The Youthful Offender Parole Board (YOPB) is the paroling authority for all juveniles committed by the juvenile court to the Department of the Youth Authority. The YOPB is composed of seven members appointed by the Governor. In addition, the board has hearing officers, known as board representatives.
A board member or representative reviews the proposed Youth Authority program proposed for every ward when they enter the custody of the Youth Authority. At this initial review, the board sets a parole consideration date (PCD) based on the ward's commitment offense. The PCD is the date when the board will review and determine whether a ward is fit to be paroled. Subsequent to the initial review, the board reviews ward progress annually or if the ward commits an infraction in the institution. For certain infractions, board members can add time to the ward's stay in the Youth Authority. The board also determines whether parole violators will be returned to the Youth Authority.
The budget proposes total expenditures of $3.3 million from the General Fund for the YOPB in 1999-00 which is essentially the same level of expenditures as was provided in the current year.
We recommend the adoption of supplemental report language directing the board to report semiannually on the justification for initial parole consideration dates that exceed the guidelines set forth in Title 15 of the Administrative Code.
Youth Authority Length of Stay Is Steadily Increasing. The average length of stay for offenders in the Youth Authority has been steadily rising over time since the data began to be collected in 1961, as shown in Figure 1.
One of the key reasons for this rise has been a steady increase in the average PCD assigned to wards by the YOPB at the initial hearings. Given that the Youth Authority is receiving more serious and violent offenders, it would stand to reason that the average PCD would increase because the board's PCD guidelines generally require a longer term of commitment for these offenders. However, our review found that the PCDs for the less serious offenders have been increasing much faster than those for more serious offenders.
For example, in 1993, the average PCD set by the YOPB for first commitments in categories I through IV (the more serious offenses) was 31.7 months, while the average for categories V through VII (the less serious offenses) was 14.4 months. By 1997, the average PCD for the more serious offenders had risen only 1.2 percent to 32.1 months, while the average for the less serious offenders had risen 19 percent to 17.1 months. Because categorical assignment is based on objective criteria which have changed little since 1993, offenders in each category should be quite comparable over time.
The Board Often Exceeds Its Own Guidelines. In attempting to gain a better understanding of the increasing length of stay, particularly for the less serious offenders, we reviewed the distribution of PCDs compared to the board's PCD guidelines. These guidelines are set by the board as presumptive PCDs that the board believes are generally appropriate for each offense category, recognizing that special circumstances may call for shorter or longer lengths of stays. They are contained in Title 15 of the State Administrative Code (for examples of the offenses included in each category, see the Youth Authority analysis earlier in this chapter).
Our review found that in the past few years the board has consistently set PCDs that exceed its own guidelines, as shown in Figure 2. In 1993, 70 percent of wards in categories V through VII received PCDs at the guideline level, 14 percent were above the guideline, and 16 percent were below the guideline. By 1997, the percentage of wards at or below the guideline had shrunk to 43 percent and 9 percent respectively, while the proportion of wards receiving PCDs above the guideline more than tripled to become 48 percent of the total.
Given that the board itself established these guidelines as appropriate for the offense categories, we would expect that absent compelling reasons their determinations should on average fall within guidelines.
Longer Stays in Youth Authority Increase County and State Costs. Longer stays are more expensive than shorter ones and therefore lead to higher costs per ward and higher costs for the Youth Authority overall. Legislation that took effect in January 1997 increased costs charged to counties for offenders committed to the Youth Authority, with the highest costs charged for the less serious offenders. Thus, the higher costs per ward committed to the Youth Authority not only cost the state General Fund more, but also the counties. (For further discussion on the recent change in fees charged to counties, please see our analysis of the Youth Authority earlier in this section.)
Counties Are Duplicating Youth Authority Services to Avoid Longer Stays. For the counties, these longer stays and higher costs provide a fiscal incentive to create Youth Authority-style programs and facilities on a local level, but with shorter periods of confinement. For example, for category V offenders in the Youth Authority, counties only pay half of the cost, but these offenders had an average parole consideration date of 19.1 months. This means that if counties can keep their per capita costs similar to those of the Youth Authority, we estimate that it is almost $10,000 cheaper to house offenders in a six-month county program than to send them to the Youth Authority.
Although such actions by counties may make fiscal sense to the counties and are within their discretion, we do not believe that the intent of the recent fee changes was to encourage counties to recreate the Youth Authority on the local level, but rather to use the Youth Authority for those wards truly requiring secure confinement, and to create local alternatives for less dangerous wards.
Analyst's Recommendation. To address these deviations from the guidelines, we recommend that supplemental report language be adopted to direct the board to strive to keep the average PCD within the guidelines, and to report semiannually on the justification for initial PCDs set in excess of the guideline. Similar language was included in the 1988-89 Supplemental Report and it led to a significant, if temporary, decline in the number of PCDs set above the guidelines. The following language is consistent with this recommendation.
It is the intent of the Legislature that the Youthful Offender Parole Board (YOPB) establish parole consideration dates at all initial appearances that, on average, do not exceed the prescribed parole consideration date intervals as established in Title 15 of the California Administrative Code. The YOPB shall report to the Legislature on November 1, 1999 and April 1, 2000, regarding justification for establishment of parole consideration date intervals that exceed the prescribed interval contained in Title 15 of the Administrative Code.
There are additional actions that can be taken to fully address the issues raised by increasing the length of stay for less serious offenders. One response would be to allow counties to have some input into the various decisions regarding length of stay for the wards they send to the Youth Authority. Another alternative would be for the Youth Authority to develop programming for less serious offenders that is geared towards shorter stays. Both of these options are discussed in greater detail in our analysis of the Youth Authority.
The Trial Court Funding item provides state funds for support of the state's superior and municipal courts. The budget proposes total expenditures in 1999-00 of $1.8 billion for support of the Trial Court Funding Program. This is $108 million, or 6.5 percent, greater than estimated current-year expenditures. Figure 1 shows proposed expenditures for the trial courts in the past, current, and budget years. The figures for 1997-98 are somewhat misleading because the Trial Court Funding restructuring took effect halfway through that year and the expenditures shown do not fully account for funding provided by the counties for courts in that year.
|Trial Court Funding Program|
|1997-98 Through 1999-00
(All Funds, In Millions)
|Trial court operations||$950.1||$1,509.6||$1,572.9|
|Superior court judges salaries||88.7||94.7||142.2|
|a Display represents half-year effect of trial court funding restructuring. Actual expenditures totaled $1.6 billion.|
The Legislature adopted Chapter 850, Statutes of 1997 (AB 233, Escutia and Pringle)--the Lockyer-Isenberg Trial Court Funding Act of 1997--which resulted in (1) a major change in the way funding is provided to trial courts, (2) major new fiscal responsibility for the state, and (3) significant fiscal relief to local governments (especially counties). The major elements of this legislation are shown in Figure 2.
|Major Features of Chapter 850, Statutes of 1997
(AB 233, Escutia and Pringle)
Trial Court Consolidation Plan
|County Costs Reduced and Capped. Established a cap on county contribution for support of the trial courts roughly equivalent to 1994-95 funding provided by the counties.|
|Twenty Smallest Counties. State pays 100 percent of court costs beginning in 1998-99.|
|Future Cost Increases. State funds entirely.|
|Fine and Penalty Revenues. Counties transfer these revenues to the Trial Court Trust Fund (rather than the General Fund) equivalent to amount transferred in 1994-95; counties and courts retain any growth in revenues.|
|Revenue to Cities. Cities keep all fine and penalty revenues.|
|Court Filing Fees. Increased to generate additional revenues ($43.1 million 1997-98 and $86.2 million in 1998-99).|
While the provisions of Chapter 850 became effective in 1997-98, many of the General Fund costs did not take effect until the current year. Consistent with the intent of Chapter 850, the state has accepted responsibility for growth in trial court costs. As a result, state General Fund costs have increased substantially and costs to the counties have decreased. Figure 3 shows the costs to the state General Fund and counties in 1997-98, 1998-99, and as proposed for the budget year.
|Trial Court Funding Program--Comparison of
State General Fund and County Contribution
|1997-98 Through 1999-00
Budget Request. The budget proposes a number of augmentations for support of the trial courts in 1999-00. The major proposals include the following:
Like all monies appropriated for support of the trial courts, the augmentations outlined above would be distributed to individual trial courts based on decisions of the Judicial Council. Thus, it is not possible at this time to determine which specific courts would receive the funds.
The Governor's budget proposes to reduce the county share of costs for support of trial courts, but not by as much as required under current law. The proposal results in a savings to the state (and corresponding costs to counties) of $48.3 million.
Under Chapter 850, the state pays for all costs of supporting the trial courts in the 20 smallest counties and the remaining 38 counties pay the state a specified amount for support, which is capped.
In September 1998, the Legislature enacted Chapter 1017, Statutes of 1998 (AB 2788, Thomson), which further reduced the amount that the remaining 38 counties must contribute beginning in the budget year. Specifically, Chapter 1017 requires the state to pay for all the costs of the next smallest 18 counties and reduced the contribution of the largest 20 counties by 10 percent. This change would have increased state General Fund costs by $96.6 million beginning in 1999-00, and resulted in fiscal relief to counties of the same amount.
Governor's Budget Proposes to Reduce County Buyout. The Governor's budget proposes that the state not fully implement the provisions of Chapter 1017, but rather reduce the additional buyout by half. In other words, the 18 counties that would have had their contributions eliminated in the budget year would instead have their contributions reduced by 50 percent, and the 20 counties that were to have their contributions reduced by 10 percent would instead realize a 5 percent reduction. The administration indicates that it will propose a budget trailer bill to make the necessary statutory changes. The 1999-00 Governor's Budget Summary indicates that the change is a postponement of full implementation. It is not clear, however, whether the postponement will be for just one year or longer.
Effect of the Proposal. This proposal would result in savings to the state of $48.3 million and costs to the counties of the same amount. The administration indicates that it has proposed this smaller buyout due to the fiscal problem of the state budget.
Figures 4 shows the costs to the 38 counties resulting from the Governor's proposal.
|Governor's Trial Court Funding Proposal
Costs to Countiesa
|Contributions Reduced by 50 Percent Instead of Eliminated|
|Imperial||921||San Luis Obispo||2,255|
|Contributions Reduced by 5 Percent Instead of 10 Percent|
|Contra Costa||665||San Francisco||1,072|
|Los Angeles||9,741||Santa Barbara||376|
|a Costs in excess of current-law requirements.|
We recommend that the Judicial Council report at budget hearings on the status of the current-year shortfall in civil filing fee revenues and on its proposed solutions to address the shortfall in the current and budget years.
One source of funding for support of the trial courts is revenues generated from court filing fees that are deposited into the state's Trial Court Trust Fund. Historically, the budget has assumed that the amount of revenues collected from these fees was about $150 million annually. As a result of enactment of Chapter 850, certain court filing fees were raised. The Judicial Council estimated that the fee increases would generate additional revenues of $44 million in 1997-98 and $88 million each in the current and budget years.
However, there have been significant shortfalls in the amount of court filing fee revenues collected in the last several years. The Judicial Council has indicated that this has occurred due to (1) a decline in civil filings and (2) inaccurate revenue projections for the new filing fees. In 1997-98, the Judicial Council received a General Fund deficiency of $19 million to backfill the shortfall in civil filing fee revenues.
Significant Current-Year Shortfall. In the current year, the Judicial Council is projecting an $86 million shortfall in civil filing fees. The budget includes a current-year General Fund deficiency allocation of $43 million to compensate for half of the shortfall. In its deficiency request, the Judicial Council indicated that it would make up the remaining $43 million from savings. The Judicial Council has indicated that it is exploring several options to generate these savings including (1) using current-year Trial Court Funding monies that the Judicial Council had set aside in a reserve, (2) reducing allocations to the courts for the remainder of the current year, and (3) using projected growth in fine and forfeiture revenues.
Proposed Budget Assumes Increased Revenues. The proposed budget makes permanent the current-year $43 million General Fund backfill, but assumes that the remaining $43 million shortfall will be covered in the budget year through increased revenues. Given the recent history of filing fee revenues, we believe that it is unlikely that an additional $43 million will be generated from the existing court fees. According to Judicial Council, it is considering several options to make up for this continued shortfall, including additional increases in court fees through legislation, reductions in allocations to courts, and additional General Fund appropriations.
Analyst's Recommendation. It is not clear how the Judicial Council will generate savings in the current year to offset the shortfall in civil filing fees. Additionally, we believe that it is likely that the shortfall will continue in the budget year. Therefore, we recommend that the Judicial Council report at budget hearings on the status of the current-year shortfall and on its proposed solutions for the addressing the shortfall in the current and budget years.
We recommend that the Judicial Council provide an update during budget hearings on the status of efforts by the trial courts to address Year 2000 computer problems, including how these efforts will be funded.
Surveys Indicate Serious Year 2000 (Y2K) Problems in Trial Courts. According to the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), many trial courts are experiencing difficulties in their efforts to prepare their computer systems to accommodate the year 2000 change. Based on surveys of the courts, the AOC estimates that the courts will need an additional $19.8 million statewide to correct, or "remediate," their computer problems. According to the AOC, $14.9 million of this amount is needed to address especially serious problems which, if not remediated, will result in courts having to use manual processing to perform critical functions and may lead to case processing backlogs that will seriously impair court operations.
As we point out in our analysis of the Department of Information Technology (DOIT) in the General Government Chapter of this Analysis, many state agencies are also facing Y2K difficulties. It is difficult to assess the severity of the problems in the trial courts compared to state agencies, however, because the information technology activities of the trial courts are not subject to review by DOIT.
No Funding Proposed. The Trial Court Funding budget does not include funding in the current or budget years specifically targeted for Y2K remediation. The AOC indicates that it had anticipated using portions of the Judicial Administration Modernization and Efficiency Fund (JAMEF) in the current year to address some information technology issues, such as Y2K remediation. However, no funds for JAMEF were included in the 1998-99 Budget Act (We discuss the JAMEF proposal for the budget year below).
Analyst's Recommendation. Given the potentially critical nature of the Y2K problems that the trial courts are facing, we recommend that the Judicial Council provide an update to the Legislature during budget hearings regarding the status of remediation efforts, including how these remediation efforts will be funded.
We recommend budget bill language directing the Judicial Council to prioritize spending from the Judicial Administration Efficiency and Modernization Fund for information technology projects related to Year 2000 remediation efforts and for those courts with greatest information technology needs.
Chapter 850 created the JAEMF and specified that monies from this fund may be expended by the Judicial Council to promote improved access, efficiency, and effectiveness in trial courts that have unified to the fullest extent permitted by law. Examples cited in Chapter 850 as the types of projects that may be funded by the JAEMF include education and training for judicial officers and court administrators, technology improvements in the trial courts, incentives to retain experienced judges, and improved law clerk staffing in the courts.
The budget requests $10 million for the JAEMF for various programs in the trial courts. Specifically, the budget requests:
Fund Proposes Several Duplicative Expenditures. Our review indicates that several of the program requests that the Judicial Council is seeking from the JAEMF duplicate other requests that have been proposed elsewhere in the budget.
First, the Judicial Council is proposing to improve legal research by implementing a pilot program for law clerks with funds from the JAEMF. However, the budget also includes a separate request of $5.1 million for new legal research positions in the trial courts. Our review indicates that the functions of the law clerks included in the JAEMF proposal are virtually the same as the other legal research positions that are being requested.
Second, the Judicial Council is requesting $1.2 million to provide one-time administrative personnel to the trial courts. While the request does not specify the specific services to be provided by these positions, we note that the Judicial Council has also separately requested $4 million for new administrative personnel in the trial courts to perform accounting, management, and human resource functions.
Finally, the Judicial Council is proposing $875,000 to support coordination of the trial courts' responses to lawsuits and claims. According to the Judicial Council, the objective of the proposal is to establish coordinated, cost-effective management of litigation affecting the trial courts. However, the local assistance budget within the Judicial Council budget requests $300,000 for positions to provide litigation claims management. That request is intended to provide coordinated legal representation statewide and to provide coordinated management of litigation in the trial courts.
Courts Face Technology Problems. As noted above, the AOC has indicated that the trial courts are facing some critical Y2K remediation problems in the current year. Some of these remediation problems will continue into the budget year and will likely require additional funding. Additionally, we note that there are other information technology issues that the trial courts will continue to face. One such issue is the wide differences in the levels of technology available to the trial courts across the state. While some courts are well automated, others do not have access to some of the most basic or up-to-date computer technology to help them manage their workloads.
Analyst's Recommendation. In view of the above, we believe that it makes sense to prioritize funding from the JAEMF for information technology projects. Thus, we recommend that the Legislature adopt budget bill language directing the Judicial Council to prioritize monies provided in the budget year from the JAEMF for information technology projects for courts with Y2K remediation problems, and to assist those courts with the greatest information technology needs.
Specifically, we recommend the following budget bill language:
The Judicial Council shall prioritize allocations from the Judicial Administration Efficiency and Modernization Fund to give priority to funding information technology projects (1) related to Year 2000 remediation efforts and (2) in those courts with the greatest information technology needs.
We recommend a General Fund reduction of $1 million for drug court staffing because funding for these positions should be requested through the existing Drug Court Partnership Program. (Reduce Item 0450-101-0932 by $1 million and Item 0450-111-0001 by the same amount.)
Legislature Created New Program to Support Drug Courts. Chapter 1007, Statutes of 1998 (SB 1587, Alpert) established the Drug Court Partnership Program to assess the cost-effectiveness of drug courts. The measure established a competitive grant program to which local drug court programs can submit multiagency grant requests that identify the resources and strategies needed for effective drug court programs. The partnership program is administered by the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs (DADP) with the collaboration of the Judicial Council. The program is funded with $4 million from the General Fund in the current year. The DADP is currently preparing the grant guidelines for applications in the current year and expects to release the award notifications in May 1999.
Chapter 1007 expressed the Legislature's intent to provide $8 million annually for the program for four years, and the 1999-00 Governor's Budget requests $8 million in DADP's budget.
Trial Court Funding Request Is Duplicative. The budget requests $1 million in the Trial Court Funding budget to fund staffing costs for five local drug court programs. However, funding for staffing for drug courts is also available through the DADP's Drug Court Partnership Program.
The Legislature created the partnership program on a four-year limited-term basis to allow for the evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of drug court programs. We believe that the courts which need staffing for drug courts should apply for these positions through the competitive grant process available through the partnership program. For this reason, we recommend that the funding for these positions be deleted, for a General Fund savings of $1 million.
The California Constitution vests the state's judicial power in the Supreme Court, the courts of appeal, and the superior and municipal courts. The Supreme Court and the six courts of appeal are entirely state-supported. Under the Trial Court Funding Program, the state also provides support (above a fixed county share) for the superior and municipal courts. (For more information on the Trial Court Funding Program, please see our analysis of the program earlier in this chapter).
Proposed Budget. The Judicial budget includes support for the Supreme Court, the courts of appeal, and the Judicial Council. The budget proposes total appropriations of $289 million for support of these judicial functions in 1999-00. This is an increase of $27.1 million, or 10 percent, above estimated current-year expenditures. Total General Fund expenditures are proposed at $238 million, an increase of $24.6 million, or 12 percent above current-year expenditures.
The increase in the Judicial budget is primarily due to requests for: (1) caseload increases for the Court-Appointed Counsel (CAC) Program and full-year implementation costs for the California Habeas Resource Center ($10.1 million), (2) increased staffing and related program costs for workload increases in the courts of appeal ($4.1 million), (3) increased salary funding for the Supreme Court and the courts of appeal ($3.3 million), (4) increased facilities expenditures ($26.9 million), and (5) new programs and operations support in the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) ($2.7 million). We discuss some of these proposals below.
Because of uncertainties about the funding needs for the Court-Appointed Counsel (CAC) Program, we recommend that the Legislature adopt budget bill language to restrict the use of funding provided to CAC so that any savings would revert to the General Fund.
The budget requests $13 million for the CAC Program in the Supreme Court. This is $1.6 million, or 14 percent, above estimated current-year expenditures. The increase is requested to support projected caseload growth in the program.
The CAC Program hires private attorneys to provide appellate defense services for indigent persons in death penalty and other cases. The Supreme Court is responsible for appointment of attorneys to handle death penalty cases. Appointments are made to private attorneys, the Office of the State Public Defender (OSPD), and the newly created California Habeas Resource Center (CHRC).
Uncertainties in Caseload Projections. Historically, the caseload for capital appeals cases has been difficult to project because of the relatively small number of cases and wide variation in the amount of time required for each case. In previous years, the projected expenditures have differed significantly from subsequent actual expenditures. For the current year, the Judicial Council is projecting that expenditures will be $360,000 less than the amount appropriated.
Recent Changes Create More Uncertainty. The Judicial Council is anticipating that additional appointments of private counsel will be made in the budget year as a result of (1) an increase in the rate paid to attorneys from $98 per hour to $125 per hour, (2) separate appointments for the direct appeals to the Supreme Court and habeas corpus proceedings, and (3) increased training and outreach efforts to attract and retain qualified counsel. These changes have already taken place, but their impacts on projected expenditures are unknown.
Analyst's Recommendation. We believe that it is possible that the amount requested could be substantially lower or higher than what will be needed. To the extent that the amount is too low, the Judicial Council can seek a deficiency allocation during the budget year. To the extent that it is too high, we think that savings should be captured and returned to the General Fund, rather than permitting savings to be redirected to other unbudgeted activities. Thus, we recommend that the Legislature adopt budget bill language which would restrict the use of these funds to the CAC Program only and provide that any savings revert to the General Fund.
Specifically, we recommend the following budget bill language:
The funds appropriated by this item include an augmentation of $1,575,000 for the Court-Appointed Counsel (CAC) Program of the California Supreme Court. It is the intent of the Legislature that these funds are only used for the CAC Program. Any funds not used for this purpose shall revert to the General Fund.
We recommend that the Legislature deny the Judicial Council's request to make permanent funding for the Supreme Court Appellate Project because the proposal is premature.
Budget Proposes to Make Limited-Term Funding Permanent. The California Appellate Project (CAP-SF) is a nonprofit corporation which contracts with the Supreme Court to provide assistance to private counsel who are appointed to capital appellate cases. In the 1998-99 Budget Act, the Legislature approved on a two-year limited-term basis, an increase of $498,000 to the contract for the CAP-SF, representing a 24 percent increase over the prior-year contract. These increased funds were for 1998-99 and 1999-00. Between 1994-95 and 1997-98, the cost of the contract increased at an average annual rate of 6 percent. The Judicial Council is requesting that the current-year increase be made permanent.
Legislation Should Limit Workload. The Legislature enacted Chapter 869, Statutes of 1997 (SB 513, Lockyer) which created the CHRC, expanded the role of the OSPD, and changed the process for appointing counsel in capital appeal cases. Under these changes, the CHRC will be responsible for handling habeas corpus proceedings, as well as providing assistance to private attorneys appointed to handle habeas proceedings.
The legislative changes will limit the types of cases for which CAP-SF will provide assistance. Historically, CAP-SF has provided assistance to attorneys for both direct appeal cases and habeas corpus proceedings. With the establishment of the CHRC, the duties of CAP-SF will change to focus primarily on assistance to private counsel in direct appeals. The CHRC indicates that it will begin taking appointments to habeas cases in January 1999, and will begin providing training and assistance for private attorneys in the budget year. The CAP-SF will continue to provide assistance in habeas proceedings for which counsel is already appointed; however for new cases, it will only provide assistance for direct appeals.
Permanent Funding Request Is Premature at This Time. The Legislature included limited-term funding in the 1998-99 Budget Act that will not expire until the end of the 1999-00 because of uncertainties surrounding the workload of CAP-SF and the newly created CHRC. Given that the changes in the process as a result of Chapter 869 are still occurring, and that funding is already set to continue in the budget year, we believe that it is not appropriate to make funding permanent at this time. Rather, we believe that the Judicial Council should justify the continued increase in funding for 2000-01 and beyond in next year's budget process. Thus, we recommend that the request be denied.
We recommend a General Fund reduction of $3.3 million for appellate court compensation because the augmentation has not been justified. (Reduce Item 0250-001-0001 by $3.3 million.)
The budget requests funding of $3.3 million for the Supreme Court and the courts of appeal to (1) reduce the required salary savings rate from 4 percent to 2 percent ($2 million) and (2) to fund salary adjustments and extend salary ranges for certain classifications ($1.3 million).
Budget Requests Reduction in Salary Savings Rate. All state agencies experience savings in their personnel services budgets based on staff vacancies that occur throughout the year. These savings are generated because it takes time to fill newly authorized positions, and there is often a lag from the time that one person leaves an existing position and another person is hired as a replacement. This accrued savings is referred to as "salary savings." Generally, state agencies have salary savings rates of between 5 and 10 percent, based on the historical vacancy rate of the particular agency.
In the current year, the budgets for the Supreme Court and the courts of appeal assume a salary savings rate of 4 percent. The budget requests a General Fund augmentation of $2 million in order to reduce the salary savings rate from 4 percent to 2 percent of salaries for authorized positions. We note that the 4 percent salary savings is already low compared to most state agencies. Additionally, our review indicates that the recent vacancy rates for the Supreme Court and the courts of appeal have been between 4 and 8 percent. Given this historical rate, and the fact that the required salary savings rate is already low, we believe that the request to reduce the rate to 2 percent is not justified.
Salary Adjustments and Extended Salary Ranges. The budget requests $1.3 million to fund salary adjustments and extended salary ranges for certain judicial staff classifications. The Judicial Council indicates that the increases are needed because the Supreme Court and the courts of appeal are generally located in high-cost labor markets and must compete with the trial courts and other local government bodies for the same labor pool.
The Judicial Council conducted a classification and compensation study in 1997 and 1998 comparing judicial branch salaries with salaries for other public sector employees in the Bay Area. As a result of the study, the Judicial Council changed the salary ranges for the deputy clerk and secretarial classifications effective January 1, 1999. Although the Judicial Council indicates that the costs for this change were funded within the Judicial budget in the current year, it requests a General Fund augmentation of $686,000 to cover the costs in the budget year. In addition, the Judicial Council has approved an additional 5 percent step in the salary ranges effective July, 1, 1999. The budget-year cost for this change is $606,000, with additional costs in future years.
We do not believe that the Judicial Council has submitted a compelling reason for the Legislature to approve the request for $1.3 million for salary adjustments.
Unlike most state agencies, the Judicial Council is not required to seek approval from the Department of Personnel Administration (DPA) or the State Personnel Board (SPB) prior to making these types of salary adjustments. Generally, when state agencies are granted an increase in the salary range it is because they have demonstrated recruitment and retention problems. We believe that the recent vacancy rates for positions in the Supreme Court and the courts of appeal do not indicate that they have serious problems with recruitment and retention of staff. The vacancy rates for the Supreme Court and the courts of appeal are lower than those of other state agencies located in the Bay Area. For example, the vacancy rate for the Public Utilities Commission was recently 14 percent, and vacancy rates for the Administrative Office of the Courts have ranged from 9 percent to 20 percent in recent years.
Further, when agencies apply for approval for salary adjustments to DPA or SPB, the agency must be able to demonstrate that it has the necessary resources to fund any increase from within its existing budget. In the current year, the Judicial Council indicates that it will pay for these increases by redirecting resources. However, in the budget year, it is requesting additional resources for these adjustments. We believe that the judicial branch should be held to these same standards as other state agencies. We note that the total increase for these salary adjustments is 0.7 percent of the budget for the Supreme Court and the courts of appeal, and therefore they should have the flexibility to provide these adjustments within their existing budget.
In summary, we recommend that the proposal be deleted for a General Fund savings of $3.3 million.
Under the direction of the Attorney General, the Department of Justice (DOJ) enforces state laws, provides legal services to state and local agencies, and provides support services to local law enforcement agencies.
The budget proposes total expenditures of $480 million for support of the DOJ in the budget year. This amount is $3.9 million, or about 1 percent, less than estimated current-year expenditures. The requested amount includes $238 million from the General Fund (a decrease of $26.3 million, or 10 percent), $81.1 million from special funds, $40.7 million from federal funds, and $121 million from reimbursements.
Division of Law Enforcement. The Governor's budget proposes $125 million for support of programs in the Division of Law Enforcement. Most of the major budget changes proposed for the division concern the Bureau of Forensic Services (BFS), which operates 11 regional crime labs and a special DNA lab in Berkeley. The department is requesting $4.8 million to begin a two-year effort to eliminate the backlog of DNA samples that need to be tested (we describe this proposal in more detail below). The budget also includes $2.3 million to replace or upgrade existing forensic lab equipment. In addition, the budget proposes to begin charging local and state agencies for the forensic services it provides in the state crime labs. This proposal results in a General Fund reduction (and corresponding increase in reimbursements) of $16 million (we discuss this proposal below). The budget also includes $2.4 million in federal funds to continue and expand the California Methamphetamine Strategy program, an $18 million-program targeting methamphetamine producers that is funded entirely by the federal government.
Division of Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS). The budget proposes expenditures of $128 million for programs in the CJIS. This amount includes a number of new federally funded initiatives. These initiatives are to improve and support ongoing activities in maintaining criminal history information, creating a national sex offender registry, and supporting narcotics-related intelligence activities conducted in coordination with local law enforcement agencies. In addition, the budget requests $3.5 million from the Fingerprint Fees Account and $419,000 from the General Fund to implement the provisions of Chapter 311, Statutes of 1998 (SB 933, Thompson), which requires the DOJ to provide state and federal criminal history checks for foster care providers and their employees.
Legal Divisions. The budget proposes $87.3 million for the Civil Law Division. Major changes proposed for the budget year include: (1) a reduction of $9.2 million for workload associated with the state's litigation against the tobacco companies, (2) an increase of $5.1 million to continue defense of the state in the Stringfellow case, and (3) an increase of $1 million to enhance enforcement of false claims actions.
The budget requests $79.8 million for the Criminal Law Division. The major change in this division is an increase of $1.5 million to support investigation and prosecution of elder abuse cases involving Medi-Cal patients.
For the Public Rights Division, the budget proposes $35.5 million. The amount includes: (1) an increase of $773,000 for civil rights enforcement, (2) an increase of $734,000 for consumer law enforcement, and (3) a General Fund increase of $778,000 (shifted from reimbursements) for the Natural Resources Section.
The budget proposes $4.9 million from the General Fund for one-time equipment purchases and 25 additional two-year limited positions in order to eliminate the existing backlog of violent offenders whose DNA samples require profiling in two years. We recommend that the Legislature maintain an oversight role over this program by adopting supplemental report language directing the department to report on its progress.
In recent years, we have pointed out that the DOJ has had a significant backlog of DNA samples from violent offenders. In this section, we review the department's 1999-00 budget proposal which is designed to eliminate this backlog in two years.
Background. The DOJ is required to analyze DNA samples from most convicted felony sex and violent offenders. In addition, Chapter 696, Statutes of 1998 (AB 1332, Murray) required DOJ to maintain a database (CAL-DNA) of their profiles. At present, the DOJ DNA lab has analyzed 45,000 DNA samples and maintains a database of 35,000 profiles. Most of these samples were drawn from sex offenders--considered the highest priority for DNA testing. However, DOJ also possesses 55,000 samples from violent felony offenders that it has been unable to analyze given its existing resources. In addition, the department needs to reanalyze 45,000 samples that have been profiled in order to conform with the new national standard which the FBI has established as a requirement for participation in its national DNA offender database. Participation in this database is essential to California if it is to take full advantage of the investigative benefits of DNA evidence.
Budget Request. In order to address these two issues--the backlog and the reanalysis--DOJ is planning to implement a new process for DNA analysis and profiling that will allow it to significantly reduce the time it takes to complete the tests, while improving on certain aspects of its procedures. In order to maximize the benefits of this more efficient testing, DOJ is requesting $4.8 million from the General Fund and 25 two-year limited-term positions so that it can eliminate the 55,000 sample backlog and convert the sex offender samples to the new national standard within two years. Absent the additional funding, DOJ estimates that it would take ten years to eliminate the backlog and five years to convert the existing sex offender file to the new standard. These delays would seriously weaken the value of the DNA database to law enforcement because the likelihood of finding a match between a DNA sample found at a crime scene and a DNA offender database is not great until there is a substantial collection of offender profiles.
Request Is Justified. Given the power of DNA testing to solve violent crimes, we believe that the elimination of this backlog is an important law enforcement objective and warrants this short-term investment. The proposed increase in funding for equipment and personnel should be sufficient to allow the DNA lab during the next two years to eliminate the existing backlog, convert existing samples, and keep pace with legislative requirements.
Because of the importance of this issue, however, we believe that the Legislature should be kept informed of the department's progress in reducing the backlog and converting the existing samples. We therefore recommend the adoption of supplemental report language requiring the department to report to the Legislature on its progress on these issues. The following language is consistent with this recommendation:
The Department of Justice shall report to the Legislature on December 1, 1999 on its progress in eliminating the backlog of offender samples requiring DNA profiling and converting the existing database to meet federal requirements.
The Governor's budget calls for charging state and local agencies for the services provided by the Department of Justices' (DOJ's) crime laboratories. We support the underlying objective of this proposal, but recognize that the change would require enactment of legislation and the resolution of several implementation issues. As a result, we recommend that the DOJ and the Department of Finance provide the Legislature with the details of the proposal and a revised estimate of savings prior to budget hearings.
Background. The DOJ operates ten regional criminalistic laboratories throughout the state. These laboratories provide analysis of various types of physical evidence and controlled substances, as well as analysis of materials found at crime scenes. In addition, the department operates a state DNA laboratory in Berkeley that is responsible for maintaining the CAL-DNA database which contains profiles of DNA collected from certain violent and sex offenders. This lab also undertakes DNA testing for investigative and prosecutorial purposes.
While the DOJ labs provide services to state agencies, they primarily serve local law enforcement agencies in jurisdictions without their own crime labs. These local agencies are found in 43 counties representing 25 percent of the state's population. The remaining jurisdictions maintain their own forensic labs at their own expense and are generally ineligible for state forensic lab services.
Governor's Budget Would Require State and Local Agencies to Pay for Services. Except for blood alcohol testing, services undertaken by the DOJ crime labs for state and local agencies are currently provided at no charge. The labs began requiring reimbursement for blood alcohol testing in 1977, and these fees are paid from the penalties collected for driving under the influence (DUI) convictions. The Governor's budget proposes to charge local agencies and non-General Fund state agencies (such as the California Highway Patrol and the Departments of Motor Vehicles and Insurance) for the services provided by the state labs. As a consequence, the budget includes a General Fund reduction of $15.5 million and an increase in reimbursements of $16 million (the additional $500,000 would come from fees for expanded trace evidence services that the department has proposed for the budget year).
Local Governments and State Agencies Should Pay for Their Lab Services. We have recommended in the past that the Legislature authorize the change in fee structure proposed by the Governor's budget, most recently in the Analysis of the 1997-98 Budget Bill. Because developing physical evidence through laboratory analysis is part of the responsibility of local governments for investigating and prosecuting crimes, we believe that the costs for these services should be borne by the counties and cities. Such a funding alignment appears even more appropriate when it is noted that 19 local law enforcement agencies--county sheriffs, district attorneys, or city police--have undertaken this responsibility by operating their own crime laboratories at their own expense. We can find no analytical basis for providing these services at no cost to the agencies currently served by the state while denying this subsidy to those agencies with their own labs. Similarly, state agencies should be required to reimburse the department for forensic services, just as they would be required to reimburse the department for legal services.
Transition to a Reimbursement Based System Will Raise Implementation Issues. While we concur with the administration that a shift in funding to reimbursements is preferable to the status quo, legislation will need to be enacted to provide for this change and it should address several issues in order for the new system to work effectively, including:
Analyst's Recommendation. We recommend that the Governor's proposal to charge for lab services be approved. However, at the time this analysis was prepared, there were few details available on the proposed legislation to implement the proposal. For this reason, we recommend that DOJ and the Department of Finance provide the Legislature, prior to budget hearings, with the details of the proposed legislation, including its plan to resolve the issues we have raised, and provide a more accurate estimate of the General Fund savings that this change would generate in the budget year.
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