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  • Writer's pictureLocal 685 Executive Board

2023 End of Session Wrap-up

by the Local 685 Legislative Advocates

This state legislative session was an escalated battle with public safety so-called “reform” organizations that continued their full frontal attack on the role, purpose, and mission of rank-and-file deputy probation officers. As was the case in the past several years, we were swarmed by efforts to redefine and reassign the core functions of probation officers to outside “community-based organizations,” undercutting organized labor and effectively privatizing your jobs.

The Local 685 Executive Board, under the leadership of Hans Liang and with the frequent testimony of Jonathan Byrd, heard the call and actively participated in the effort to change the advocates’ narrative and successfully fight their sponsored legislation and amendments and get Local 685-sponsored Assembly Bill 695 (Pacheco) to the Governor’s desk for signature. It was a busy all-hands-on-deck session indeed!

Each of the bills detailed below was a separate battle within the broader war being waged on probation at the State Capitol in California. There is also a parallel effort at the County level to effectively transition the fundamental responsibilities of traditional probation, supervised release, rehabilitation, and anti-recidivism efforts from the County probation department to the private sector, or to agencies within the full control of the Board. Since several of the hostile goals of two members of the Board of Supervisors require changes to the statute, we have positioned ourselves strategically at key bottlenecks in the process to fend off these attacks thus far.

In a proactive move, AFSCME Local 685 was the sponsor of a measure – AB 695 – that would have created a State General Fund investment in the infrastructure and probation facilities in Los Angeles County. Your Union was able to navigate and muscle the measure through both Houses of the Legislature despite heavy opposition from juvenile justice “reform” organizations, as well as two Supervisors from LA County. Importantly, Local 685 was able to secure the support of three of the Supervisors (Hahn, Barger, and Solis), who all sent support letters echoing the need for our bill.

Of the myriad of bills that the leadership of AFSCME Local 685 spent countless hours weighing in on behalf of the membership, the following represent the higher priority measures:

Assembly Bill 695 (Pacheco) Investing in LA County Probation Facilities

This was our sponsored bill for 2023. We argued that to achieve real juvenile justice reform, specifically a care-first, trauma-informed therapeutic model, the Los Angeles County Probation Department needed substantial infrastructure and capital improvement funding from the State.

We demonstrated that the Los Angeles Probation Department’s juvenile detention facilities are badly outdated and in need of critical renovations with almost all of its physical plants in significant dilapidation. In their current state, its facilities are not adequate to meet the basic State law requirement of a “homelike” environment much less meet the current care-first, intensive rehabilitation model that juvenile justice requires.

The bill faced a steep climb through the progressive Assembly Public Safety Committee, chaired by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, who is not a supporter of our efforts. Despite the clear reservations from the Chair, we were able to push the measure through this Committee and into the fiscal committee, which also approved the bill. After those two hurdles, the full Assembly Floor overwhelmingly approved the measure and moved it to the Senate.

In the Senate, we *again* were faced with a nearly insurmountable task of gaining the support of the extremely progressive Senate Public Safety Committee. At this point in the process, the two Supervisors who’d been previously silent on the proposal (Mitchell and Horvath) surfaced with opposition letters. They indicated that they are not supporters of further investing into a system they view as flawed and not in the best interest of minors; and that the monies should be used to reimagine the probation model. Despite this heavy opposition, the Committee voted to move the bill along to Appropriations by a bare minimum margin. Eventually, the fiscal committee also approved the bill and sent it to the Floor where we received our final votes before enrollment on the Governor’s Desk.

Unfortunately, the State’s fiscal woes proved too much for the Governor to sign the measure into law, and he opted to veto the measure. In his veto message, there was no reference to the intent of the bill and no critique of the policy; but a boilerplate message detailing the deficit and commitment to limiting ongoing or new spending.

AB 695 has established a track record and clear value statement communicated by the majority of the Legislature that LA County facilities need to be addressed, updated, and in most cases completely rebuilt to accomplish the lofty goals of the profession. We now have a head start on next year’s efforts to push this issue into the State Budget debate.

Final Outcome: Vetoed pending funding.

Assembly Bill 134/Senate Bill 134 (Budget)

These two measures are “Budget Trailer Bills.” These are introduced shortly after the main Budget Bill and contain specified subject matter. In the case of AB 134 and SB 134, these are the “public safety” Trailer Bills.

Specifically, among the numerous amendments to the Code in these bills, AFSCME 685 had an interest in the juvenile justice system amendments in the bill. The bills included various statutory changes related to juvenile justice and to provide for the closure of the Division of Juvenile Justice on June 30, 2023, including extending the authority of the Board of State and Community Corrections to inspect the suitability of jails, juvenile halls, and special purpose juvenile halls that are used for the confinement of minors to camps, ranches, and secure youth treatment facilities, and replaced the term “minor” with “juvenile”.

We pushed for support for this change since the alternative to the BSCC was to grant this authority over facilities to the Office of Youth and Community Restoration (OYCR). We view the OYCR and the efforts to reassign critical responsibilities related to suitability as hostile and a precursor to moving toward CBOs and privatization of the profession. Clearly, with the inclusion of the BSCC, the Administration agrees with us.

Assembly Bill 304 (Holden)

The purpose of this bill was to attempt to transfer responsibility for approving batterer’s intervention programs from county probation departments to the Department of Justice (DOJ); and to require the DOJ to oversee the batterer’s intervention programs. Lastly, the bill would have required the Judicial Council to make changes to judicial training programs on domestic violence.

We echoed the opposition of a coalition of associations who were vocal against the bill and were concerned that the changes proposed in this bill would predate the comprehensive look at what changes are needed and encourage the continuation of the pilot program to have the corresponding data and evaluation to guide any changes to the current domestic violence programs.

At the end of the process, the Legislature approved the bill, but the Governor used his veto authority to send the bill back to the drawing board. In his message, like with AB 695, the Governor did not comment on the policy but expressed an unwillingness to commit State funds to the new mandate.

Assembly Bill 505 (Ting)

In the same category as AB 134/SB 134, AB 505 (Ting) attempted to route critical responsibilities related to juvenile probation from the BSCC to the OYCR. Again, we viewed this effort as hostile and a precursor to redefining and replacing traditional probation officers with CBOs and private sector entities to perform those same tasks.

We attacked this measure from the top down and lobbied the Administration regarding the conflict AB 505 would have created with language that had recently been drafted and adopted by the Governor’s office in AB 134 and SB 134 related to the BSCC and their ongoing responsibilities with evaluating facilities. The Governor’s office agreed with us and recognized the inherent issue created by AB 505. They engaged with the Author and compelled him to amend the bill to match the Trailer bills.

Assembly Bill 702 (Jackson)

The measure would have required that at least 95% of State funds allocated to counties for preventing young people from involvement with the justice system be distributed to community-based organizations (CBOs) and other public agencies or departments that are not law enforcement entities. In Los Angeles, the county’s Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council (JJCC) has been charged with spending about $30 million annually in state-allocated Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA) funds. These funds currently facilitate many preventative and support services to the community that are provided and administered by the Los Angeles County Probation Department. Included in these services are school-based support services, early intervention and diversion, restorative justice programs, positive youth development tools as well as support services for the monitoring of compliance and handling of administrative functions. JJCPA funds also provide support to parks and recreation services.

The Union was concerned that the effective elimination of deputy probation officers from participation in these programs would ultimately have a measurably negative effect on the youth in these programs. Limiting the funding to only 5% would destroy all of these programs listed above and the collaboration and partnerships with the community would be severed as well.

Eventually, the measure was tabled before its first hearing amidst heavy opposition from probation unions. Since the measure is (at least) the third time we’ve seen this proposal, we should expect it back in some form next year.

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