The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

February 28, 2013
California bill would extend confidentiality privilege to unions

Should a union representative have the same privilege as a priest?

A new Assembly bill would give some union officials the same shield afforded doctors, lawyers and clergy by protecting their communications with union members from disclosure to the authorities, even when they learn of a crime.

Unions sponsored the measure introduced by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez. The West Covina Democrat said the bill gives "needed protections from employers" by walling off discussions between a union agent and a union member about bargaining or employee discipline.

"Most employees ... assume that such communications are confidential," Hernandez said in an emailed statement sent by his staff to The Bee.

February 28, 2013
Column Extra: Check out the CalPERS long-term care brochure

CALPERS_COURTYARD_JAY_MATHER_2005.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee examines the contention that CalPERS guaranteed it would never increase premiums for some of its most costly long-term care policies.

We've heard that from dozens of angry policyholders who feel like they were snookered by CalPERS materials and representatives in the 1990s pushing "inflation protection" coverage. The products annually adjust claim benefits to counter rising health care costs. Policyholders bought in despite the comparatively higher cost in the early years of the plans. The premiums, they were told, would remain fixed.

We've never seen any documents that use the word "guarantee" to describe locked-in premiums. Policyholders say insurance representatives freely used the word.

CalPERS officials today distance themselves from those assertions. They say that for years the numbers for those policies haven't added up for several reasons: disappointing investments, higher-than-anticipated claims and loose underwriting.

We've embedded below two pages from an old CalPERS brochure passed our way by a policyholder who enrolled 15 years ago. It uses phrases with some wiggle room, such as premiums for inflation-protected policies "are designed to remain level." Charts compare premiums between a policy without inflation protection and one that does. The same brochure also says premium increases require board action -- and there's no caveat for inflation-protection policies.

The policyholder wrote the notes on the document. We added the highlights.

February 27, 2013
The Roundup: March trial looms in Stockton pension dispute; ME struggles to recruit; OR union wants more pay and vacation

The Roundup: March trial looms in Stockton pension dispute; ME struggles to recruit; OR union wants more pay and...

Storified by Jon Ortiz· Wed, Feb 27 2013 06:33:01

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Stockton's CalPERS payments will be tested in March bankruptcy trial - The Sacramento BeeStockton is going to have to prove in court that it's broke, going up against angry Wall Street creditors who say the city is improperly ...
State trying to count parolees who have ditched GPS trackersSACRAMENTO - California corrections officials, expressing concern over a rise in paroled sex offenders disabling their GPS tracking devic...
Stateline - Infographic: State and Local Government Employment TrendsState and local governments have shed 681,000 jobs since their peak in August 2008, by far the steepest drop of any recession in the last...

February 26, 2013
Unfunded California state retiree health costs reach $64 billion

Retiree medical costs rise to $64 billion over 30 years

Storified by Jon Ortiz· Tue, Feb 26 2013 07:10:42

California controller pegs state retiree medical costs at $64 billion - The Sacramento BeeCalifornia faces a $63.84 billion obligation to cover state retirees' medical expenses over the next three decades, according to state Co...
Here's the report commissioned by Controller John Chiang:

February 26, 2013
The Roundup: CalPERS' unfunded liability; WI budget includes smokers' fee; New York state worker chastised for talking to media

The Roundup: CalPERS' unfunded liability; WI includes smokers' fee; New York state worker chastised for talking

Storified by Jon Ortiz· Tue, Feb 26 2013 07:01:23

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out The State Worker community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns. Sign up in the box at the top of this page to receive State Worker news alerts.
California pension liabilities may swell to $328.6 bln -reportAt the higher level, the unfunded pension liabilities would come to $8,600 per resident of the most populous U.S. state, the report by th...
As economy recovers, CalPERS may lift rate lidCalPERS last week gave some 1,575 local governments a small increase in their annual pension costs, one of the last rates kept low by unu...
Talks Between State & AFSCME Drag Along | Alton Daily NewsState workers are talking about going on strike if contract talks don't show more progress. The state is involved in negotiations with AF...
Walker budget charges smoking state workers $50 insurance fee | Superior Telegram | Superior, WisconsinGovernor Walker wants to charge state workers who smoke. The monthly $50 fee is included in his budget proposal. According to the Nationa...

February 25, 2013
California state workers: The root of all evil?

Thumbnail image for 110906 email.JPGOur state worker columns about government IT prompted more than the usual number of angry emails and phone calls the last couple weeks. The first column zeroed in on Controller John Chiang's decision to ax the MyCalPays payroll system. The second considered a broader question: Why is tech such a huge problem for the state?

Here are the most common criticisms and our responses:

February 22, 2013
Unions argue their furloughed members deserve back pay

130222 Blanning.JPGUnions representing state scientists and engineers this week filed court papers arguing that Gov. Jerry Brown wrongly furloughed thousands of state workers and owes them millions of dollars in back pay.

At stake: an estimated $12 million in back pay a Sacramento judge ordered the state pay the combined 13,000 employees covered by the unions last year. Brown has appealed the decision.

"The well-reasoned and considered judgment of the trial court should be affirmed in its entirety," says the unions' response brief filed this week in San Francisco's 3rd District Court of Appeal.

February 21, 2013
Brown aide defends pension reform for mass-transit workers

Thumbnail image for 130221 Morgenstern.JPGA top administration official has weighed in on a federal fight over the public pension law Gov. Jerry Brown signed last year law and whether it puts at risk billions of federal grant dollars.

In a letter last week, Brown's Labor Secretary Marty Morgenstern told the U.S. Department of Labor that the new pension law doesn't diminish mass-transit workers' collective bargaining rights, a prerequisite of the federal money.

"My legal staff and I have reviewed this matter carefully," Morgenstern wrote, concluding the law "merely modifies" the public pension plans that state and local government employers can offer.

The Public Employee Pension Reform Act caps benefits, hikes employee contributions and offers less generous formulas for employees hired Jan. 1 and later. Unions representing roughly 20,000 mass-transit workers in California contend the benefit terms that must be negotiated, not imposed.

February 21, 2013
Column Extra: CA Health Care Services IT chief to talk tech

130221 Flynn.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Today's column takes a look at government culture and a few ways that it clashes with information technology. The piece quotes John Thomas Flynn, who was California's first chief information officer in the Pete Wilson administration.

A registered Republican, Flynn ran last year for the Assembly District 8 seat. He finished fourth in a primary field of six candidates. Democrat Steve Cooley won the November general election.

Flynn follows state government tech like the Bee's Matt Barrows follows 49ers football. Flynn's blog, TechLeader.TV, regularly features IT types from various departments.

Today at 11:30 a.m, Flynn's scheduled guest is Chris Cruz, chief information officer for the California Department of Health Care Services. You can watch the webcast live by clicking here.

PHOTO: John Thomas Flynn / Sacramento Bee file, courtesy John Thomas Flynn

February 20, 2013
CalPERS sets new long-term care rates, plans open enrollment

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100607 CALPERS HQ.JPGA key CalPERS committee today approved a plan to reopen its long-term care insurance to new policyholders, widen the eligibility pool and introduce a new, cheaper benefit program.

Today's news -- "CalPERS enrollees receive notice of long-term care rate hikes" -- underscored CalPERS' decade-long effort to right a struggling program that pays for things like nursing care and in-home health services. Unlike public pensions, the long-term care benefits are a private insurance plan. Claims are paid solely with earnings from policyholders' premium investments. Taxpayers money doesn't backstop shortfalls.

CalPERS program has struggled for many years, falling victim to loose underwriting standards, a high number of claims and poor investment returns. Many private insurers have fell victim to similar trends, but had a larger pool of policyholders to share the risk. CalPERS has struggled more acutely in part because because it restricted its policies to members. About 150,000 of them hold policies.

February 20, 2013
The Roundup: CalPERS' looming long-term care hike; AFSCME in IL talks strike; WA considers truth-telling law

The Roundup: CalPERS' looming long-term care hike; AFSCME in IL talks strike; WA considers truth-telling law

Storified by Jon Ortiz· Wed, Feb 20 2013 06:08:30

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out The State Worker community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns. Sign up in the box at the top of this page to receive State Worker news alerts.
CalPERS enrollees receive notice of long-term care rate hikes - The Sacramento BeeWith an 85 percent premium hike looming, government workers and retirees covered by CalPERS' costliest long-term care insurance policies ...
California universities see future in online classesLONG BEACH - For millions of students around the country like Cal State Long Beach student Dan Deguzman, the appeal of online classes is ...
Capitol Alert: Fiscal analyst has legal concerns with Gov. Jerry Brown's budget - sacbee.comWhat You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and...
CalPERS to unload firearms investments - The Sacramento BeeResponding to the elementary school massacre in Connecticut, CalPERS on Tuesday moved to unload $5 million worth of investments in two ma...
California pushes - some say too hard - to recover money for fighting wildfires - The Sacramento BeeThe fire started with an anchor bolt on a hot October day at a Ventura County reservoir. A laborer took his chop saw to the half-inch-thi...

February 19, 2013
California treasurer proposing CalPERS dump gun holdings

Thumbnail image for 090522 Lockyer before Leg_Amezcua.jpgState Treasurer Bill Lockyer plans to ask the CalPERS' board today to purge the fund's investments in two companies that make firearms that are illegal in California.

If the board agrees to Lockyer's motion, the nation's biggest public employees' retirement system would divest of a total $5 million invested in Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger.

Last month Lockyer made a similar proposal to the California teachers' retirement system, the second-largest U.S. public pension fund after reports that the fund had a stake in the manufacturer of the rifle used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

Here's the text of Lockyer's motion to the CalPERS board:

February 14, 2013
From the notebook: Fighting heats up over pension reform law

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Our story in today's Bee examines union lawsuits against a handful of pension fund boards in the so-called "1937 Act Counties" that aren't in the CalPERS system. It's difficult to draw any sweeping conclusions from the lawsuits because the details of each vary and the 20 counties with their own pension boards have different rules when counting pensionable income.

Labor unions aren't sitting still for trimming what types of compensation go into the pension calculations for members who were in the system before the Public Employees' Pension Reform Act kicked in on Jan. 1 (specifically Assembly Bill 197, which defines pension reform rules for employees in the funds before the law took effect.)

This week California Attorney General Kamala Harris, at the direction of Gov. Jerry Brown, filed this Notice of Intent to Intervene in litigation against Alameda County's pension system, and she'll likely file similar papers soon in Contra Costa, Marin and Merced county courts, spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill said, where unions sued those counties' pension boards for how they've interpreted the pension law.

To get a taste of the unions' arguments, check out this complaint against the Merced County Employees' Retirement Association:

February 14, 2013
Column Extra: California's new IT task force, explained

20111102_ha_JOHN_CHIANG_0341.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column today takes a look at Controller John Chiang's decision to ax a $250 million payroll system upgrade program. We wondered what it says about the MyCalPays project and California's 30-year trail of information technology failures, a path paved with hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money.

So we asked Chiang spokesman Jacob Roper what lessons have been learned from the payroll system saga, a project inherited from former Controller Steve Westly. Here's Roper's emailed response and more info about a new state IT task force commissioned by the controller and Gov. Jerry Brown:

February 13, 2013
State to defend pension reform law from county union lawsuits

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 110628 Kamala Harris Paul Kitagaki Jr 2010.JPGAfter staying out of the fray for several months, Gov. Jerry Brown has asked attorney general Kamala Harris to defend California's new public pension law from lawsuits filed by employee unions in at least four counties.

The litigation targets the quasi-independent pension boards in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin and Merced counties for applying part of the law to all members, including those in the systems before the statute took effect on Jan. 1.

February 12, 2013
California state HR department sets contract 'sunshine' dates

130212 CalHR logo.JPGThe California Department of Human Resources has announced three dates for unions to deliver their initial labor contract proposals and to allow public comment on them.

The so-called "sunshine meetings" are required by state law, but often offer little insight into contract negotiations. Union leaders and the administration often informally work out the broad parameters of a deal. Bargaining teams then hammer out the fine details at the table.

Contracts for 19 of the state's 21 bargaining units expire on July 1, 2, or 3 this year. Unions representing state fire fighters and Highway Patrol officers extended their current pacts until 2017 and 2018, respectively.

If a union fails to reach an new agreement before its contract expires, the terms of the expired deal remain in force (with some notable exceptions) until a new contract is in place.

CalHR has set 1 p.m. on Feb. 28, Mar. 7 and Mar. 14 for the first round of presentations and will schedule additional meetings as needed.

February 12, 2013
The Roundup: Dual-wage state doctors; inmate lawsuits; VA limits part-time hours

The Roundup: Dual-wage state doctors; inmate lawsuits; VA limits part-time hours

Storified by Jon Ortiz· Tue, Feb 12 2013 06:30:34

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out The State Worker community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns. Sign up in the box at the top of this page to receive State Worker news alerts.
Prison receiver says he is ending practice of dual-wage doctorsThe court-appointed receiver for California's prison healthcare system has asked prison doctors to end the practice of moonlighting withi...
Inmate Lawsuits Cost State HUGE SumSACRAMENTO, Calif. - Gov. Jerry Brown has begun aggressively challenging federal court oversight of California's prison system by highlig...
San Bernardino, Calpers fail to reach deal ahead of court dateSenior officials at the California Public Employees Retirement System, the biggest U.S. public pension fund and San Bernardino's biggest ...
Dan Walters: California vs. Texas debate rages on - The Sacramento BeeUnto itself, Texas Gov. Rick Perry's supposed business recruitment trip to California this week is nothing more than a publicity stunt, a...
Click the link below to open PAGE 2

February 8, 2013
'Frightening' failures prompt state to ax $90 million software deal

12:04 p.m. This post has been updated with a statement from SAP.
1:30 p.m. This post has been corrected to reference the MyCalPays/21st Century project.

State Controller John Chiang has axed a multimillion-dollar software agreement with Pennsylvania-based SAP after a small roll-out of its payroll program failed -- and government officials learned of the failures from affected employees.

SAP had taken on an $89.7 million contract to implement MyCalPays/21st Century project software it developed, but small test runs of about 1,300 paychecks included 100 types of errors, everything from child-support payment mistakes to outright pay miscalculations. Employees and staff research flagged the problems, said Chiang spokesman Jacob Roper.

"It's frightening," Roper said.

The state plans to use "all means available" to recoup the $50 million paid to SAP so far and could sue for up to 150 percent of the contract amount, Roper said.

In an emailed statement from SAP's headquarters, spokesman James Dever said, "SAP is extremely disappointed in the SCO's actions. SAP stands behinds our software and actions. Our products are functioning flawlessly in thousands of government agencies around the world. SAP also believes we have fully satisfied all contractual agreements in this project."

Watch for more details in Saturday's Bee.

February 8, 2013
The Roundup: Caltrans acknowledges testing flaws; lessons from Knox v. SEIU; states' pay and benefits

The Roundup: Caltrans acknowledges testing flaws; lessons from Knox v. SEIU; states' pay and benefits

Storified by Jon Ortiz· Fri, Feb 08 2013 07:26:00

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out The State Worker community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns. Sign up in the box at the top of this page to receive State Worker news alerts.
Caltrans experts, despite testing problems, say structures are safe - The Sacramento BeeAn analysis from a team of California Department of Transportation experts, released Thursday after more than a year of preparation, conf...
Are Government Layoffs the Problem? - Room for DebateAndré da Loba As the economy continues its slow, fitful recovery, the private sector has added hundreds of thousands of jobs. But state, ...
Justice(s) at WorkThis column is prompted by the eye-catching headline that appeared two weeks ago: "Share of the Work Force in a Union Falls to a 97-Year ...
The State Worker: Basic numbers go missing in state bureaucracy - The Sacramento BeeYou would think that a multibillion-dollar enterprise could do the basic stuff, like track how many employees answer to the boss or where...
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February 7, 2013
Department of Corrections: New budget climate equals better accounting

130207 Pelican Bay.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's Bee about the state's struggle with big-picture data, included a reference to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's trouble with producing spending reports to the Legislature.

As we noted, Corrections produced the numbers on time this year. A shift in political winds helped.

February 6, 2013
The Roundup: CA budget games; states consider, reject employee raises; 'death spiral states'

The Roundup: CA budget games; states consider, reject employee raises; 'death spiral states'

Storified by Jon Ortiz· Wed, Feb 06 2013 08:09:56

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Money managers, California Department of Finance, play annual accounting games - The Sacramento BeeState parks employees told investigators last year it was common to hide money in their budget because they were afraid the state Departm...
Pension forfeiture bill wins legislative panel's supportBill would allow government to try to recoup tax dollars from retirement accounts of convicted public employees
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February 4, 2013
Engineering association funded shadowy initiative campaigns

Thumbnail image for 20 dollar bill.jpgA group that backs privatizing public infrastructure engineering work gave $400,000 to a opaque out-of-state organization that injected millions of dollars -- and plenty of controversy -- into California's initiative campaigns last year.

New state campaign filings show that American Council of Engineering Companies California made a $150,000 donation to a Virginia-based nonprofit in July and another $250,000 in September.

February 4, 2013
Correctional officers lose bid to flip $5 million defamation case

100609 gavel.jpgA federal appellate court has ruled that a $5 million judgement against California's prison officers' union will stand, brushing aside the group's arguments that the sum is excessive and that a federal jury's verdict in the case was wrong.

"We're disappointed that our appeal was unsuccessful, but we'll comply with the court and move forward," California Correctional Peace Officers Association spokesman JeVaughn Baker said this morning.

Does that mean the union will continue the court fight?

"We'll confer with our attorneys to determine the viability of our remaining options," Baker said.

Still, the decision issued Friday could have been worse for CCPOA. Plaintiff Brian Dawe had contended that he should receive more than twice as much money, but the appellate court disagreed.

February 1, 2013
CalPERS employee arrested on suspicion of identity theft

130201 lamar.JPGInvestigators have arrested a CalPERS employee today for allegedly stealing the identity of at least one pension fund member.

Authorities booked 40-year-old Koren Lamar into Solano County Jail on suspicion of identity theft, according to a Vacavile Police Department press release. Investigators made the arrest after seizing evidence from two Sacramento locations: a Fulton Fulton Avenue apartment complex and CalPERS' headquarters.

Lamar lived in an apartment on Fulton Avenue.

Vacaville police launched an investigation on Jan. 23 after the victim reported several loans taken out using their personal information and without their knowledge.

"During the investigation officers discovered a connection to the California Public Employees Retirement System, from which the victim is currently receiving retirement benefits," according to the press release submitted by Sgt. Jeff King. "Investigators believed that the personal information used in the loan applications was obtained from a CalPERS database."

Police said they believe that Lamar worked alone. They are continuing their investigation and other victims may surface, but they think the number is "relatively small."

CalPERS spokesman Brad Pacheco said in an emailed statement that protecting members' personal data "is one of our highest priorities. We have had very few instances of this kind and we will not let one individual overshadow our commitment to members."

PHOTO: Koren Lamar / Vacaville Police Department press release

February 1, 2013
Jerry Brown names appointees to state public employee board

130124 Jerry Brown Amezcua.JPGGov. Jerry Brown today announced two appointments to the California Public Employment Relations Board.

Both jobs pay $128,109 per year and require Senate confirmation. The five-member board administers the collective bargaining laws that cover state, local and regional public employees in California.

Appointee Eric Banks, 41, of San Diego, filled several roles for Service Employees International Union Local 221 for the last 13 years, including president and director of government and community relations, according to a news release from the governor's office.

Berkeley resident Priscilla Winslow, 60, was a legal adviser for the board until last year. A UC Davis law school graduate, Winslow launched her legal career in 1977 as chief counsel for the Clerical and Allied Services Employees Union, according to Brown's announcement. She was assistant chief counsel for the California Teachers Association from 1996 to 2012.

Banks and Winslow are both registered Democrats.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his State of the State speech to California Legislators in the Assembly Chambers at the State Capitol in Sacramento Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. Sacramento Bee / Hector Amezcua



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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