Tue, 05/07/2019 – 9:30pm

Important Dates & Deadlines

April 26th Policy Deadline for Fiscal Bills

May 3rd  Policy Deadline for Non-Fiscal Bills

May 10th  Last Day for Policy Committees to Meet Prior to June 3rd

May 17th  Fiscal Deadline – All Bills Must be Sent to the Floor

May 27th   Memorial Day

May 28th-31st  Floor Session Only

May 31st House of Origin Deadline

To Improve Prospects of A Compromise, Competing Police Use-Of-Force Bills Linked

In an effort to bring civil liberties advocates and law enforcement organizations back to the negotiating table, rival proposals related to law enforcement’s use-of-force policies have been linked together.  The law enforcement-sponsored measure, SB 230 by Senator Ana Caballero, was amended per the recommendation of the Senate Public Safety Committee to remove its most contentious provision about when deadly force is justified.  With the amendments, the bill now focuses on increased training for officers.  As noted, the committee also tied its fate to AB 392 by Assemblymember Shirley Weber, which is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of California and community activists.  Under this move, SB 230 can take effect only if AB 392, which raises the legal bar for police to use lethal force, is signed into law.

The rationale is that these two bills now work together.  In response, Nancy Skinner said, “The reason that I, as the committee chair, was willing to have a portion of SB 230 move forward is because if we do revise our use of force standard, then we will require new training.”  Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins also released a statement saying, “I’m grateful to Senator Caballero and Senator Skinner for agreeing to amendments that communicate clearly to everyone our goal: revise California’s use of force standard to protect both our communities and our peace officers and also ensure that officers get the training needed to make the change a success.”  Stay tuned…

Newsom Moratorium on Death Penalty Grants Reprieve to All 737 Death Row Inmates

Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a sweeping order placing a moratorium on state executions.  Upon making the announcement, Newsom, who has long been vocal about his opposition to the death penalty, called the policy “ineffective, irreversible, and immoral.”  The executive order also calls for withdrawing California’s lethal injection protocols and immediately closing the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison.  However, the governor’s office has stressed that the order would not provide for the release of any inmates or alter their convictions or sentences.  Governors in Oregon, Colorado, and Pennsylvania have also imposed moratoriums in their respective states, all using executive powers similar to those held by Newsom.

California’s last execution occurred in January 2006.  Since then, the death penalty has been on hold pending legal challenges.  Though, due to a statewide ballot measure approved in 2016 to expedite death penalty appeals, it is anticipated that these court cases could be resolved in the near future.  Worth noting that three years ago voters also narrowly rejected Proposition 62, which would have turned all death sentences into life without the possibility of parole.  Currently, there are 737 people on death row in California— including 25 individuals who have exhausted all of their state and federal appeals and could be eligible for an execution date.

For more information, please see https://www.gov.ca.gov/2019/03/13/governor-gavin-newsom-orders-a-halt-to-the-death-penalty-in-california/.

Democratic Senator Tom Umberg Opposes Newsom’s Death Penalty Moratorium

Capitol journalists Tim Foster and John Howard recently sat down with Senator Tom Umberg to discuss Governor Newsom’s death penalty moratorium on the Capitol Weekly Podcast.  Senator Umberg, who represents Senate District 34 encompassing various parts of Los Angeles County and Orange County, has said that while he understands Newsom’s decision, he comes at it from a “different angle.”  Umberg contends that some crimes are so heinous and so depraved that they entail the ultimate penalty.   Additionally, he stressed that there should be no doubt regarding an individual’s guilt and that those accused of capital crimes should be afforded access to competent counsel.  As a former federal prosecutor, Umberg says having spent significant amount of time with victims informs his stance on the death penalty.

In terms of looking forward, Senator Umberg noted that voters may once again get a chance to weigh in on the death penalty.  If not determinative, Umberg suggested that this would at least be illustrative of where California stands on the issue. 

To listen to Umberg’s comments, please see https://soundcloud.com/capitolweekly/capitol-weekly-podcast-73-discussing-the-death-penalty-wsen-tom-umberg.

Newsom Considers Prohibiting New Death Sentences, Potential Disagreement With AG?

After issuing the executive order placing a moratorium on state executions, Governor Gavin Newsom has floated an idea to further halt the death penalty.  He is considering a plan to prohibit any new death sentences in local criminal cases.  During a conference call with reporters last week, Newsom stated, “There is a protocol of death and an administration of death in the state of California, and it consumes the court’s time, it consumes the criminal justice system, it exhausts the soul and the pocketbook.  I would ultimately like to shut down that system of death.”  It is not entirely clear how such an order would be carried out.   Newsom could either have Attorney General Xavier Becerra direct local district attorneys not to seek the death penalty or order Becerra to not defend appeals.  It is anticipated that both approaches would face legal hurdles.  Additionally, Becerra’s stance on the issue has wavered.  He has expressed real reservations about the death penalty but has not further clarified his full support or opposition.  However, even if Becerra disagrees with Newsom’s approach, he might not have a choice if the governor decides to force the issue.

Newsom has emphasized that he intends to collaborate with Becerra about the possibility of ending future death sentences, and he gave no indication that he would attempt to force Becerra to take action.  When asked whether Becerra will stop defending death sentences on appeal or direct county prosecutors to stop seeking death sentences, a spokesperson said the attorney general is reviewing what role his office will play.  Stay tuned…

Since Taking Office, Newsom Has Sought to Halt Parole For Serious Offenders

According to documents provided by his office, Governor Gavin Newsom has attempted to stop serious offenders from receiving parole in 33 cases thus far.  In these instances, Newsom himself cannot revoke parole, but he has asked the Board of Parole Hearings to review them.  Of the cases Newsom flagged for reconsideration, fifteen involve inmates with current or past sex offenses.  Additionally, Newsom has stopped 46 paroles for murderers under a different process that does allow him to act unilaterally through executive authority. 

Newsom’s active role in opposing releases marks a steep increase from the actions undertaken by former Governor Jerry Brown.  In 2018, the parole board reviewed only seven cases at Brown’s request.  That year Brown reversed 28 paroles for murderers, which represented a steady decline from his peak of 133 reversals in 2014.  However, with just three months in office, Newsom has more than quadrupled the requests for reviews and is on pace to match Brown’s highest year of reversals.  These interventions also represent a departure from Newsom’s more progressive criminal justice reform stance, including his recent moratorium on the death penalty. 

Legislation Proposes to Automatically Clear Arrest and Conviction Records

Last week, Assemblymember Phil Ting, alongside San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, announced AB 1072 which would require the Department of Justice (DOJ), on a weekly basis, to identify persons who are eligible for relief by having their arrest records, or their criminal conviction records, withheld from disclosure.  The bill would subsequently require DOJ to grant relief to the eligible individuals automatically.  Current law already allows a person to petition the court to remove certain convictions and arrests from their record.  However, according to Assemblymember Ting, less than 20 percent take advantage of the program because among other things the process can be costly and complicated.

The measure is intended to clear a pathway for housing, education and employment opportunities.  According to a recent report by Californians for Safety and Justice, removing legal barriers will reduce the likelihood individuals will reoffend.  Further, District Attorney Gascón contends that the proposal “will not only modernize our system of justice, it’s a model for the justice system.”  Under AB 1076, arrests and convictions would still be in law enforcement databases, just not publicly available.  If passed, the bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2021.  Stay tuned…

For more information, please see https://a19.asmdc.org/press-releases/20190307-first-nation-legislation-introduced-automate-arrest-and-conviction-relief.

Special Elections for 1st and 33rd Senate Districts Head to Runoff

On Tuesday, March 26th, special primary elections were held in Senate District 1, where two Assembly Republicans are vying for the seat Ted Gaines vacated to join the Board of Equalization, and in Senate District 33, which was left open after Ricardo Lara was elected Insurance Commissioner.  The elections are not likely to change the partisan makeup of the Senate.

In Senate District 1, GOP Assemblymembers Brian Dahle and Kevin Kiley are projected to advance to the general election.  According to the Secretary of State’s website, Dahle received 28.7 percent of the vote and Kiley received 28.5 percent.  The sole Democrat in the race garnered 25.8 percent.  In Senate District 33, Democrat Lena Gonzalez and Republican Jack Guerrero were first and second respectively atop a field of 12 candidates. For this contest, the Secretary of State’s website shows Gonzalez with 30.6 percent and Guerrero with 14.9 percent.  As Democratic voters largely outnumber Republicans in this district, Gonzalez is the clear frontrunner.  The general elections are scheduled for June 4th.  Stay tuned…

For election results, please see https://vote.sos.ca.gov/special/state-senate/district/1 and https://vote.sos.ca.gov/special/state-senate/district/33.

Governor’s Appointments

Ralph Diaz, of Sacramento, has been appointed Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, where he has served as Acting Secretary since 2018.  He was undersecretary for operations at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from 2016 to 2018, where he was deputy director of facility operations from 2014 to 2016 and associate director of high security institutions from 2013 to 2014.  Diaz served in several positions at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran from 2000 to 2013, including as warden, acting warden, chief deputy administrator, captain and counselor supervisor.  He was a correctional counselor and correctional officer at California State Prison, Corcoran, from 1993 to 2000 and a correctional officer at Wasco State Prison from 1991 to 1993.  This position requires Senate confirmation.  Diaz is registered without party preference.

Kathleen Allison, of Sacramento, has been appointed Undersecretary of Operations for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, where she has served as Acting Undersecretary of Operations since 2018.  She was director of the Division of Adult Institutions from 2016 to 2018, where she was deputy director of facility support from 2012 to 2016 and associate director of female offender programs and services from 2011 to 2012.  Allison served in several positions at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran from 2002 to 2011, including as warden, chief deputy warden, associate warden and correctional health services administrator.  She held several positions at Avenal State Prison from 1987 to 2002, including community resources manager, senior medical technical assistant and medical technical assistant. Allison was a senior medical technical assistant at North Kern State Prison from 1993 to 1994.  She is a licensed registered nurse. This position requires Senate confirmation.  Allison is a Republican.

Connie Gipson, of Bakersfield, has been appointed Director of Adult Institutions for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, where she has served as Acting Director of Adult Institutions since 2018.  She was deputy director of facility operations at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from 2016 to 2018 and associate director of general population male offenders from 2013 to 2014.  Gipson served in multiple positions at California State Prison, Corcoran from 2010 to 2013, including as warden, acting warden and chief deputy warden. She was associate warden at North Kern State Prison from 2008 to 2010 and held several positions at Wasco State Prison from 1997 to 2008, including captain, business manager and health program coordinator.  Gipson was a senior medical technical assistant at the California Institution for Women from 1988 to 1997.  This position requires Senate confirmation.  Gipson is a Democrat.