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Budget and Policy Post
May 27, 2016

Sheriff Court-Security Services Mandate

State law tasks the Commission on State Mandates with determining whether new state laws or regulations affecting local governments create state-reimbursable mandates. Typically, the process for determining whether a law or regulation is a state-reimbursable mandate takes several years. State law further requires our office to analyze any new mandates identified by the commission as part of our annual analysis of the proposed state budget. In particular, state law directs our office to report on the annual state costs for new mandates and make recommendations to the Legislature as to whether the new mandates should be repealed, funded, suspended, or modified. Below, we discuss the Sheriff Court-Security Services mandate.

Background

Sheriff Costs for Court Security Shifted to State in 1997. Prior to 1997, counties were primarily responsible for funding trial court operations—which included the cost for county sheriffs to provide security services to trial courts. In 1997, the state shifted primary responsibility for funding trial court operations from the counties to the state. As part of this shift, counties annually requested state funding for the cost for the sheriffs to provide trial court security. Subsequent legislation enacted in 2002 further clarified the responsibilities of county sheriffs, specifically requiring that sheriffs provide security at all criminal and delinquency proceedings as well as noncriminal proceedings if the presiding judge determines such security is necessary.

State Law Excludes Retirement Benefits From Allowable Costs in 2009. Chapter 22 of 2009 (SB4X 13, Ducheny) amended state law to specifically exclude retiree health benefits for court security personnel from the costs that would be eligible for state funding beginning July 28, 2009. This statute was subsequently repealed as of June 27, 2012.

Sheriff Costs for Court Security Shifted Back to Counties in 2011. As part of the 2011‑12 budget package, the Legislature enacted a major shift—or “realignment”—of state criminal justice, mental health, and social services program responsibilities and revenues to local governments. This 2011 realignment shifted responsibility for funding sheriff-provided trial court security costs from the state to the counties. This included a shift of state tax revenues to the counties to finance this new responsibility.

Chapter 22 Created a State-Reimbursable Mandate. The commission determined that the provision of trial court security by county sheriffs in criminal and delinquency proceedings is a legal responsibility required by state law. Thus, the commission determined in December 2014 that the 2009 statutory change that excluded sheriff retiree health benefits from being eligible for state funding between July 28, 2009 and June 27, 2012 imposed a reimbursable state mandate for those counties that met certain criteria. For example, it limited reimbursement to counties that had prefunded these costs. The commission also ruled that the funding provided to counties as part of the 2011 realignment shall support any of these costs incurred between the enactment of the realignment and the repeal of Chapter 22.

In January 2016, the commission adopted a statewide cost estimate for this mandate totaling $685,344. The commission noted in its estimate, however, that there are additional counties that alleged costs in the test claim that have not yet filed claims. Accordingly, the cost of the mandate could increase.

Governor’s Proposal

The Governor’s budget for 2016‑17 does not include funding for this mandate. As the state law applicable to this mandate was repealed in June 2012, the Governor’s budget makes no proposal to suspend, amend, or repeal the mandate.

LAO Comments

Sheriff Court-Security Services Mandate Would Be Added to Backlog. Under the Governor’s proposal, county costs related to this mandate would be added to the existing backlog for mandate claims.

State Required to Reimburse Local Government Mandates. Since 1979, the California Constitution has required the state to reimburse local governments for certain state-mandated programs. Historically, the state deferred many mandate reimbursements to cities, counties, and special districts. Proposition 1A (2004) required the state to either (1) appropriate funds in the budget bill to pay outstanding claims for a mandate, or (2) suspend or repeal the mandate. Proposition 1A also required the state to develop a plan for paying most outstanding mandate claims incurred prior to 2004‑05.

Claims Preceding 2004‑05 Paid, No Plan to Address Mandate Claims After 2004‑05. As part of the 2014‑15 Budget Act, the Legislature finished paying the pre-2004 mandate claims. While Proposition 1A did not require the state to develop a plan for paying mandate claims incurred after 2004‑05, the state Constitution requires these claims be paid. Currently, the mandate backlog is roughly $1 billion. This mandate would add slightly to the existing backlog. When considering payment in the future, the Legislature would need to consider in what order it would like to pay down these existing obligations. When the state pays down the backlog, the payments will not count toward Proposition 2 (2014) annual requirements for debt payments from the General Fund.