California lawmakers unveiled a six-bill package of legislation today in response to a scandal involving sky-high salaries paid to council members and top officials in the tiny city of Bell in Los Angeles County.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez characterized Bell's compensation practices as a "gross affront" to the public trust and said "elected officials and civic leaders need to be tightening their belt along with everyone else."
"Our response must be swift, our response must be strong," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg added.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was noncommital about the package today.
"We're outraged at what happened in the City of Bell and the governor will take a close look at these bills once they are in their final form," said Matt Connelly, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger.
"At the same time, the City of Bell is only one example of pension abuse and the Legislature should be just as concerned about reforming the entire public employee pension system as they are about the City of Bell," Connelly added.
Democratic leaders Steinberg and Perez were joined today by authors of the legislation, including Assembly members Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate; Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills; Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles; and Alberto Torrico, D-Newark.
Public anger has skyrocketed over disclosures that Bell was paying its council members nearly $100,000 per year and other top officials even more, including former city Manager Robert Rizzo, whose base salary of nearly $800,000 was sweetened by about $700,000 in other benefits.
Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, a Santa Clarita Republican who chairs the Assembly Local Government Committee, also attended today's press conference to show bipartisan support for a crackdown on excessive pay.
Pérez said that Republican legislative leaders have not yet committed to the six-bill package but that he is confident that bipartisan agreement can be reached.
Following are the six bills unveiled today:
Assembly Bill 1955: Require charter cities, such as Bell, to be penalized by the state if they pay city council salaries higher than allowed in general-law cities. Excess pay would be slapped with a 50 percent personal income tax and the city's redevelopment agency would be restricted from approving new plans or issuing new debt.
AB 827: Target salaries of unelected local government officials by prohibiting automatic salary increases and banning severance payments of greater than 12 months' salary for these non-unionized employees.
AB 2064: Require the Legislature to post on its Web site the salaries of its elected members and employees. The bill also requires cities, counties, special districts, school districts and joint powers authorities to post the salaries of its elected officials and key employees.
AB 192: Require cities to pay for any higher pension payments that stem from their luring a municipal employee away from another city by offering exorbitant pay.
Senate Bill 501: Require officials of cities, counties, special districts, school districts and joint powers agencies to file an annual statement that discloses their compensation to the public.
AB 194: Cap the maximum salary or compensation that can be used to determine pension benefits for high-paid public employees hired after Jan. 1, 2011.