The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

August 30, 2011
Constitutional officers lose furlough appeal

Less than a week after lawyers debated whether employees of constitutional officers should have been furloughed like state workers elsewhere, Sacramento's 3rd District Court of Appeal said that there's no special status for the constitutionals' staff.

The unanimous ruling by Justices Vance Raye, George Nicholson, Ronald Robie, released this afternoon, doesn't affect the pay of the roughly 16,000 employees who work in departments and agencies headed by officials elected via statewide vote, including the lieutenant governor, the secretary of state, the treasurer, the controller, the attorney general, the superintendent of public instruction, the insurance commissioner and the Board of Equalization.

None went along with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto order in February 2009. They argued that as independently elected executives that they had authority to control their staffing. The administration sued in Sacramento Superior Court and won. The constitutionals appealed the decision and kept their employees on full hours and pay.

Much has changed since that original ruling, as we explained in this report last week. The case dragged on so long that Brown went from being named as a defendant as then-attorney general to the plaintiff, taking over Schwarzenegger's executive role.

The California Supreme Court's ruling last year that the Legislature had implicitly authorized furloughs in budget legislation changed the argument from the scope of gubernatorial authority to whether constitutional officers could ignore the Legislature. The two sides debated the issue in court on Thursday.

(W)e need not resolve further the abstract question of the degree of independence each officer possesses with respect to the Governor. Nor must we decide whether the Governor, acting alone, possesses the authority to furlough the employees of these officers. This is because the Legislature has endorsed the Governor's furlough plan.

The outcome of the case won't have any immediate impact on state workers who weren't furloughed.The state isn't going to force employees in those departments to somehow make up the unpaid time off, said DPA spokeswoman Lynelle Jolley.

"This (case) just clarifies their status," Jolley said.
3rd District Court ruling: Brown v. Chiang

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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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