Nearing the Home Stretch

The past week in Salem was relatively uneventful, but as it may be the second- or third-to-last week in session, every hour counts.

The “Grand Jury recording” bills, SB 496 and SB 505, are still in the Ways & Means Committee and have not yet been assigned to a subcommittee. ORCOPS’ lobbyists had been readying for a fight in the Public Safety Subcommittee, but this late in session the measures are likely to go instead to the politically powerful Capital Construction Subcommittee (which, despite the name, can hear any bill). We’ve been speaking with Ways & Means members to discuss the bills and their fiscal impact, especially as pertains to the release of public employee transcripts. Although no official fiscal impact statement has been released, sources say it will be around $10 million, so we are doing everything we can to push the message that this money could be much better spent elsewhere. Lately, our sources have stated that the Committee may forgo dipping into the State budget in favor of foisting those costs onto local governments — which would have an even more direct impact on local law enforcement budgets! We’ve been coordinating with the District Attorneys, who are similarly opposed. We’re also getting the message out to the cities and counties that $10 million could be better spent on programs and projects they are actually asking for. We’ve been helped by a great Op-Ed from Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis that appeared in The Oregonian earlier this week.

Senate Bill 712, which provides hours of service credit for vesting purposes and retirement credit to members who receive worker’s compensation disability payments and subsequently are reemployed by any participating public employer, passed out of Ways & Means with a “do-pass” recommendation. ORCOPS has supported this bill from its first hearing and we’ve consistently touched in with legislators to make sure they understand how important a bill like this is for our members.

As you may have recently read in The Oregonian, it appears that both significant revenue discussions as well as regressive PERS “reforms” are off the table in Salem … at least for now. The idea of trading benefit-cutting PERS “reforms” for a new statewide corporate tax increase was gestated prior to session. But now it seems that those conversations have stalled out with Republicans seemingly unwilling to budge on revenue, and the Democrats holding the line on PERS. In lieu of a proposed tax increase worth $890 million this biennium (which would have required a three-fifths “supermajority” that included Republican support), the Legislature is now looking at instead rolling back $200 million worth of business tax breaks from 2013 (eliminating tax cuts generally does not require a supermajority, although there is disagreement on this particular proposal). But without the need for Republican support on a tax proposal, Democratic leadership is unwilling to focus on PERS “reforms.” Although there is a short legislative session in February of 2018, it appears that both sides of the aisle intent to mothball these discussions—at least in a practical sense—until 2019.

Over the past few months, ORCOPS has met with dozens of legislators in both chambers and of both political persuasions to talk about the various proposals that have been floated. As the only member of the “PERS Coalition” that represents local law enforcement, ORCOPS made headway on both sides of the aisle. We’ve discussed how the “reform” ideas that have been floated not only consistently risk endangering our ability to attract and retain officers, but unfairly pushes a lot of additional financial burden on newer officers. We have also continued to push and testify to the principle that “a deal is a deal,” and when coming from the representatives for members of their local law enforcement, this has gone over well. This was especially helpful with Rep. Buehler (R – Bend) and Sen. Knopp (R – Bend), when discussing how PERS “reforms” would affect the members of Bend Police Department, who have recently joined our coalition. They both expressed their desire to better connect with their local law enforcement in the interim. ORCOPS discussed ways that PERS liabilities could be cut (by $3 billion or more) through more efficient management practices that won’t affect benefits.

To be clear, although at the moment PERS “reform” seems to be off the table, there are still 17 days left in the session and we will stay vigilant of any new developments. Just because all deals are off the table today, doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a last-minute bargain that we need to address in short order. For now, we will continue to work on taking the Grand Jury recordation bill off the table, run traps on any chance of PERS “reform” or other bad bills resurrecting, and watch for any last-minute amendments that would impact ORCOPS.

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Last Minute Maneuvers

This past week in Salem we’ve seen a lot of maneuvering (both attempted and successful) around Legislative “endgame” negotiations for issues having to deal with revenue, infrastructure, and PERS. The Legislature’s policy committees are functionally shut down, so the only committees still working are Rules, Revenue, and the budget-writing Ways & Means Committee. ORCOPS is working with legislators and stakeholders to defend against bad legislation, hold tough on PERS, and try to put together a few good wins.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held an informational hearing on officer-involved domestic violence. Each session, Portland attorney Jason Kafoury brings forward a legislative concept designed to mandate specific one-size-fits-all requirements regarding local officer-involved DV policies. This week, his testimony to the committee on the concept (no bill was under consideration) was mostly complaints about the lack of progress. He specifically noted that the “politically powerful” police unions have blocked the legislation time and again, and erroneously suggested that the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office specifically had not adopted any officer-involved DV policies (which is false). ORCOPS was the only line officer organization in the hearing room ready to rebut, but in the interest of time only the lobbyist for the Chiefs’ Association spoke about the work being done in this area at the local level.

The big issue still on the table is PERS “reforms.” Recently, a measure was floated (you may have read about it in the Oregonian) that would ask public employees to begin covering more of their retirement benefits. ORCOPS is not supporting this measure. Our friends at AFSCME (which also is not supporting the measure), did a good job of summarizing it:

“The idea is that over the next several years there would be a shift on to employees to cover more of their retirement. That shift will come from a percentage shift from members’ individual accountants that they receive in addition to your pension, called the IAP. In basic terms starting July 2018, 1% of the money going into an employee’s IAP would be redirected and go into a fund that would cover the employer’s PERS rate. Then in the 2019-2020 budget cycle another 1% would be diverted. After that, it would depend how much the rate employers have to pay to cover the cost of PERS.  f the rate increases another 2% then that is on the employers.  Any increases above that would be split 50/50 with members but never more than a total of 4% out of the IAP and never more than 1% a year. In addition, if the employer rates for the normal cost of PERS drops then members would get money back into their IAP.”

There are several problems with this proposal. First, while the idea is presumably to free up additional funds for public employers to spend on services, it balances that on the backs of public employees — many, if not all of whom decided to become public employees with certain understandings about their pension system. ORCOPS believes that to renegotiate terms going forward is tantamount to cutting into benefits already earned. At the current moment, the bill does not seem poised to move: the Democrats in control of the Legislature are demanding significant revenue concessions from the Republicans (the Democrats do not have the three-fifths supermajority needed to increase taxes on their own) before moving the concept, but Republican leaders have already called the plan “PERS Reform Lite” and indicated that this is not sufficient to draw their attention. However, we remain concerned that it may become part of a larger package, and we remain vigilant. That vigilance takes the form of coordinating our outreach efforts with the other public employee groups and meeting with leadership and legislators to express our opposition to balancing the budget on the backs of workers. ORCOPS had productive discussions with the Bend delegation this past week, Senator Tim Knopp (R) and Representative Knute Buehler (R). We discussed a desire for the legislature to focus on finding efficiencies in the PERS system that could cut into costs and liabilities without touching benefits, such as investment division restructuring supported by the State Treasurer that could save $3 billion in liabilities. Governor Brown has recently assembled a task force charged with finding ways to reduce PERS liabilities by $5 billion, and is expected to make recommendations in November.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Tina Kotek (D – Portland) and Senator Mark Hass (D – Beaverton) have introduced a tax plan that will be aired to a joint taxation committee. The plan is expected to raise $900 million in the next biennium through progressive increases in business tax rates. The business community may yet support the plan if it is coupled with PERS “reforms” (see the above paragraph on why we are staying vigilant). With only several weeks left in session (the Legislature must adjourn by July 10 unless a supermajority allows a continuation), some are wondering if a “special session” will need to be called this Fall.

As the session winds down, ORCOPS remains focused and consistent as we advocate for Law Enforcement on the policy issues that impact the lives of our officers in Oregon.

Daryl Turner, President
Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs

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Legislature Winding Down

With the legislature winding down in Salem, many bills are beginning to get resolved one way or another. Friday June 2 was the deadline for moving most bills out of their policy committees, so we saw a flurry of activity last week.

The “Deception Detection” bill, HB 2545, had a public hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill would have provided for deception tests other than polygraphs in Oregon’s regulatory scheme. ORCOPS worked with sponsors to ensure that the bill was amended in order to prevent the use of non-polygraph tests (such as pupil dilation analysis) to be used for pre-employment screening of law enforcement officers. Once in Senate Judiciary, chair Prozanski (D – Eugene) announced that he felt the bill was not ready to pass and that he would continue to work on it in the interim period.

House Bill 3242, which requires that custodial interviews with minors are recorded, was passed out of the same committee on Tuesday, over the objection of ORCOPS as well as the Chiefs and Sheriffs associations. However, the measure was at least amended per suggestions from ORCOPS to apply only to minors suspected of certain crimes, only to law enforcement departments of a certain size, and to allow for interviews to still be admitted into evidence if not recorded (but with a jury instruction that it was not recorded).

Senate Bills 505 and 496, which would require recordation of grand jury proceedings, are still in the Ways & Means Committee (and thereby not subject to session scheduling deadlines). ORCOPS is eagerly awaiting a hearing to be scheduled so as to oppose the measures (which still each have a stipulation that recordings of grand juries targeting law enforcement officers are made public record), although we would in fact prefer the measures not to be heard at all. The drop-dead deadline for all bills is July 10. A big issue around these measures is the added costs of creating a new class of public records and recording infrastructure. While a final Fiscal Impact Statement has not yet been issued, the rumor is now that the measures are looking at price tags of more than $10 million *each*, which would be untenable in this constrained budget environment. ORCOPS has been advocating funding for east count gang enforcement, which would be in front of the same subcommittee, and we would much rather those dollars get spent there.

The PERS Coalition has continued to meet and is discussing continued responses to PERS “reform” efforts. ORCOPS has been attending and scheduling meetings with various legislators in order to dampen efforts to cut into benefits. With the Governor’s recent assembly of a task force to work on pension costs, and some legislators’ insistence that PERS “reforms” be a part of this session’s endgame, this issue is as relevant as ever. However, the Governor has kept the task force’s mission relatively broad (decrease the unfunded liabilities by $5 billion) without specifying a particular course of action. This allows the Governor, and the Legislature, the flexibility to either target benefits or simply pursue passive reforms that would not affect benefits (such as restructuring the investment administration model). It will therefore be incredibly important for PERS Coalition members and ORCOPS (the only representation of local law enforcement officers in the coalition) to continuously persuade Legislators and the task force to focus on the latter.

Stay safe out there this this week!

Daryl Turner, President

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Legislative “End Game” Negotiations in Full Swing

This week in Salem started off tense, as the final revenue forecast before the end of session was released on Tuesday. Although the budget deficit is projected to shrink, the Legislature still anticipates a $1.4 billion gap. This sets the scene for the final end-of-session negotiations. Democrats are hoping for additional tax revenue, generally through corporate tax increases. Most Republicans will begrudgingly say that revenue needs to be on the table, but are holding out for additional concessions. Key among those concessions is an effort to undertake additional PERS “reforms” that ORCOPS has been tracking. The good news is that the most draconian PERS bills have been halted…for now. The bad news is that there are still “live” bills that may be considered, such as SB 559 (lowering the final average salary calculation) and SB 560 (redirecting IAP contributions). Both measures are sponsored by Senator Tim Knopp (R – Bend), who sits on the Senate Workforce Committee. The labor-driven “PERS Coalition,” including ORCOPS, is meeting regularly to coordinate strategy in addressing these measures.

Now that the “end game” negotiations are in full swing, the latest plan, put forth by Senator Mark Hass (D – Beaverton) includes corporate tax increases on sales volume and offsets to mitigate that effect on consumers with tax breaks on personal income tax. Governor Kate Brown (D) has asked for a panel to be assembled to make recommendations on PERS legislation for the 2018 legislative session (presumably in lieu of passing anything PERS-related this session). She has already indicated an interest in exploring pension obligation borrowing (which was somewhat successful in past low-interest-rate environments), additional employee contributions, and in-sourcing of State Treasury investment functions.

As for law enforcement-specific policies, we will see several items coming up in the next few weeks before session ends. ORCOPS continues to lobby the Ways & Means Subcommittee on Public Safety to amend SB 496 to afford law enforcement officers in front of a grand jury the same rights and privileges as any other person. Currently, the measure provides additional public release provisions in the event that an officer is the target of a grand jury. Aside from being unfair, these provisions add unnecessary expenses to an already expensive piece of legislation (in a cash-strapped budget environment, mind you).

ORCOPS’ lobbyists have also reached out to the Oregon State Police to inquire about the rulemaking process around personal purchases of firearms. Currently, law enforcement officers are required to register with their home address, rather than use the address of their precinct (like when registering a personal vehicle). We are hopeful that we can change this without requiring legislation.

Stay safe out there this weekend and enjoy the sun!

Daryl Turner, President

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Legislative Session Update

The Capitol Building in Salem is aligning itself for the end-of-session deal making.

With many legislative deadlines behind us, legislators and lobbyists alike are now waiting eagerly for next week’s Revenue Forecast (to be issued Tuesday). As the final forecast before the end of session, this report will inform on what details have yet to be worked out at top levels of legislative leadership in order to negotiate an end to the session (an agreement on balancing revenue with the state’s budget is key to ending the session, which must end by July 10). This will also have effects on issues ORCOPS is following, such as our advocacy for east county gang enforcement funding (which is not its own bill but a line item in the larger public safety budget) and the financial cost of some measures which ORCOPS supports… and some we oppose.

This past week, ORCOPS had several meetings with legislators on the budget-writing Ways & Means Committee regarding the possible recording of Grand Jury proceedings. ORCOPS is opposing the legislation, in most part due to a provision that essentially makes the recording a public record when the target of a grand jury is a police officer. Luckily, this is an issue ORCOPS specifically discussed with candidates during the 2016 election cycle, so we have commitments from a number of legislators to oppose such a provision.

Although some other ORCOPS-supported measures, such as a PERS fix for OHSU officers, were not able to beat the initial session deadlines, ORCOPS is waiting for an opportunity to amend these concepts into broader pieces of legislation. It is not uncommon for the last weeks of the legislative session to see “omnibus” bills that contain a number of different elements as a result of last-minute deals.

Lastly, even though the bulk of the ill-intentioned PERS “reform” measures did not pass, we remain cautious because they, too, might be resurrected as amendments if we’re not vigilant. We should not count on the Supreme Court to protect our pension agreements, so we have been holding the line in the Capitol alongside other public sector employees.

Look for things to pick up after next week once the revenue forecast is set!

Stay safe out there.

Daryl Turner, President

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Legislative Deadline Week

This past week in Salem was deadline week, meaning that any measures that had not been moved by the relevant policy committee by midnight on Tuesday are now “dead” bills. And while a couple of ORCOPS-sponsored measures were caught in that trap, we had a lot more success in moving good measures along and killing bad bills.

ORCOPS’ measures to crack down on Brady list abuses and capricious citation evaluations were both left in committee. However, Senate Judiciary Chairman Floyd Prozanski (D – Eugene) has indicated a desire to work on both issues in the interim. Also left in the Judiciary Committee were several measures that ORCOPS fought against throughout session, including measures to functionally eliminate consent searches, requiring officers to undergo additional mental health sessions and drug tests after critical incidents, another measure requiring the Attorney General to investigate all use of force incidents, and others with similar themes.

One measure of concern that did make it out the Senate Judiciary Committee is SB 496, which has the primary goal of recording grand jury proceedings. However, there is a small section in the measure that would cause the records to become publicly-requestable when a law enforcement officer is the target of the grand jury. ORCOPS has been fighting against this provision for several years, and the measure now moves to the Ways & Means Committee, where ORCOPS will continue to oppose it. Senator Kim Thatcher (R – Keizer) voted with ORCOPS on the measure in the Judiciary Committee.

A perennial measure to allow the use of polygraphs for screening law enforcement officers, SB 519, was stuck in committee upon Tuesday’s deadline. However, another measure in the House of Representatives, HB 2545, created a designation of “deception detection” devices separate from polygraphs and would likely have created a loophole that allowed such devices to be used in lieu of polygraphs. ORCOPS spoke with sponsor Rep. Jodi Hack (R – Salem) who agreed to an amendment with Rep. Jeff Barker (D – Aloha) to close that loophole, which was not really the intent of the measure. Additionally, Eugene Police Chief Kearns, who has been pushing the polygraph measure, has announced his retirement, so hopefully this is one perennial issue that will be put to rest.

Another interesting event happened on deadline day. SB 728 simply asks for a study from DPSST.  However, the measure’s “relating clause” was exceedingly broad: “Relating to law enforcement.” This means that with as little as one-hour notice, the measure could be amended with anything having to do with “law enforcement.” ORCOPS’ lobbyist saw that the measure was suddenly scheduled for a work session (which includes the ability to amend the measure) the morning of deadline day and immediately ran to sign up on the bill to have standing to testify. At that point, we didn’t know what might happen with the bill. As it turns out, Committee staff indicated that the measure was not meant to go anywhere and the measure was taken off the agenda. But ORCOPS was watching closely; ORCOPS and DPSST (who also noticed the measure and had a similar concern) were the only two entities to sign up for potential testimony.

Other measures that were blocked due in part to ORCOPS’ work include several promise-breaking PERS “reforms;” a measure that would have restricted officers from using “trickery” or “artifice” (their words!) in interviewing suspects; and a measure that would have prohibited minors from waiving their right to counsel. It should be noted that several measures (including a different PERS “reform” measure that would revamp how final average salary is calculated) were moved to their respective chambers’ Rules Committees “without recommendation.” This is generally a courtesy to a member who doesn’t have the votes to pass their measure, but the maneuver keeps the measure alive past the deadline date. However, the “without recommendation” designation is an indication that the measure is not likely to garner support. However, it is important to remember that in this legislative session, the Legislature is looking to strike deals on a revenue package and a transportation package, and as those negotiations occur, ORCOPS will be wary that absolutely any bill might be brought to the negotiation table. So, we will stay vigilant!

Stay safe out there,

Daryl Turner, President
Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs

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The Salem Machine at Work

This past week was hectic for everyone in Salem, as it was the last week to get bills scheduled to be voted on by committees in their original chamber (they must be voted on by committees by April 18).

ORCOPS started the week out by testifying with the Chiefs, Sheriffs, and other law enforcement organizations to support a measure facilitating medical screenings when an officer is exposed to another person’s bodily fluids. Senator Tim Knopp (R – Bend) expressed support for the concept, acknowledging that “peace of mind matters” to law enforcement officers in this situation.

We continue to work with the District Attorneys Association to prevent a damaging bill that would impede officers’ ability to interview minors (HB 3242), and our conversations with Rep Barker (D – Beaverton), whose committee heard the measure, have been fruitful. We’ll learn next week whether the measure is tabled or if there is enough lingering support to pass it in some form.

ORCOPS also had a fruitful meeting on PERS “reform” with Senator Steiner-Hayward (D – Portland/Beaverton), who seemed to indicate support of ORCOPS’ position on protecting and respecting the State’s pension promises. ORCOPS is the only member of the pension-defending PERS Coalition representing local law enforcement officers.

ORCOPS is pleased to report that Senate Bill 712 unanimously passed the Senate Workforce Committee this past week, with some amendments. The bill provides PERS time credit for officers who are injured on duty and receive workers’ compensation benefits, and fixes a serious inequity within Tier-3 PERS (OPSRP) where someone injured on the job and collecting workers comp currently doesn’t receive service credit for the period between the injury and their return to work.

Several other more “housekeeping” measures passed, such as HB 2987, which slightly modifies the crime of giving false information to an officer, and clarifies the language slightly. On these measures, ORCOPS tracks the legislation and works with committee members, but does not need to give testimony.

Lastly, HB 2674, which would fix an oversight in the extension of PERS to OHSU’s police officers, was not scheduled for a hearing, even after OHSU and ORCOPS came to an agreement on the policy. Although the measure was very narrow in scope and effect, the House leadership refused any and all measures that would expand PERS, even so slightly, under fear that it would impede other negotiations. ORCOPS will continue to pursue the measure as an amendment.

Stay safe out there.

Daryl Turner, President
Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs

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Maintaining Our Voice in Salem

This past week in Salem saw more behind-the-scenes discussions than public hearings. A big part of ORCOPS’ job in Salem is to go beyond the hearings and maintain relationships and negotiations with other public safety stakeholders.

Most pieces of legislation this session have a deadline coming up soon: they must be scheduled for a “work session” (meaning a committee will move for a vote on the bill) by the end of next week. There are a few exceptions (like the State budget), but most of the measures ORCOPS is watching are subject to this deadline.

On the one hand, we will likely see a lot of bad and unfriendly bills, such as the bill requiring drug testing police officers, miss that deadline and become “dead” bills. On the other hand, several bills ORCOPS is advocating for are also subject to that deadline, particularly bills relating to Brady list protections and citation comparisons.

ORCOPS has been negotiating with other public safety stakeholders as well as Legislative leadership to both move ORCOPS’ agenda as well as block bad legislation. For example, there has been a renewed last-ditch effort by some Democrats to make officers’ grand jury transcripts a matter of public record across the State (this is already practiced in Multnomah County but only at the discretion of the District Attorney), and ORCOPS has been working to prevent that.

Another measure, HB 3242, would require officers to electronically record all conversations with minors suspected of committing a crime. ORCOPS testified last week to the real-world impracticality of that measure, but there is now an effort by the measure’s supporters to find a compromise that would limit the requirement to more specific circumstances. ORCOPS’ lobbyist received an anonymous menacing phone call regarding this measure, which means we’re being effective!

Public pension “reform” discussions are still underway.  As the only representatives of local line officers and deputies on the pension-defending PERS Coalition, ORCOPS has been coordinating meetings with other coalition members.  If any law enforcement officers are interested in coming down to Salem to meet with legislators on this issue, please email info@orcops.orgto coordinate that with our team in Salem.

Lastly, the second (and at this point, last) step in the “End Profiling” effort, HB 2355, was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on an 8-2 vote. As a part of that workgroup, ORCOPS approved the resulting legislation, which focuses on training and data collection.  The Legislature’s task force on profiling issues that was established in 2015 is scheduled to dissolve this year.

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