Legislative Report from APA Executive Director Brian Livingston
On December 30th, 2009, PLEA (Phoenix Law Enforcement Association) and the APA hosted a two-hour roundtable discussion with Arizona Senator Russell Pearce (R- Mesa). Sen. Pearce is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Sen. Pearce’s position is very critical and vital to a successful state budget, given the current economic in Arizona and the legislature’s attempt to balance the burgeoning deficit. All bills that have a financial impact to state revenue must work their way to and through the Appropriations Committee before a final vote is taken on the measure which should provide with a measure of understanding regarding the esteemed position he holds.
Attending the meeting with PLEA were numerous APA member associations including Arizona Highway Patrol, Mesa Police Association Police Association, Glendale Law Enforcement Association, Goodyear Police Officers Association, Chandler Police Officers Association, Gilbert Police Officers Association, Tempe Officers Association, Arizona Corrections Association, Cooper Corridor Police Association, and the Buckeye Police Officers Association.
Some of the more significant issues discussed were;
Arizona’s Budget: This is the overriding concern at the legislature. It has been reported that the deficit this year is now $1.4B and next year may exceed $3.4B. The challenge is balancing the budget when 60% of the budget is voter protected and therefore off limits to legislators. That leaves only 40% of the remaining funds available to legislators to meet the constitutional mandate of a balanced annual state budget. Their task is truly difficult.
State Shared Revenues: A question was directed to Sen. Pearce regarding possible cuts to state shared revenue in the legislature’s budget reduction process. While Senator Pearce stated that he could not guarantee that there would not be any cuts, he assured us that it is not his intent to cut state shared revenues and he clearly stated that any proposal to make such a cut would meet with his displeasure.
Pension issues; according to the latest report the PSPRS pension system’s actuarial cash value is approximately 62% with its actual cash value set at 50%. In years past it has been funded at over 100% (actuarial) but like most nationwide retirement funds the downturn in the stock market and the economy as a whole has had a negative impact on fund.
Last year the fund manager, with the support of PLEA and the APA, passed legislation to change the plan’s investment options allowing for investment in foreign and emerging markets. This change puts PSPRS on a level playing field with the Arizona State Retirement System and has improved our rate of return. The APA has expressed concern over “knee-jerk” reactions and wanted corrections to the system as it is a long term investment. We know the current situation did not occur overnight and only time will permit the system to regain its lost funds.
Immigration: Senator Pearce explained his introduction of bills to eliminate illegal alien sanctuary policies and to create a state trespassing code for illegal entry into the country/Arizona. APA members present expressed their frustration with illegal immigration and their obvious impact on local crime issues. At the end of the presentation the APA strongly urged support for Senator Pearce’s legislative proposal.
Just Cause: PLEA’s “just cause” bill will be reintroduced this session. Lost due to abrupt end of last year’s regular session, the bill is expected to move forward quickly through the legislature. Last year, the bill received wide ranging support from many facets of the law enforcement community.