Legislative Update – May/June 2020

Legislative Update – May/June 2020

Important Dates & Deadlines

June 5th
Last day for policy committees to hear and report to the floor nonfiscal bills introduced in the Senate

June 5th
Last day for fiscal committees to hear and report to the floor bills introduced in the Assembly

June 15th
Budget Bill must be passed by midnight

June 19th
Last day for fiscal committees to hear and report to the floor bills introduced in the Senate

June 19th
Assembly Summer Recess begins

July 2nd 
Senate Summer Recess begins

July 13th
Legislature reconvenes from Summer Recess

August 31st
Last day for each house to pass bills 

Legislature Sends Budget to Governor Absent Agreement

Governor Gavin Newsom released his May Revise FY 20-21 budget package mid-May amid an entirely different set of circumstances than his January budget proposal pre-COVID-19.  The pandemic has had devasting fiscal impacts on California’s state budget which has gone from surplus to devastating shortfall.  As you’ll recall, in January when Newsom released his initial budget proposal, that plan called for a record-high $222.2 billion in spending.  At the time, the budget included a $5.6 billion surplus and specifically contained 3.5 percent more spending than lawmakers enacted for the current fiscal year which ends June 30th

Although the state has built up reserves in preparation for such an economic downturn, in spite of those reserves California is still facing a projected deficit.  More specifically, Newsom’s revised budget proposal projected a revenue decline of 22.3% compared to January projections; $133.9 billion general fund, which is a 9.4% decrease from the Budget Act of 2019; $203.3 billion overall budget, 5.4% decrease from 2019.

Overall, the May Revision proposed to cancel new initiatives proposed in the Governor’s January Budget, cancel and reduce spending included in the 2019 Budget Act, draw down reserves, borrow from special funds, temporarily increase revenues and make government more efficient.  Among a host of proposed adjustments to address the budget shortfall, the Governor’s May Revise proposed to reduce state employee compensation by roughly 10%; close two adult prison institutions—one beginning in 2021-22 and a second beginning in 2022-23; cut education funding for all systems; and more. 

Following quickly on the heels of the release of the Governor’s May Revise budget proposal, the Assembly and Senate came to agreement on a joint budget package that takes a different approach from the Newsom Administration’s proposal.  The Legislature’s budget package attempts to avoid cutting funding for healthcare and education programs through delays in the hope of greater federal relief this fall before cuts going into effect.  The approach is in contrast to the Governor’s proposed budget that called for $14 billion in cuts that would go into effect absent additional federal support.

The noteworthy public safety and victim-centered provisions contemplated in the Legislature’s proposed budget package included, among others:

  • Halts intake of new juvenile commitments to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) in 2021 and begins closure of all three state juvenile facilities and the fire camp through the attrition of the current population.
  • Proposes to close two state prisons.
  • Changes good conduct credits that will be applied prospectively. 
  • Proposes to cap parole terms for most parolees at 24 months, establish earned discharge at 18 months for certain Penal Code section 290 registrants.
  • Provides one-time funding to help trial courts address backlog of cases and resume normal operations. 
  • Maintains legislative investments made in the 2019 Budget Act, including resources for domestic violence and sexual abuse prevention and the Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce.
  • Provides one-time funding to backfill the Restitution Fund to support crime victims.

While the Legislature sent the joint budget package to the Governor who is anticipated to sign the main budget bill, there was not agreement with the Newsom Administration prior to such action, as is often typical. It is unclear whether Newsom will sign the initial budget bill sent to him in full or if he will plan to blue pencil specific expenditures within the package.  Regardless, lawmakers passed the initial package, acknowledging that they would have to make changes to what was passed once agreement was reached with Newsom.  In that regard, the Legislature is expected to reconvene in the next week or so to update the budget package now that they have reached an agreement with the Governor and revisit the deal yet again in late July/August after the close of the extended tax deadline.  It is expected the public safety and victim compensation proposals will be included in greater specificity in the updated package and associated trailer bills. 

More to come….

AG Calls for Broad Police Reforms, Including Decertification for Misconduct 

At a press conference on Monday, June 15th, Attorney General (AG) Xavier Becerra announced a broad agenda for police reform.  The proposed reforms are “aimed at improving use-of-force procedures, addressing issues around bias in policing, and increasing accountability and transparency.”  More specifically, in terms of use-of form reforms, AG Becerra urged law enforcement agencies statewide to, among other actions, ban use of chokeholds, strangleholds, and carotid restraints; give verbal warnings before using lethal force; discontinue the use of “find and bite” and “bite and hold” techniques; and develop policies requiring officers to stop one another from using excessive force.  According to a news release, many of the proposed reforms stem from policing best-practices and recommendations previously made to the Sacramento Police Department by the AG in January of 2019. 

Additionally, AG Becerra also called for legislation that would “decertify peace officers for serious misconduct” and require law enforcement agencies to complete investigations of misconduct even after an officer has left the department.  Currently, California does not have a system in place to decertify a peace officer when they have been fired or resigned amid serious allegations.  AG Becerra has said the proposal could many forms, and that there would also need to be a due process requirement in any decertification.  The push mirrors nationwide efforts to track misconduct.  However, at this point, AG Becerra has not identified a legislator to introduce this decertification bill.  Stay tuned…

For more information, please see https://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-becerra-calls-broad-police-reforms-and-proactive-efforts.

Prisons Account for Nearly 60 Percent of Kings County COVID-19 Cases

Recently, the number of coronavirus cases in Kings County has spiked.  The increase has been fueled by infections among the inmate populations at the Avenal and Corcoran state prisons, plus the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran.  Last Sunday alone, the county added 46 more cases, including 10 from state prisons in the county.  Another 10 cases in the prisons increased the total in those correctional facilities to 999.

Specifically, at Avenal alone, the number of infected inmates is about 20 percent of the prison’s population.  Additionally, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) recent data, 63 correctional employees at Avenal have contracted the virus.  That is second for staff infections in the prison system behind the California Institution for Men in Chino, where 78 employees have been infected.  Avenal’s correctional system cases, plus those at Corcoran State Prison and the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility, add up to almost 60 percent of all the cases reported by the Kings County Department of Public Health.

For more information, please see https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/covid19/.

Attorney General Becerra Announces Grant for Assault Evidence Processing

The Attorney General recently announced a new, $2 million grant program that is intended to provide funding to local law enforcement agencies to assist with the submission and testing of sexual assault evidence.  The funding was provided via last year’s budget to help ensure law enforcement agencies submit sexual assault evidence for testing.  Under the parameters of the funding, any local law enforcement agency in California could apply for the funds but must report the total number of sexual assault cases tested or submitted for testing.  Those awarded funding must use the funds allocated by June 30, 2022.

For more information, please see https://oag.ca.gov/saesg.

Under Statewide Stay-At-Home Order, Crime Rates Level Off in Major Cities

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) recently published a blog post shows the overall number of reported crime is leveling off in four of the state’s largest cities—   Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, and San Francisco.  However, the PPIC also found evidence of an uptick in some types of crime.

Specifically, the PPIC found, “that violent and property crimes broadly leveled off in April, after falling from February through March.”  The blog post continues, “In particular, violent crimes fell from 1,881 in February to 1,603 in March, and then came down slightly to 1,580 in April—a decrease of 16 percent since February.  For property crimes, the number dropped from 4,294 in February to 3,399 in March, then fell somewhat further in April to 3,302, for a total February-to-April drop of 23.1 percent.”

However, there are some notable exceptions to the downward trends.  The PPIC did find that some crime was on the uptick in April.  In particular, commercial burglaries were up by 21.2 percent in March relative to February and up by 37.5percent in April, again relative to February.  The data shows that car theft is also up. Specifically, “after declining by 4.2 percent between February and March, it rose in April and is now 8.5 percent higher than in February.”

For more information, please see https://www.ppic.org/blog/low-crime-numbers-leveling-off-under-shelter-in-place/.

COVID-19 Pandemic is Changing California’s Criminal Justice System

Efforts to curtail the coronavirus are impacting the operation of criminal justice systems and altering California’s approach to incarceration. The state has a long history of veneering on its public safety policy stances from requiring life in prison for third-strike offenders to reducing the punishment for hundreds of crimes— and the ongoing pandemic is offering California yet another opportunity to make changes.

Since concern over the coronavirus grew, the state has made fewer arrests, defendants have been released early to allow for physical distance, and bail has been reduced to $0 for low-level offenses.  Specifically, California has jailed 21,700 fewer people — nearly one-third of its daily population — in county lockups.  Additionally, prisons are holding about 5,500 fewer inmates than they did in late March. 

These recent and drastic shifts have prompted some to wonder about the lasting impacts on the criminal justice system.  Criminal justice advocates contend that this pandemic has offered a rare chance to reimagine what public safety means.  Sam Lewis, head of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, has said the global health emergency should be a wake-up call that could transform incarceration.  However, others have said that progressive justice system changes will have to compete for attention in a society that now has a host of other pressing issues to deal with, including economic challenges and record-high unemployment rates.  Many experts agree that longer-term overhauls of the criminal justice system may have to wait until the current crisis is brought under control.   Stay tuned….

CHP Finds Car Collisions and DUI Arrests Decreased Given Stay-At-Home Order

On Tuesday, May 19th, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) reported that the number of incidents on the state’s roadways, including collisions and arrests for driving under the influence (DUI), continue to decline.  “People are adhering to the order, eliminating non-essential travel, and as a result, there has been a significant reduction in the number of commuters on the highways,” said CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley.

According to preliminary data from the CHP’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), there was a 75 percent decrease in the number of crashes in California this year from March 19th to April 30th, as compared to the same period in 2019.  Additionally, the number of DUI arrests made by CHP officers has decreased during March and April, from 7,224 in 2019 to 4,223 in 2020.  This latest figure represents nearly 42 percent.  However, speeding violations have increased.  Between March 19th and April 30th, CHP officers issued 2,738 citations for speeding in excess of 100 miles per hour, which is an increase of 46 percent from last year.

For the CHP press release, please see

https://www.chp.ca.gov/PressReleases/Pages/TRAFFIC-SAFETY-BENEFITS-AS-MORE-CALIFORNIANS-STAY-HOME-.aspx

Governor’s Appointments

Guillermo Viera Rosa, of Sacramento, has been appointed director of the Division of Adult Parole Operations at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.  He has served as undersecretary of operations at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation since 2019 and was director of the Division of Correctional Policy Research and Internal Oversight there from 2018 to 2019.  Viera Rosa served in multiple other positions at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from 2013 and 2018, including as director of Adult Parole Operations, southern regional parole administrator, associate director of parole, and parole administrator.  Viera Rosa was a deputy commissioner at the Board of Parole Hearings from 2007 to 2009.  He was a parole agent III, supervisor, a correctional counselor II supervisor, a parole agent II and a parole agent I at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from 2000 to 2007.  Viera Rosa served as a San Bernardino County probation officer II from 1995 to 2000.  He earned a Master of Arts degree in social science and leadership studies from Azusa Pacific University.  This position requires Senate confirmation.   Viera Rosa is registered without party preference. 

Sarah Larson, of Sacramento, has been appointed deputy director of program support for the Division of Rehabilitative Programs at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.  Larson has been associate director in the Budget Management Branch of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation since 2018, where she was chief of administration, budgets from 2016 to 2018.  She was a policy analyst in the Office of California State Senator Jim Beall from 2015 to 2016 and a fiscal and policy analyst in the Office of the Legislative Analyst from 2013 to 2015.  Larson was a research assistant at Georgetown University from 2011 to 2013 and a student employee at the U.S. Health and Human Services Agency from 2012 to 2013.  She was a quality management analyst at California Correctional Health Care Services from 2009 to 2011.  Larson earned a Master of Public Policy degree from the Georgetown School of Public Policy.  This position does not require Senate confirmation. Larson is a Democrat.

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