The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

December 16, 2011
A.M. Reading: Caltrans worker appeals firing -- again; TX reduces backlog; NE looks at ending child welfare privatization

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifFired Caltrans worker had been terminated before
The Caltrans worker fired last month after admitting that he falsified structural integrity test reports was booted from state service before, but a state board overturned that firing after determining it resulted from "a one-time lapse in judgment." Now Duane Wiles is appealing his latest firing to the same State Personnel Board that reinstated him nearly 12 years ago after he was accused of misusing his state credit card and making personal calls on a state cellphone. (Sacramento Bee)

Overcoming a backlog: How Texas conquered a mountain of food stamps applications
AUSTIN, Texas -- Two years ago, the 316 offices in Texas where people go to sign up for food stamps were the very image of a government backlog. Long lines of frustrated people, many of them hungry, snaked through dingy spaces designed to handle much smaller crowds. The back offices weren't much better. Desks of state employees were littered with piles of applications -- in boxes under workers' desks and stacked on top of them -- that hadn't yet been entered into the state's computer systems. Part 3 in a series. (Stateline)

Harassment claim against legislator settled in secret, records show
The state Senate secretly paid $120,000 to settle a claim by a legislative aide that she was sexually harassed by Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), according to her attorney and government documents released this week. (Los Angeles Times)

CalPERS surprise: smaller rate hike for local plans
The rate hike next July for most of the 2,043 local public pension plans in the giant CalPERS system will be lower than expected -- an increase of 1 percent of pay or less for four-fifths of them. The rates reflect the second year of a radical "smoothing" plan that spreads rate increases from huge investment losses over a three-year period. (Calpensions)

OUR VIEW: Public entities can't afford to lose public trust
While local governments and school districts are busy slashing budgets and defunding programs, they might also review and strengthen internal controls to prevent fraud, misappropriation and carelessness with public property -- and the wasted tax dollars that come with it. (Bakersfield Californian)

Report: Reverse child welfare privatization
LINCOLN -- Saying Nebraska is failing in its responsibilities to children, a panel of state lawmakers called Thursday for pulling back on the controversial privatization of child welfare services. (Omaha World-Herald)

Viewpoints: Pension plans should assume realistic returns
Earlier this week, we issued a report identifying the shortfalls at CalPERS, CalSTRS and the University of California retirement plan. The report shows cumulative shortfalls that vary depending on assumptions about investment rates of return. (Sacramento Bee)

Gov. Rick Snyder, unions focus on a more cooperative future
LANSING -- Public employees took a beating in 2011, in Michigan and elsewhere. But on Thursday, as they announced ratification of new labor contracts, Gov. Rick Snyder and officials of major state employee unions looked past the blood on the floor to a less combative -- even cooperative -- future.

CalPERS investing in underwater power line
CalPERS is pouring money into an underwater power line. (Sacramento Bee)

Use It or Lose It: Cashing In on Unused Days Off
... Last Thursday, Gov. Chris Christie was back out on the stump seeking to end the widespread practice of allowing public employees to bank unused days off and be paid for at least a portion of the total accrued on retirement. (njspotlight.com)

State board delays ruling on union appeal
Montana's state Board of Personnel Appeals decided Thursday it needs more information before ruling on an appeal by public sector unions of a hearing officer's rejection of their unfair labor practices complaint over the Legislature's rejection of a pay raise. (Helena Independent Record)

Scott Walker recall nears needed signatures
A group trying to kick Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker out of office say they have gathered over half a million signatures on recall petitions -- nearly enough to hold an election next year, according to a report Thursday. (Politico)

McDonnell proposes bonus, pension bailout for Va workers; mum on employee pension contribution
RICHMOND, Va. -- State employees would receive 3 percent bonuses just in time for Christmas 2012 and Virginia's underfunded public employee pension system would get a $2.2 billion infusion over the next two years under a proposal that Gov. Bob McDonnell plans to present to lawmakers. (AP / Washington Post)

Tax data infiltrated by state workers
The state Department of Taxation placed several employees on administrative leave without pay this week following the discovery of an internal security breach of the department's tax database. (Honolulu Star Advertiser)

More state workers linked to alleged food stamp fraud
Hartford - Ten additional state employees are suspected of filing erroneous claims for a post-disaster food stamps program, bringing the total number of potential fraud cases to 34, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Thursday. (theday.com)

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signs bills affecting state workers' retiree health care benefits
LANSING, Mich. -- State workers hired after Jan. 1 no longer will be eligible to receive state health care coverage when they retire and long-term employees covered by the state's defined benefit pension will have to contribute 4 percent of their pay to keep that benefit under bills signed Thursday by Gov. Rick Snyder. (AP / The Republic)

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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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