By Jim DeVries, MCOLES Board Member
The past few months have proven to be challenging for MCOLES. At its June meeting, the Commission received notice that Executive Director Raymond W. Beach, Jr. would be retiring. On behalf of the Commission, I want to thank Ray for his service and accomplishments and wish him well in his retirement.
Ray’s departure has raised some questions regarding the authority of the Commission. There is some uncertainty regarding the parameters of responsibility for state commissions versus those of the principal department in which the commission is housed. In order to resolve these matters we have requested an opinion from the Attorney General. As we work to sort out these issues, the Commission’s two senior managers, Hermina Kramp and Gary Ruffini are sharing leadership responsibilities. To their credit, the Commission’s day to day operations have run smoothly throughout the summer.
We opened this year amid a struggle regarding the Commission’s Regular Employment Standard. A significant opposition group has organized to resist the Commission’s 520-hour standard as a threshold for determining that an officer is regularly employment in compliance with Public Act 203 of 1965. In April, Senator Cameron Brown introduced SB 449, which would change the standard from 520-hours to 120-hours. The Commission delivered testimony in the Senate hearing, detailing its rationale in support of its 520-hour standard, however the bill was eventually voted out of the Senate, unanimously.
SB 449, and thus the fate of the Commission’s Regular Employment Standard, is now before the House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary. We have been told, informally, that a hearing may be expected in the Fall. I know that I speak on behalf of the entire Commission in stating that despite differences of opinion, the Commission remains hopeful for an outcome that will put this issue to rest in an agreeable manner.
Another unresolved issue that will be before the Commission this Fall is the Commission’s initiative to modernize its empowering legislation. Currently, there are twenty-five potential modifications to Public Act 203 of 1965 slated to go to the legislature. Five ethics provisions that were originally a part of the package have proven to be controversial. As a result, they have been returned to the Commission’s Ethics Committee for development of recommendations as to further action.
One more issue. As you may already know, Public Act 302 dollars were compromised, to the tune of $600,000, during the 2009 fiscal year, for purposes related to the state’s fiscal crisis. The state’s budget for fiscal year 2010 will be due by October 1, and as a result, this Fall, our leaders will be turning every leaf in search of cash to keep state programs afloat. Often, 302 dollars are not seen for what they are by state policy makers. Public Act 302 dollars are generated from assessments on traffic citations. This is not tax money. These dollars support in-service training that, among other things, enhances protection of officers and the public, and it insulates local communities from lawsuits against local police.
In the 2009, we saw public safety pitted against public safety to excuse the re-direction of these funds. The only looser under these circumstances is the taxpayer. The Commission firmly opposes any further diversion of Public Act 302 dollars away from the legislated purpose for these funds, which is to train our law enforcement officers!