The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

July 11, 2011
Senate OKs pension measure aimed at curbing county abuses

Independent county government pension boards in California will have to stop counting bonuses and some unused leave cash outs when calculating pensions, according to a measure that Senators passed without opposition today.

Assembly Bill 340 also curbs retiree "double dipping" in those so-called "'37 Act Counties" by mandating a waiting period between the time they leave service and when they could return to their former jobs.

The bill, authored by Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, cleared the Senate 35-0 and is now back with the Assembly for a concurrence vote on tweaks made in the upper chamber. Assuming the Assembly signs off, the measure would go on to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

The legislation clearly seeks to cool off the rhetoric stoked by the head-snapping abuses that grab headlines and fuel calls to change all state and local government pensions. Here's what Furutani says about his bill in a Senate committee analysis of it: "The abusive practices engaged in by a few individual have put retirement benefits at risk for the vast majority of honest, hard-working public servants."

Sen. Gloria Negrete-McLeod, D-Chino, presented the bill on the floor today, saying, "Allowing this double-dipping to continue only adds to the growing public concern over pensions being received by public employees."

The measure applies to 20 county pension systems established by a 1937 law that allows them to provide pensions for their employees. As part of that independence, they can define what compensation counts toward those pensions and the rules for when retirees can return to work as annuitants.

AB 340 would apply many of the same pension rules to the counties that already apply to the state. Among them:

• Excludes from pension calculations payments for unused vacation, leave, bonuses or compensatory time off when the amount exceeds what an employee is permitted to accrue in a year, and other extra pay.

• Authorizes the pension boards to investigate "spiking" abuses.

• Prevents retirees from returning to work as annuitants or contract employees for a minimum of 180 days after they leave service.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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