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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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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