Legislative Recap


Legislators left Sacramento on September 13th after adjourning for the year, taking most of the fast-paced activity with them. However, the fates of hundreds of bills had yet to be decided and legislative business was not complete until the Governor's October 13th bill-signing deadline. Now that all 2013 bills that passed out of the Legislature have either been chaptered or vetoed, we have a clearer picture of what changes lawmakers affected with respect to law enforcement this year.

Lawmakers introduced several bills this year that dealt with law enforcement and probation in particular. SCOPO is sponsoring three of these bills during the 2013-14 legislative session: AB 992 (Perea), AB 1040 (Wieckowski), and SB 199 (De Leon). All of these measures are "2-year" bills, meaning the soonest they can be taken up again is in January 2014. AB 992 seeks to close a loophole in current law regarding serious, juvenile sex offenders by requiring them to register as such consistent with the Sex Offender Registration Act. Under existing law, juvenile sex offenders are only required to register if they are committed to serve their sentences at the Division of Juvenile Justice Facilities. Juveniles sentenced to serve their time in county facilities escape this requirement.

AB 992 would remedy this issue by requiring all juvenile offenders who commit specified sex crimes to register, including juveniles on probation or parole. AB 1040 is a reintroduction of a SCOPO-sponsored bill from 2012, AB 1968 (which was vetoed by the Governor after passing out of the Legislature). Because of the influx of high-risk offenders to counties under realignment, the safety of rank and file probation officers who are responsible for these offenders is at risk.

AB 1040 would ensure that policies exist to arm these probation officers and deputy probation officers to protect their personal safety when meeting with these "high-risk" offenders and handling higher caseloads. In his veto of AB 1968 last year, the Governor stated that he supports the concept but is reluctant to force the issue at the state level. We plan to work with the Governor in 2014 to help ensure signage of this important bill.

Like AB 1040, SB 199 seeks to ensure a smoother, more successful implementation of realignment by expanding the membership of each local Community Corrections Partnership (CCP) to include a rank-and-file deputy sheriff or a rank-and-file police officer, and a rank-and file probation officer or a deputy probation officer. SB 199 is a reintroduction of AB 2031 from 2012. Although Governor Brown vetoed AB 2031, citing a lack of "credible evidence" that would convince him to change the design of the Board, we are hopeful that he will realize the need for this change in 2014.

Also on the legislative front, Senator Yee introduced a bill this year that would have established protocols and standards for the use of solitary confinement of minors and wards in state and local juvenile facilities. SCOPO was initially opposed to SB 61 because, under the bill, counties would have had 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. We worked with Senator Yee and were able to remove our opposition to SB 61 by amending it to properly define the terms "solitary confinement" and "facilities" and to clarify that the bill does not apply to juveniles who are classified as "high-risk" or who engage in any assault while in custody. Despite SCOPO's neutral position, SB 61 was moved to the inactive file in the Assembly at the end of session. The soonest it can be reconsidered is in January.

At the judicial level, the prison overcrowding saga continues to unfold. Governor Brown scored a large victory with the passage of his compromise legislation to address the overcrowding crisis at the end of session. The prison bill, SB 105, encompasses a two-sided approach to the federal court order to reduce the inmate population -- it asks the court for more time to make the population reductions while setting aside $315 million to send inmates to private prisons in the event the court rejects the time extension. With the United States Supreme Court's recent rejection of the Governor's final appeal to delay the court-ordered prison population reduction, the state is effectively forced to follow through with SB 105. The governor, legislative leaders and inmate rights groups are currently meeting to hash out details of the plan and must report back to a federal three judge panel in February. If the judges reject the state's request for more time to make the necessary population reductions -- via mental health and drug treatment programs -- the state must spend the $315 million to send inmates to private prisons.

Legislators will return to the capitol on January 6, 2014. Until then, the focus will be on implementation of the new laws, work at state agencies, and gearing up for next year.

Lindsay Gullahorn, Capitol Advocacy