in the Senate. The bottom line is that the administration is not interested in making any changes to Realignment at this point in time. AB 2373 would have required counties to fully fund probation mandates or explain their inability to provide adequate funding for services. Furthermore, it would have required each County Executive Officer, upon written notice from their Chief Probation Officer (CPO) pursuant to Penal Section 1203.74, to either fully fund probation mandates, or to justify the County’s failure to do so. This bill encountered difficulties getting out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, ultimately not making its way out of the Assembly altogether. We would like to thank Assemblymembers Alejo, Hall, Gonzalez and Hernandez for carrying our four bills for us this year.

We are in Active support of AB 2052 (Gonzalez), sponsored by PORAC, which would provide expanded worker’s compensation coverage on presumptions (i.e. cancer, hernias) to the remainder of the 830 PC series; including probation peace officers. If passed, the bill would not only correct years’ old oversight in legislation addressing presumptions, but it would also make the lives of officers facing these medical hardships much easier knowing that their job related injuries will now be covered as an added presumption. As of August 14th, the bill made it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The next step would be for a floor vote by the Senate, followed by a concurrence vote in the Assembly due to minor changes made during the Senate process. After that, the bill would then head to the governor for his signature. We’re hoping that he sees the wisdom in supporting this bill and the positives that its passage would bring.

One piece of good news was the decision made on August 4th by Ventura County Superior Court Judge Kent Kellegrew ruling that the measure proposed by the Ventura County Taxpayers Association could not legally be used to withdraw public employees from their retirement system. Judge Kellegrew agreed with the position of Citizens for Retirement Security by saying “reduced to its most basic components, this case involvesthe question of whether or not a county, through the initiative process, may withdraw from a statewide system enacted by the Legislature….this court concludes that the initiative process cannot be used for such a process.” Two days later, the measure’s backers decided not to pursue an appeal to Judge Kellegrew’s ruling. If the measure would have made it to the ballot and passed, it would have required county employee hired after July 1, 2015, to be enrolled in a 401(k)-style plan, ultimately phasing out the current pension system in place. With some exceptions, it also would have imposed afive-year freeze on pensionable pay for 1,600 employees. While this is certainly great news, we must continue to be ever vigilant. Groups like the Ventura County Taxpayers Association and independently wealthy backers of similar initiatives like John Arnold and the Koch Brothers will likely continue their efforts to reform pensions. Beware of what lies ahead.

Stay alert, stay safe, and stand committed.

Paul Brennan
SCOPO President