The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

November 20, 2011
A.M. Reading: Assembly personal aide travel; labor and Occupy movement; N.J. sick leave

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalifornia Assembly committee budgets conceal travel by lawmakers' personal aides
Much of the money spent for travel by Assembly committees this year went to fly personal aides of Southern California legislators round-trip between the Capitol and their districts.
The trips contradict what the Assembly tells Californians in its annual expenditure report - that committee travel funds are used primarily for hearings to serve the public. (Sacramento Bee)

Prison plan sways prosecutors in filing charges
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley's office handles about one-third of California's felony convictions, making this single county critical to the success of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to reduce prison overcrowding by sentencing nonviolent felony offenders to county jails. Cooley, however, is a Republican who adamantly opposes the Democratic governor's plan and is training his staffers to do everything they can to work around it - including pushing for the most serious charges to ensure that as many offenders as possible are sentenced to state prison. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Occupy Sacramento joins forces with Service Employees International Union (News10)

'Think Long' coalition will propose overhauling California's tax system
A coalition backed by some of the biggest names in California politics and a billionaire financier is readying for the ballot a sweeping overhaul of the Golden State's tax system. (Sacramento Bee)

Daniel Borenstein: San Jose pension crisis tied up in legal quagmire
Labor unions try to have it both ways. They fight statewide reform of public employee pension systems by insisting that change must be bargained at the local level. But, as we see in San Jose, when they get to the table they claim they can't legally agree to substantive improvements. Welcome to the crazy world of public employee pensions, where benefits are easy to increase, but nearly impossible to reduce -- even when they're unaffordable. (Mercury News)

Rally to recall Wis. Gov. Walker draws thousands
Tens of thousands of marchers swarmed Capitol Square through a cold drizzle on Saturday to protest Gov. Scott Walker's policies and promote a petition drive to recall him in two months. Capitol police estimated that 25,000 to 30,000 people marched, many holding signs calling for the Republican governor's ouster. Walker has been targeted by critics angry about his cuts to public education and the new limits he imposed on the collective bargaining powers of public workers. (AP / Madison.com)

An F in ethics
At a time when politicians of a certain stripe are firing blunderbusses at public employees and their unions, the investigations into the Broward Teachers Union add more ammunition. If the allegations raised in an audit are true, union members can only conclude that their leaders are slow learners. The audit and another investigation raise questions about attention to good business practices, ethics and the law. Sloppiness is never excusable. (Miami Herald)

Opinion: Public scrutiny a biblical fight
... It's no surprise that a newspaper editor might complain about government's tendency to operate in a cloud. What's frustrating is that the lights are shut off at all levels -- not just involving, say, the congressional supercommittee charged with solving the nation's budget impasse, but also the day-to-day operations of state and local governments. (Albany Times Union)

State, workers grapple with prison layoff process
Many correctional workers are in limbo as the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's first "wave" of layoffs rolls out. (Bakersfield Californian)

Sick-time payouts spike as Minnesota state employee retirements rise
State of Minnesota employees can go into retirement with an extra nest egg that's almost unheard of in the private sector. Some get $100 or less. A few get more than $100,000. Most take home $10,000 to $30,000. (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Gov. Deval Patrick signs law overhauling pensions
Gov. Deval Patrick has signed into law an overhaul of the pension system for public employees. The bill approved by the Legislature earlier this week is aimed at saving the state $5 billion over the next 30 years and reducing the state's $17 billion unfunded pension liability. (Boston Herald)

Kenya finds cleaner government is just a keystroke away
Kenya is an economic engine for East Africa, but its rise on the global stage has long been stunted by corruption. Now, though, it's making progress against the old-fashioned scourge through new-fangled IT. The solution is simple, but powerful: Remove bureaucrats through "e-government." (Christian Science Monitor)

RI pension overhaul may head to the courts
Rhode Island is taking dramatic steps toward fixing one of the nation's most underfunded public pension systems, but the true battle with public-sector unions may be just beginning. (AP / Bloomberg Businessweek)

Official who received overpayment resigns
TALLAHASSEE -- An official with Gov. Rick Scott's administration who had been given three years to repay the state more than $21,000 is no longer on the job.
Dean Kowalchyk, the general counsel for the Department of Elder Affairs, resigned earlier this week. His resignation came less than a week after The Associated Press reported that he was paid for unused vacation late last year when it appeared the Scott administration planned to replace him. (AP / Bradenton Herald)

The Buzz: Seven things to watch in 2012
No. 5 ... Nationally, the GOP has decided that, with unions on the wane, there next best boogeyman to vilify is public-sector workers. After all, who ever has benefitted from the efforts of a DMV worker, an EMT, a teacher, policeman or firefighter? (The State)

Editorial: End sick time payouts for N.J. public workers
Never one to mince words, Gov. Chris Christie was forthright last week during a speech before members of the state's League of Municipalities. Using the occasion to exhort lawmakers to carry out more of his suggested "tool kit" items, the governor also reiterated his call to end sick time payouts for New Jersey's retiring public workers. (Times of Trenton)

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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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