BILL ANALYSIS Ó Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Summary Senator Christine Kehoe, Chair AB 648 (Block) Hearing Date: 07/11/2011 Amended: 07/06/2011 Consultant: Jolie Onodera Policy Vote: Public Safety 7-0 _________________________________________________________________ ____ BILL SUMMARY: AB 648 would require that at least 10 days before the Governor acts upon an application for a commutation of sentence, written notice of the intention to apply for the commutation be served upon the district attorney of the county where the offender was convicted. In addition, this bill would: 1) Authorize the district attorney to submit a written recommendation to the Governor regarding the commutation; 2) Require the district attorney to make reasonable efforts to notify the victim(s) of the crime or related crimes, as well as the victims' families, who may also submit a recommendation to the Governor regarding the commutation; 3) Recast existing law that requires the Governor to report to the Legislature at the beginning of each session, information on each case of reprieve, pardon, and commutation, and require the report to be made available to the public. _________________________________________________________________ ____ Fiscal Impact (in thousands) Major Provisions 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 Fund Notification to victimsUnknown; likely minor state-reimbursable General and families costs Public availability of Minor and absorbable costs to the General report to Legislature Governor's Office _________________________________________________________________ ____ STAFF COMMENTS: The California Constitution provides that subject to application procedures provided by statute, the Governor, on conditions the Governor deems proper, may grant a reprieve, pardon, and commutation, after sentence has been entered except in cases of AB 648 (Block) Page 1 impeachment. Further, the Governor may not grant a pardon or commutation to a person twice convicted of a felony except on recommendation of the Supreme Court, four judges concurring. Existing statutory law requires that at least 10 days before the Governor acts upon any application for a pardon, written notice of the intention to apply therefore, signed by the person applying, shall be served upon the district attorney in the county where the conviction was had, and proof by affidavit of the service must be presented to the Governor. This bill would provide that the same process of written notification to district attorneys for an application for a pardon be provided for an application for a commutation of sentence. This bill would also authorize the district attorney to submit a written recommendation to the Governor for or against commutation of sentence. This bill would require the district attorney to make reasonable efforts to notify the victim or victims of the crime or related crimes, and the families of the victims, who may also submit a recommendation to the Governor for or against commutation of sentence. By placing additional requirements on district attorneys, costs incurred for the notification of victims and families would be state-reimbursable. Only 14 commutations have been granted over the past 35 years. Additionally, based on information from the Board of Parole Hearings, three applications for commutation of sentence were submitted in 2009, and five applications were submitted in 2010. As a result, state-reimbursable costs are likely to be minor. Staff notes a proposal in 2009-10 to commute the sentences of approximately 8,500 undocumented felons who had been identified by the federal government for deportation upon their release from state prison was considered but not implemented. The likelihood of a similar proposal being considered in the future is unknown, however, if such a proposal were to be implemented, state-reimbursable costs resulting from the provisions of this bill could be more significant. Existing law requires the Governor to, at the beginning of every session, communicate to the Legislature, in addition to each case of reprieve or pardon, each commutation, stating the name of the person convicted, the crime of which the person was convicted, the sentence and its date, the date of the commutation and the reason for granting the same. This bill AB 648 (Block) Page 2 would recast the above provision and require the Governor to file a written report with the Legislature that shall include each application that was granted for reprieve, pardon, or commutation, as specified, and would require the written report to be made available to the public. Costs to the Governor's Office to make the written report available to the public are estimated to be minor and absorbable within existing resources.