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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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 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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SB 496 and SB 505

Grand Jury Recordings

April 21, 2017 UPDATE

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.

March 15, 2017

These bills would require recording of all grand jury proceedings. While the defense attorneys and district attorneys are negotiating methods of protecting sensitive witnesses (some law enforcement protections such as those for confidential informants are already included in the measure), ORCOPS was the first organization to bring to the committee’s attention a provision that would have permitted the public release of proceedings dealing with the conduct of a law enforcement officer. For example, if an officer’s use of deadly force in the line of duty is considered by a grand jury, the recording of the proceeding would be subject to public release after the grand jury issues a not true bill. During office meetings as well as to the full committee, ORCOPS stood fast in opposing a carve-out targeting law enforcement officers. (Even as an other law enforcement organizations offered their qualified support to the public release of such materials.) ORCOPS has been defending against this and similar pieces of legislation since the 2015 Legislative Session. We have been working directly with committee members to secure a set of amendments to the measure that will protect officers’ records from public release.

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