The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

March 31, 2013
The Roundup: Audit blasts Caltrans; two views of CA; FL and MT eye raises for state workers

HA_newspapers3808.JPGThe State Worker is back after a week off.

State auditor: California's net worth at negative $127.2 billion
Were California's state government a business, it would be a candidate for insolvency with a negative net worth of $127.2 billion, according to an annual financial report issued by State Auditor Elaine Howle and the Bureau of State Audits.


California Beaming
But there is something irrational, indeed unpatriotic, in rooting for California to fail, as so many conservatives are now doing. Sure, they are upset that the Republican Party is dead in this state -- R.I.P. G.O.P. And, among the fringes, there are those who cannot accept that California is a minority-majority state, with whites making up about 39 percent of the population. They've seen the future and don't like it one bit.

Legislature urges state worker raises; first time in 6 years
The Florida Senate and House rolled out their respective budget proposals on Friday. Both budgets are slightly bigger than Gov. Rick Scott's spending plan, and both differ from Scott's in one respect: Lawmakers want to give across the board pay raises to all state workers, while Scott favors bonuses to workers.

State audit faults Caltrans lapses
In an investigation released Thursday, the Bureau of State Audits sharply criticized the California Department of Transportation for numerous lapses in managing a unit that tests foundations of bridges and other freeway structures to verify their soundness and safety.

March 22, 2013
From the notebook: The State Athletic Commission's woes

NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgAs we reported in this post, the California State Athletic Commission is struggling financially after a long history of management miscues and other lapses. The problems are so long-lasting and severe that State Auditor Elaine Howle says lawmakers should consider winding it down and transferring its duties to the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Click here to read the auditor's report. This link will download a 2011 background paper prepared for the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development. The committee meets again on April 8 for another review.

We can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details, notes and quotes behind the news.

ILLUSTRATION CREDIT: Gabi Campanario / Seattle Times 2007

March 22, 2013
Cal EMA responds to State Worker report, changes postal policy

130322-calema-logo-horizontal-large1.jpgFollowing Thursday's State Worker column that the state's emergency management agency spent more to mail a collection letter to a former employee than the amount she owed, the agency is changing its certified mail policy immediately.

Kelly Huston, Cal EMA's assistant secretary of media relations, said spending $6.51 to certify a letter to Deena Mount for a $5 debt was "ridiculous."

From now on, the agency won't send certified letters for collections under $100, he said.

Mount, a Cal EMA employee until 2010 who now works for the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, received notice last week that she owed the money for a 2007 travel-expense overpayment.

It's not clear why the agency took six years to catch up with the debt. Agency officials on Wednesday couldn't find any records of prior correspondence to Mount about the matter.

"There's a reasonable way to handle these things," Huston said. "The way we did it in her case was not reasonable."

IMAGE CREDIT: www.calema.ca.gov

March 21, 2013
Auditor says CA athletic commission needs to change or go

PK_GLADIATOR 416.JPGThe commission that regulates boxing, mixed martial arts and similar sporting events has been so badly managed for so long that it's time to think about axing it, a new audit released this morning says.

The State Athletic Commission has mismanaged its finances, failed to document facility and equipment safety inspections, mishandled revenue collections from promoters and bungled boxers' pension payments. according to State Auditor Elaine Howle.

March 21, 2013
State Senate to move 'quickly' on business filing-backlog bill

130320_Steinberg_Amezcua_ASSEMBLY_2012.JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said his chamber will "act quickly" on a bill aimed at easing the backlog of business filings at the Secretary of State's office.

Steinberg commented on the measure, Assembly Bill 113, following this morning's Senate session.

While the Senate will likely expedite the bill, Steinberg said that the upper chamber wants more information. The measure would give $2 million to Secretary of State Debra Bowenfrom the current fiscal year's budget to pay overtime and hire temporary employees to work down a mountain of business filings that average six weeks to process.

"We want to see a plan from the secretary first," Steinberg said.

Bowen has blamed the delays on a number of factors, from budget cuts to the state's paper-only filing system. In some instances the wait times delay when businesses can launch, hire employees and pay taxes.

RELATED:
California Assembly votes $2 million to reduce business filing backlog
New California businesses face six-week state filing wait

PHOTO CREDIT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg speaks to lawmakers in 2012. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

March 20, 2013
The Roundup: CalPERS scandal; furloughs and leave; high court takes state age discrimination case

HA_newspapers3808.JPGCalPERS Criminal Prosecutions Needed To End Public Pension Fraud
Yesterday a federal grand jury indicted two former top officials of CalPERS, the nation's largest public pension fund on fraud, conspiracy and obstruction charges. Three years after the "pay-to-play" influence peddling scandal surfaced at the $225 billion fund, the Department of Justice may be poised to investigate and prosecute public pension corruption nationally. Take my word for it, there's enough public pension corruption across the country to keep DOJ busy for decades. Forbes

Pensions part of system that actually works right
We elect our state legislators with the hope that they will look out for the public. So it always is sort of a shock when legislators work to undermine government services which work best for people. Heraldnet

Dan Walters: California Legislature 'solving' problems it created
The 2013 session of the California Legislature is nearly four months old, having begun in early December, and lawmakers have done little to earn their salaries and living expense checks. Sacramento Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown takes notice of realignment complaints
As lawmakers stepped up pressure to modify California's historic prison realignment - most recently at a news conference Tuesday featuring a crime victim in a wheelchair - Gov. Jerry Brown is taking notice. Sacramento Bee

Post-crisis reforms sustainable?
A nationwide study, including CalPERS and CalSTRS, projects that huge pension fund losses during the financial crisis will be offset over three decades by a wave of recently enacted cost-cutting reforms -- but only if several things happen. Public CEO

Oklahoma firefighters rally against consolidating state pension boards
About 400 firefighters showed up outside the Oklahoma Capitol to oppose a plan to consolidate state pension boards. The plan has the support of the governor and state treasurer. The Oklahoman

March 19, 2013
Audit: California courts' statewide financial report incomplete

130319-elaine-howle-2011-autumn-cruz.JPGA sampling of the business reports by the California court system's administrative body reveals some flaws in how local courts assigned contracts last year and reporting gaps in goods or services purchases, according to a report released this morning.

State Auditor Elaine Howle found that the Administrative Office of the Courts' financial report to the Legislature for the first half of 2012 contained "several instances where data in (the report) was inaccurate,"

The AOC is the business arm of the Judicial Counsel, which sets policy for the California's network of 58 county courts. By law, it gives lawmakers a financial report twice each year.

March 18, 2013
Poll: Will the Secretary of State reduce filing backlog to 5 days

LS_DEBRA_BOWEN.JPGThe Assembly today voted to send $2 million ASAP to Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office for extra help to work down a six-week backlog of business filings.

Assuming the Senate and Gov. Jerry Brown also approve the measure, Bowen will use the money to pay staff overtime and hire temp help to jump on the mountain of mail immediately.

Lawmakers also are weighing a recommendation that they allocate an extra $6 million to $9 million in fiscal 2013-14 for Bowen to hire another 68 employees.

March 18, 2013
Assembly to vote on more money for Secretary of State staffing

130312_Perez_2010_amezcua.JPGThe Assembly will vote today on a measure that would give $2 million to Secretary of State Debra Bowen to quickly work down a backlog of business filings literally stacked up at her offices.

The money would pay for staff overtime and temporary help to handle the 122,000 or so documents -- most with filing-fee checks attached -- that are in a processing queue that averages six weeks. Other states take far less time, but they exploit online automation. California's system still uses paper and index cards.

After The Bee reported the delays, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said his chamber would move quickly to release more money for Bowen to hire and pay overtime and has encouraged the Senate to move just as expeditiously once the measure moves there.

Pérez also wants lawmakers to give Bowen an extra $8.9 million in 2013-14 to hire business filing staff with the goal of reducing the backlog to 5 business days by November. The secretary would then maintain that standard until a new computer system comes online in 2016.

Correction, 3:30 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the number of business documents awaiting action by the secretary of state's office.

PHOTO CREDIT: John A. Pérez during an Assembly floor discussion in 2010. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

March 15, 2013
From the notebook: More about furloughs and leave accruals

130315-Notebook.JPGOur story in today's Bee expands on a new state report that quantifies the long-term impact of furloughs on California state employee leave. We contacted a half-dozen sources for reaction to the legislative analyst's conclusion that the policy will add $1 billion to what the state pays cash out employee leave and that the state should considering setting a hard leave cap and offer to buy down leave balances.

As we reported today, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Resources says Gov. Jerry Brown wants to get the state's estimated $3.9 billion in leave liabilities under control and reform the system. The issue could come up in upcoming contract talks with unions.

Here are some of the quotes from sources that didn't get into the story.

March 14, 2013
State worker database now includes 2012 civil service pay

RCB_20121127 WEATHER_0145.JPGThe Sacramento Bee state worker pay database has been updated and now includes 2012 civil service pay. California state worker payroll remained flat from 2011 to 2012, as the workforce shrunk slightly and overtime pay declined.

Use the database to search all civil service salaries through 2012. University salaries through 2011 are available now; check back later for 2012 salaries from the University of California and California State University systems.

Find the state worker database at www.sacbee.com/statepay.

March 14, 2013
Report: California's furloughs driving up leave cash-out costs

130314-mac-taylor-2013-byer.JPGCalifornia paid more than a quarter-billion dollars to cash out state employee leave last year, according to a new state report, in part because furloughed state workers haven't been taking as much paid time off.

STATE PAY DATABASE UPDATE: The Sacramento Bee state pay database now includes 2012 civil service pay

The report from the office of Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor says employee leave cash outs cost $270 million in 2011-12 and concludes that the liability in future years is so heavy that lawmakers should consider a leave-buyback program rather than carry the time on the books. The Legislative Analyst's Office also suggests the state impose a "use-it-or-lose-it" policy on future leave accruals and clamp down on enforcing the state's leave cap, which some departments have routinely ignored.

Furloughs have cut the state's employee payroll costs by about $5 billion since fiscal 2008-09 when former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers imposed them, but the savings are less, the analyst says, because employees have taken less paid leave.

Those hours, in turn, stack up in employees' leave banks. Since unused time is cashed out at a worker's final pay rate when he or she leaves state service leave balances gain value to an employee -- and costs the state more -- with every raise or promotion.

"Probably nearly $1 billion of these furlough savings was not long-term savings," the LAO concludes. "Instead, the state must pay this money as they retire or otherwise leave state service."

The state's employee-leave balance tab hit $3.9 billion in June 2012, according to the analyst.

The state caps accrued leave at 640 hours for most of its employees, but more than 23,700 of them -- roughly 10 percent of the state workforce -- had more that that much time banked in January. Furloughs contributed to those blown leave caps: State workers' average leave balance grew by 16 days between 2008 and 2012.

Furloughs also affected state operations. Employees' average allowed time off increased 50 percent in the last five years. From fiscal 2008-09 through the current fiscal year, correctional officers have taken an average 94 unpaid days off, the most of any employee group. Employees represented by SEIU Local 1000 and managers and supervisors received 79 days off, with most other groups receiving 70. Firefighters (20 unpaid days) and CHP officers (12 days) weren't furloughed for most of the last five years.

PHOTO CREDIT: Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor holds a press conference reviewing Gov. Jerry Brown's budget on Jan. 14, 2013, in Sacramento, California. Renée C. Byer / Sacramento Bee

March 14, 2013
From the notebook: Read Debra Bowen's letter to John A. Pérez

NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgThis week's Assembly budget subcommittee hearing into backlogged filings at Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office touched on whether the secretary has asked lawmakers for more money. Her office runs on fees it collects, but the money has to be allocated by the Legislature. Last year Bowen collected $75 million and lawmakers returned about $50 million. The balance going to the general fund.

Severe backlogs in fiscal 2011-12 prompted Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to transfer $1.2 million from the lower chamber's budget to the secretary of state. He gave Bowen the money specifically to work down business filing backlogs that in some instances had reached 80 days or more. Filing wait times currently run about six weeks.

Here's Bowen's July 2012 letter to Pérez, accounting for how the department spent the money and predicting that her office would get filing delays below 32 calendar days. Bowen spokeswoman Shannan Velayas provided the letter to The State Worker.

We can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

March 13, 2013
California Conservation Corps dance video goes viral

Here's a video of John Griffith, a California Conservation Corps supervisor in Ukiah, showing off his dance moves to a couple of his corps members. Clicks on YouTube are approaching 600,000 since it was posted last summer, and it has recently popped up on TV shows such as "Good Morning America" and "The Today Show."

March 13, 2013
Brown administration files final furlough brief in appellate court

jerry_brown_2012_amezcua.JPGLawyers representing Gov. Jerry Brown have filed their last brief in the final furlough skirmish between state labor and management.

March 12, 2013
CA lawmakers push to trim business paperwork delay to five days

130312_Perez_2010_amezcua.JPGAssembly lawmakers intend to introduce legislation and dedicate millions of dollars to reduce what is now a six-week backlog of business filings stacked up at Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office.

The new standard would give the state five business days to process business filings.

The Assembly's Budget Subcommittee No. 4, heard details this afternoon about the delays this week, which Bowen's office attributes to a seasonal end-of-year run on services and budget cutbacks. The agency has shifted staff away from other jobs to focus on breaking the logjam of documents awaiting attention.

March 12, 2013
Assembly committee to discuss business filing backlog today

130312_Bowen_2010_Amezcua.JPGA legislative budget panel this afternoon will delve into the six-week backlog of work at the secretary of state's office, which was first reported by The Bee last week.

The Assembly's Budget Subcommittee No. 4, which focuses on state administration, put the issue at the top of its agenda for today's 1:30 p.m. hearing at the Capitol. You can listen to an audio feed of the hearing by clicking here.

March 11, 2013
Bill would require legislative approval for outsourcing

130311_Richard_Pan_amezcua_2010.JPGA new bill would require the Legislature approve state contracts for services, limit how long the agreements could run and clamp down on how long departments could extend them.

Sacramento Democrat Richard Pan's proposal, Assembly Bill 906, tacks those provisions on to existing laws intended to protect state civil service jobs.

March 8, 2013
The Roundup: Union blasts UC system; what federal cuts mean for Sacramento; NY accused of cheating workers
March 7, 2013
Departments grinding through dual-state-jobs investigation

MAJ_STATE_CAPITOL_2008.JPGOfficials from California's Department of Human Resources and the State Personnel Board told lawmakers today that they are analyzing how departments applied an obscure, controversial policy that allows salaried state employees to take a second part-time job in their same department and earn an hourly wage.

In testimony before a Senate Budget and Fiscal Review subcommittee, human resources Director Julie Chapman said her department has dedicated five employees to work through 25 boxes of employee time sheets, payroll records and other information. Eleven departments turned over the documents after The Bee reported that they had at least one exempt employee appointed to a second job that pays an hourly wage.

"We hope in the next month to have all the analysis done," Chapman said.

March 7, 2013
Committee agenda includes update on dual state-jobs policy

A policy that allows salaried state workers to take second positions within their departments is on a legislative committee's agenda this morning.

The Senate Budget and Fiscal Review subcommittee chaired by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, will hear from the California Department of Human Resources about "additional appointments" for exempt employees.

Many state workers hold more than one job; Brown administration puts a brake on the practice

A staff report in advance of today's scheduled 9:30 a.m. hearing says there's no uniform standard for the practice and that it "appears in many ways to be an 'underground' human resources policy. ... The lack of a clear, updated policy is effectively a non-policy, and creates an atmosphere ripe for abuse and misunderstanding."

Scroll down to page 11 of the embedded document for more of the committee's staff analysis.

Senate Budget and Fiscal Review agenda by

March 6, 2013
Report: State payroll system upgrade may not be feasible

RB_State_Checks_Machine.JPGAfter nine years and $262 million spent on a twice-failed project to upgrade California's employee pay system, the Legislative Analyst's Office says an overhaul of the current system may not be possible.

A report released today lays out the ugly details of the 21st Century / MyCalPays project: The 2004 launch with an optimistic $130 million price tag, the escalating cost estimates that reached $373 million; the contractors hired and fired when the job wasn't done.

Last month State Controller John Chiang terminated a contract with global tech firm SAP after a test run of 1,300 paychecks was riddled with errors. For now, the state continues to process payroll with the 30-year-old system it had hoped to discard.

"Due to recent events, it is unclear to our office that integrating the state's payroll systems, in their current structure, is feasible," the analyst's office wrote.

March 6, 2013
The Roundup: CA secretary of state's backlog; unions push for raises; should performance reviews be public?

The Roundup: CA secretary of state's backlog; unions push for raises; should performance reviews be public?

Storified by Jon Ortiz· Wed, Mar 06 2013 08:12:41

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March 5, 2013
Union co-sponsored science fair set for Saturday in Sacramento

130305 Science fair photo 2.JPGStudents from nearly a dozen counties in Northern California will compete Saturday in the annual Sacramento Regional Science & Engineering Fair at Rosemont High School. Winners will go to Phoenix for a global competition at the 2013 Intel International Science & Engineering Fair in May.

The regional fair's organizers anticipate exhibits from students in Amador, Butte, El Dorado, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties. The event also will feature workshops for teachers and college-bound students.

The fair runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 9594 Kiefer Blvd. in Sacramento.

Sponsors include Professional Engineers in California Government, California Association of Professional Scientists, Intel Corp. and Liberty Mutual.

PHOTO: Junior Division participant Ryan Hester explains his solar-powered boat to judges from the U.S. Navy at the 2012 Sacramento Regional Science & Engineering Fair. / courtesy Sacramento Regional Science & Engineering Fair

March 1, 2013
CCPOA says it will pay multimillion-dollar defamation award

MONEY_FACTORY.jpgAfter years of court fighting and a failed appeal, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association is negotiating details to pay nearly $5 million to a former business associate defamed, a federal jury said, by union officials.

"The association is going to pay the award," union spokesman JeVaughn Baker said in a telephone interview this afternoon.

A federal jury said in 2010 that that CCPOA officials had ruined Brian Dawe's name and his livelihood over a business dispute and awarded him a total $12 million in damages. Presiding Judge Lawrence Karlton found the sum excessive and reduced it to $4.96 million.



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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