Positions on Important State Legislation

Legislative Support and Opposition

RSA Supports

RSA Opposes

AB 1746
support letter

AB 1749
support letter
legislative text

AB 1882
support letter

AB 1948
support letter

AB 1994
support letter

AB 2005
support letter

AB 3104
support letter

SB 916
support letter

SB 1085
support letter

SB 1104
support letter

SB 1124
support letter

AB 931
oppose letter

AB 2010
oppose letter

SB 1032
oppose letter

SB 1186
oppose letter

SB 1392
oppose letter

SB 1393
oppose letter

Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018

Posted Sept. 18, 2017

Four Weeks, Five Hundred Bills
By Ryan Sherman
Government Affairs Consultant

Legislature Returns
The state Assembly and Senate returned to the Capitol to decide the fate of the approximately 500 active bills still remaining with just four weeks left in the legislative year. The complex topics that will consume the bulk of the legislators time include our state’s housing shortage, “sanctuary state” status, water storage and delivery, bail reform, prescription drug pricing and regulating recreational marijuana.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations dispensed with over 300 bills in a matter of just a few hours on their first day back. The same committee will consider another two dozen bills the following week just before the deadline by which all remaining bills must be passed to the floor for a vote – or die for the rest of this year.

Similarly, nearly 140 bills have been voted on by the members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee on the first Wednesday after their return. As is the custom in the Senate, most of these bills will also be sent to “the suspense” file – meaning they are placed in a holding pattern until the legislative leaders decide which bills will be approved and which bills will die for the year.

Legislators seemed particularly concerned with how their votes on many of these controversial items will be received in their home districts. Bills that may be generally popular throughout the state may have a negative consequence for residents in a certain district. Party politics and fiscal restraints also impact individual decision-making by the assembly members and senators.

Tax & Recall
A case on point: a recently approved transportation tax is being used as the basis to recall a Democratic state senator who won a surprise victory for a seat traditionally held by Republicans. This GOP-leaning LA and Orange County senate district was narrowly won by first time candidate Josh Newman, despite having no experience in holding elective office. The high presidential turnout last November resulted in more Democrats voting and Newman rode that wave into the state Senate.
At the time this article was submitted, the date had not yet been set for the recall election. Regardless of the exact date, recalls and other special elections tend to favor Republican candidates because Republican voters turn out to vote in greater percentages than their Democratic counterparts.

By way of example, Republican Senator Andy Vidak won a Central Valley seat held by Democrats for decades. Democrats held a 20+ point voter registration advantage. Although the numbers of registered Republicans dwarfed those of the Democrats, a much higher percentage of Republicans turned out to vote for Vidak, resulting in his historic win.

Such history is what legislative Republicans are hoping to see repeat. If Democrats fail to turn out in significant numbers to vote in this recall election, it is a very likely that Sen. Newman will be replaced by a Republican.

Another important feature of a recall election is that the winner is not required to receive a majority of the votes. Instead, as we witnessed during the recall election of Governor Gray Davis in 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor even though 60% of California voters cast ballots for another candidate. This is not a primary contest. There will be no runoff.

There is one extremely important advantage that the Democrats and Senator Newman will have as the recall election approaches: money.

Unlike traditional legislative elections, there are no campaign contribution limits applicable to the target of the recall. As a result, Sen. Newman will be able to request and accept campaign checks in excess of the normal cap of $4,400 per contributor. Individual groups and donors will be allowed to make five and six-figure contributions – and they will.

However, the candidates who seek to replace Senator Newman must raise campaign contributions within the existing statutory limits. This poses a significant obstacle for prospective candidates.

Challengers will be forced to raise their money in small amounts from more donors without the inherent advantages of incumbency, and do so within 60 days.

Republicans should have a stronger pool of voters, but the GOP “brand” has taken a pounding this year and may result in reduced Republican turnout. If they avoid the polls in large numbers, it will be much more difficult for Republicans to re-take the seat.

Democrats are expected to significantly out-raise and out-spend Republicans as they make their case for keeping Senator Newman in office to the voters of the 29th Senate District. This is a huge priority for Democrats throughout California.

If the recall is successful, the Senate’s 2/3 democratic majority will be eliminated. Republicans would then be in a position to block future tax increases, rule changes and the placement of initiatives on the ballot for voter approval.

Both sides are expected to make this contest a battle royale. The recall election will take place later this fall, possibly occurring on Halloween. We’ll keep you posted.

Laws Are Like Sausages . . .
As you can see, this is a wild time to be in Sacramento. During the next four weeks, anything legislatively can (and does) happen. The Governor’s office, legislators and the myriad interests (including the RSA) will converge within the Capitol. Lobbyists will pack its hallways and offices, advocating the positions of their cleints to pass, amend or defeat the hundreds of bills awaiting final action this year. All work must be concluded before the legislative session ends and clock strikes midnight on September 16th.

There’s a lot truth to that old saying, and for most folks, it’s probably best to not see how either laws or sausages are made. But for the membership of the RSA, we must be a part of this crazy sausage creation.

Your RSA team knows how the sausage gets made and will continue to make sure that the best ingredients are used and the most harmful are discarded. We’ve had a number of important legislative wins so far this year and are working diligently to continue to advocate for the betterment of all RSA members.

RSA-Supported Bills Signed
During the legislative recess, Governor Brown kept working and signed a couple bills strongly supported by the RSA.

Protecting school children from sex offenders is the goal of AB 872 (Chau). This bill closes some loopholes and updates the list of sex offenses that require the Commission on Teacher Credentialing to suspend a person’s credential. This is a good public safety and student safety bill and RSA was pleased to support this measure. Chapter 167, Statutes of 2017.

Domestic violence victims will now be able to discuss their experiences with qualified counselors without fear that these conversations will be used against them by unscrupulous criminal defense attorneys as a result of SB 331 (Jackson) being signed. The RSA stood with crime victims, district attorneys and others in the law enforcement community in advocating for the passage of this common-sense measure. This law will help protect these victims and ensure that they can receive the care they need without fear of reprisals by their abusers. Chapter 178, Statutes of 2017.

Statewide Initiatives
Despite the growing problems associated with Proposition 47 and 57, the recent voter-approved, soft-on-crime initiatives, even more of these misguided and dangerous proposals are being prepared for inclusion on the statewide ballot in 2018. The measures need to secure over 300,000 signatures each before they can be placed before the voters. It is unclear at this time whether the proponents will have the necessary financial commitments to qualify the measures and if substantially more funds will be dedicated to run a statewide campaign to promote its passage.

The first proposal is euphemistically titled, “Second Chance for Youth Second Strikers” and would allow for the release of offenders who were under the age of 23 when they committed their horrific crimes. The parole board would be required to release these dangerous felons if certain conditions are met – and the conditions are sharply slanted in favor of the criminals.

The other measure was granted the innocuous title of “Parole Consideration For Elderly Prison Inmates.” If passed, this initiative would provide for the release of elderly inmates who have served 10 years or more of their sentence. The state would be required to meet a higher standard of proof to show that these inmates are likely to violently re-offend. Since numerous studies have shown that elderly inmates are less violent upon release, it is unlikely that the state would be able to meet its burden. As a result, the offenders – regardless of the heinous crimes they committed – would be required to be released.

As a side-note, a defense attorney is pushing this measure after his 85-year old criminal client was sentenced to life in prison for hacking his wife to death with an axe. Does California really want this guy on the loose?

We will find out next year. The voters have supported recent efforts to reduce criminal justice spending as a cost-saving approach to the frequent state budget crises. This sort of “social pendulum” swings back and forth, left and right. Hopefully, the voters will decide that increased crime is not worth the paltry savings many of these “reform” measures promise.

In many instances, our democratic process for governance is not the most efficient, nor the most fair. But to quote Sir Winston Churchill, “Democracy is the worst form of government ... except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

This is clearly a flawed system, but it’s our flawed system. Many more initiatives are likely to be proposed for placement on the November ballot next year and we will make sure to update you as they are introduced.

Next month, we will report on the final action taken by the legislature as this year’s session winds to a close.
Until then, be safe.