The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

April 30, 2013
The Roundup: NV hospital workers fired; CA to move prisoners

Two hospital workers fired over 'dumping' of Nevada psychiatric patients
Nevada state officials said Monday that two employees at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas have been fired and another three will be disciplined as a result of an internal investigation into the hospital's practice of busing mentally ill patients to other states.- Sacramento Bee

State must remove thousands at risk of valley fever at two prisons
The federal court official in charge of running healthcare for California's troubled prison system on Monday directed the state to immediately remove more than a third of the inmates at two state prisons because of the risk of valley fever.- Los Angeles Times

Lawmakers agree on pay raise for state workers
TALLAHASSEE -- For the first time in seven years, Florida lawmakers have agreed to give state employees automatic salary increases, ending a bleak stretch for a 160,000-member workforce that has weathered cutbacks, pay reductions and slashed benefits.- Miami Herald

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April 29, 2013
New CalPERS letters detail long-term care rate hikes, options

Thumbnail image for CALPERS_COURTYARD_JAY_MATHER_2005.JPGThe California Public Employees' Retirement System today is mailing some 60,000 official notices to long-term care insurance policyholders that a rate hike is coming.

The letter explains that CalPERS is raising premiums 5 percent this year on the plan's costliest policies, which offer lifetime coverage and daily benefit payouts that keep up with inflation.

Policyholders can avoid the premium increases by moving into plans that offer up to 10 years of benefits without automatically inflation-adjusted coverage. The deadline to opt into another plan varies by policyholder.

CalPERS' letter also flags a 5 percent increase planned for 2014 and another 85 percent jump in 2015 spread over two years. All the rate hikes apply to policies offering inflation-protected, lifetime coverage for things like nursing home services and in-home care.

April 29, 2013
California lawmakers OK more cash to process business filings

Thumbnail image for 130312_Bowen_2010_Amezcua.JPG
The state Assembly has sent a bill to Gov. Jerry Brown that would give $1.6 million from the current year's budget to Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office.

April 26, 2013
Jerry Brown administration forbids dual jobs for managers

130426-1515-s-street-amezcua-2009.jpgWith an investigation into salaried state workers also earning hourly wages nearing a conclusion, Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has officially banned "additional appointments" for California state managers and supervisors.

"As members of the management team, employees in supervisory and managerial classes can reasonably be expected to perform work as needed to ensure that a department meets its mission," Julie Chapman, director of the California Department of Human Resources, says in the policy memo released late Thursday. "A manager should be expected to fulfill a wide range of duties not normally part of their assignment and classification without additional compensation."

The memo comes amid investigations by the Brown administration and the State Personnel Board into whether departments abused additional appointments. The state started looking into the policy after The Sacramento Bee reported that 571 managers and supervisors in nearly a dozen departments also held other hourly-pay jobs in their same departments.

Brown issued a broad order that halted the practice pending the investigation, which the departments intend to conclude next month. The new memo sets a permanent policy.

Chapman's memo also reminds departments they can pay managers an "arduous pay" differential for working extreme hours. Arduous pay ranges from $300 to $1,200 per month. Departments decide when an employees qualify and how much they receive.

And the memo suggests several other established policy options to additional appointments as a way to meet heavy workloads and crushing deadlines -- using non-managers, including mandatory overtime, shifting employees between similar job classifications and limited-duration job and training assignments.

California Department of Human Resources Additional Appointments Memo

PHOTO CREDIT: The building at 1515 S St. in Sacramento, which houses the California Department of Human Resources. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee file, 2009

April 25, 2013
Bill would require civics orientation for California state workers

Quick: What are the three branches of the federal government?

California state workers who don't know would learn the answers to those kinds of questions if Senate Bill 619 becomes law.

The measure by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, would require the state Department of Education to develop an online civics curriculum for state employees by Jan. 1, 2015. Agencies would have to certify with the state's human resources department each year that every employee hired, promoted or reclassified after July 1, 2015 has completed the orientation.

Yee spokesman Dan Lieberman said his boss, who's running for secretary of state, authored the measure after seeing statistics that only a third of Americans can name the three branches of U.S. government.

The senator "has run into a lot of people calling in to state agencies with questions and they couldn't get answers," Lieberman said. State workers by virtue of their jobs, he said, are a natural choice for a little civics brush-up.

Yee's bill mandates the curriculum must "facilitate a basic understanding of the responsibilities and operation of the three branches of government and the importance of civic engagement" and "include practical examples" that would be updated as needed.

There's no estimate of the training mandate's cost, but there's an escape hatch: The state won't go forward with the project unless private money pays at least half the cost of the program.

Labor unions and the California Chamber of Commerce support Yee's bill.

Oh, and the answer to that question? The executive, legislative and judicial branches.

April 25, 2013
California Senate OKs business-backlog relief measure

120406 State Capitol Building 1996 Sac Bee Rob Ferris.JPGA bill that would immediately give the secretary of state $1.6 million to work down a six-week backlog of business filings held by the state cleared the California Senate this morning on a 25-10 vote.

Assembly Bill 113 takes money from this year's budget to pay for overtime and temporary employees through the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year. They'll work on processing business forms, many with filing-fee checks attached.

Lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Legislature reduced the secretary of state's funding over the last few years. Still, they took a keen interest in the business form backlog problem and locked arms with business interests to push the bill after The Bee reported on the delays last month.

Republicans voted against the measure this morning, asserting that lawmakers can't legally tinker with this year's budget law and that AB 113 rewards government inefficiency by throwing more money at a mismanaged agency.

Legislative leaders have said they intend to follow up with an additional $6 million to $8 million appropriations in 2013-14 and 2014-15 fiscal years specifically to get the backlog down to between five and 10 days by the end of November, then keep it there until the state brings an automated filing system online in 2016.

The bill needs to clear one more vote of the Assembly before it heads to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

PHOTO: The California State Capitol. Rob Ferris / Sacramento Bee 1996 file

April 24, 2013
Rally, news conference planned to support contracting bill

130311_Richard_Pan_amezcua_2010.JPGLook for several hundred state employee union members on the Capitol's south side at noon today to show support for a measure that would put limits on government job outsourcing.

Assembly Bill 906 would limit state personal services contracts to two years with an option for a two-year extension.

It's a few steps down from an earlier version of the measure by Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, that limited contracts to 90 days with a one-time option to extend the arrangement another 90 days after notifying the State Personnel Board.

SEIU Local 1000 has made a priority of curtailing outsourced personal services contracts. Pan's office is expecting a few hundred of the local's activists to attend a Pan news conference about his bill at lunch time on the Capitol's south steps.

In a press release issued Tuesday, Pan's office cites a statistic from Local 1000 research: "In 2011, the state had 11,714 active personal service contracts with private vendors worth $11.7 billion."

Local 1000 did not respond to calls, texts and emails seeking comment.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblyman Richard Pan. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee 2010 file

April 23, 2013
The 'blanket' over California retired annuitants' executive pay

NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgOur story in Sunday's Bee looked at how California's state government appoints retired annuitants to high-level, high-paying "career executive assignment" positions with virtually no oversight.

One aspect that the report doesn't address is how departments use "blanket funds" to pay for the 75 executive positions we reviewed. Paying CEAs with "blanket" money, at the very least, runs counter to the spirit of state policies intended to scrutinize and limit those high-level leadership and policy-making classifications.

"If you retire as a CEA and one of your friends wants to bring you back," said Norma Suave, a retired state human resources and labor relations officer, told The State Worker, "paying them under the blanket is a way of bringing you back in and paying you CEA pay."

Blanket funds are essentially a department's petty cash drawer for personnel expenses. "Under the blanket" pay goes to here-today-gone tomorrow employees such as expert witnesses for court cases, temp help and retired annuitants. Blanket funds commonly cover the cost of a full-time employee who transfers, fails probation and exercises their return rights after their old position has been filled.

April 22, 2013
California retiree health measure fails in committee

130422-walters-Jeff-Gritchen-AP-2013-file.JPGA measure that would have forced future California state employees pay more for their retiree health insurance and wait longer to qualify for it died in a Senate committee Monday afternoon.

The five-member Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee voted down Senate Bill 774 along party lines, 3-2.

The measure, written by Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Irvine, would have applied only to state workers hired on or after Jan. 1, 2015.

Those future employees would have had to work 15 years to qualify for 50 percent of their retiree health-benefit costs and 25 years for 100 percent coverage. Currently the threshold is 10 years for half coverage and 20 years for full coverage.

Employees hired after the measure would have taken effect also would have had to share equally in prefunding the normal cost of their retiree health benefits. And the states would have been prohibited from providing their retiree health benefits unless they were fully funded.

Unlike its pension obligations, California doesn't save ahead for future retiree health costs. The pay-as-you go method will cost the state an estimated $1.81 billion this year. The state controller figures the debt on future benefits for current employees and retirees stands at $63.9 billion in current dollars.

April 21, 2013
The Roundup: California's retired-annuitant state executives


Many retired California state executives still in high-pay state jobs
Despite the Brown administration's edict last year to sweep out nearly all retirees from the state workforce, more than two dozen departments still use them to fill some of the highest-paying positions in government, according to state data reviewed by The Bee. -The Sacramento Bee

Double dippers on decline in NY government
ALBANY -- The number of state employees collecting both a salary and a pension dropped for the first time in three years, declining by 5 percent between 2011 and 2012, records show.- Ithica Journal

Legislature to consider teacher, state worker pension changes
Legislative proposals to shore up Texas' two largest public pension funds could require teachers and state employees to work years longer than they must today to get full retirement benefits.- Austin American-Statesman

Want more? For stories of interest to state employees, check out the State Worker's constantly-updated News & Views feed by clicking here.

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April 19, 2013
Court order signals final chapter in $5 million CCPOA case

JV_LAWRENCE_KARLTON.JPGAfter fighting and twice losing in court, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association is poised to pay off a $5 million federal defamation judgment.

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton has ordered that $3 million the union had paid into a court-controlled escrow account be released to Wilke, Fleury, Hoffelt, Gould & Birney, LLP, the law firm representing Brian Dawe. Once the court clerk releases the money, CCPOA has three days to pay the balance.

A federal jury said in 2010 that that CCPOA officials defamed Dawe and ruined his livelihood. It awarded him $12 million in damages, but Karlton found the sum excessive and reduced it to $4.96 million.

CCPOA appealed, but the union didn't have the money on hand to secure the award while that process played out. So Karlton required the union to make regular payments into the escrow account and put up union-owned property as collateral. With court costs, the union will pay a bit more than $5 million.

Union spokesman JeVaughn Baker said today that CCPOA is waiting for the clerk to release the escrow funds.

"We don't have a specific release date," Baker said in an email, "but once that happens, we will pay the entire balance of the award."

PHOTO CREDIT: U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton. José Luis Villegas / Sacramento Bee file, 1999


April 19, 2013
Union schedules strike vote for University of California workers

130419-UC-Davis-Med-Center-Pench-2012.jpgThe American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has scheduled a strike vote for the University of California hospital employees it represents.

AFSCME Local 3299 said in a press release that it will hold the vote for three days starting April 30.

The union's 13,000, patient care assistants, vocational nurses and radiology technicians and other hospital staff at the UC's five medical centers have been without a contract since October.

With talks at a standstill, the union released a report earlier this year that claimed the UC hospital system has sacrificed patient care for money, recklessly run up debt and enriches administrators while understaffing front-line care positions. University system officials dismissed the charges as a bargaining ploy.

PHOTO CREDIT: UC Davis Medical Center. Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee 2012 file

April 19, 2013
The Roundup: CalPERS diversifies health insurance options; scapegoating pensions; FL public-employee pay politics


Blue Shield loses quasi-monopoly on CalPERS health insurance
In a bid to curb health care inflation, CalPERS is splitting up its multibillion-dollar HMO contract among five different companies. - The Sacramento Bee

Don't blame worker pensions on government financial failures: Editorial
Perhaps the most telling number in a recently released national survey about retirement is the one that describes how many Americans believe their elected officials in Washington, D.C. simply don't understand how difficult it is to save for the golden years. Eighty-seven percent. So it's no wonder Californians don't believe politicians in this state who continue to use the public employee pension system as a scapegoat for governments' financial woes.- Long Beach Press-Telegram

Lawmakers playing favorites when considering raises for state workers and teachers
TALLAHASSEE -- The past five years haven't been easy for state government workers and teachers.- Tampa Bay Times

Want more news? For stories of interest to state employees, check out the State Worker's new and constantly updated News & Views feed by clicking here.

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out our community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns.

April 18, 2013
Senate committee taking up business-filing backlog bill

130418-leno-2013-amezcua.JPGAn Assembly bill channeling extra money to Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office to work down a backlog of business filings will be heard this morning by a key Senate committee that will likely pass the measure, but with less money.

The Senate Budget and Finance Committee analysis of Assembly Bill 113 notes the measure has been amended to reduce the appropriation from the $2 million approved by the Assembly to $1.6 million.

In a spending plan sent to the Senate, Bowen said she really needs only $1.6 million in the short term to begin working down the backlog, which averages about six weeks.

April 17, 2013
From the notebook: The CalPERS pension fund risk report


Our story in today's Bee about why a CalPERS accounting change will cost state and local governments billions of dollars references a report about the fund's risk of extreme, even fatal, losses over the next 30 years. We've embedded the report below.

The story also mentions that the actuarial rule of thumb has long been that healthy pension funds' assets equal at least 80 cents of every dollar promised to members. What we didn't mention is that notion was challenged last year by the American Academy of Actuaries in a brief, "The 80% Pension Funding Standard Myth."

The academy said the origin of that standard has no clear origin and that "most plans should have the objective of accumulating assets equal to 100% of a relevant pension obligation."

Annual Review of Funding Levels and Risks as of June 30, 2012

April 16, 2013
CalPERS board OKs accounting changes hiking pension costs

RB_RT_Fire_2.JPGLeaders of the California Public Employees' Retirement System voted this afternoon to speed up payments on the fund's long-term liabilities with an accounting change that will trigger higher contributions of up to 50 percent from taxpayer-funded state and local governments and school districts over the next few years.

The matter will go to CalPERS' full Board of Administration on Wednesday, which will likely approve it.

The new policy will shrink the fund's asset "smoothing" period from the current 15 years to five years. Smoothing gains and losses avoids sharp spikes in the annual pension contribution rates that public employers pay with taxes and fees they collect. Critics said the 15-year period unwisely delayed a full accounting of the $100 billion CalPERS lost after the 2008 financial meltdown.

The accounting changes approved today also will amortize CalPERS' investment gains and losses over a fixed 30-year period. Fixing the amortization period obligates CalPERS to pay its obligations by a specific date. Currently, CalPERS resets the amortization period annually, essentially pushing its debts forward year after year.

The accounting changes won't hike what employees in pay toward their benefits because their contributions cover only "normal" costs, not the total $87 billion unfunded liability that their pension plans have racked up over the last several years.

it's left to employers -- and by extension, taxpayers -- to fill that gap with more money for CalPERS to invest. The policies that the board approved today will force public agencies to kick in more money for at least five years starting in 2015-16 to pay down those long-term debts.

For example, CalPERS estimates that pension contributions for state workers and school-district employees who aren't teachers will grow from about $5 billion to $7.5 billion over five years.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sacramento Metro Fire firefighters put out a grass fire near U.S. 50 and Folsom Boulevard in Folsom. Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee file, 2012

April 16, 2013
The Roundup: Jerry Brown to comply with prison order if appeal fails; NY plan strips pensions for political corruption; SD guard killer loses resentencing bid


Senate Dems would strip officials of their pensions in corruption convictions
The Senate Democratic Conference unveiled its legislative ethics package Monday afternoon, designed to reform New York State government and fight the constant corruption issues facing the state. -

Jerry Brown to comply with prison order if appeals fail
SHENZHEN, China - Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday his administration will prepare to release as many as 10,000 state prisoners if the state is unable to get out from under a court order demanding it reduce California's prison population. - The Sacramento Bee

Gay rights activists seek more state worker protections at NC legislature's lobbying day
RALEIGH, North Carolina -- Gay rights supporters in North Carolina fell short last year in stopping a constitutional amendment that made clear same-sex marriage and civil unions are unlawful in the state. Now they're lobbying again, this time to seek more protections for state workers. - The Republic

Want more information? For stories of interest to state employees, check out the State Worker's new and constantly updated News & Views feed by clicking here.

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out our community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns.

April 15, 2013
CalPERS opposes gun manufacturer-divestment bill

RB_Guns.JPGCalPERS' Investment Committee sent a message to lawmakers this morning that the fund opposes a bill requiring it dump its gun manufacturing holdings unless the weapons are made for U.S. military purposes only.

Assembly Bill 761, written by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, comes after CalPERS decided earlier this year to divest about $5 million in gun investments.

"This bill goes well beyond that action," CalPERS analyst Danny Brown told the board this morning.

Of the 11 members present for the vote, 10 opposed the bill. The lone abstention came from the California Department of Human Resources, whose representative voted on behalf of CalHR Director Julie Chapman.

Dickinson's measure is the latest in a long line of bills seeking to limit the investment options of public pension funds.

April 15, 2013
Emergency dispatchers honored this week across U.S.

CHP_dispatcher_Annie_Bernal.jpgHappy National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week!

In recognition of the vital work performed by the nation's police and firefighter dispatchers and technicians, Congress declared April 14-20 this year as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

Our time at the CHP communications center in Rancho Cordova recently gave The State Worker a renewed appreciation for the service of folks such as Annie Bernal, pictured at left, all of whom handle hundreds of calls each month, often from people in the worst moments in their lives. (We profiled Annie in last week's State Worker column.)

With 25 communications centers statewide, the CHP took 9.2 million calls for service last year. About 75 percent of them, 7.1 million, were wireless 9-1-1 calls.

So here's to a hat tip to dispatchers everywhere. Thanks for being there when we need you.

PHOTO CREDIT: California Highway Patrol dispatcher Annie Bernal handles a 911 call from her station at the department's Rancho Cordova communications center. Jon Ortiz / Sacramento bee

April 15, 2013
Lawmaker withdraws bill to open CalPERS mailing list to unions

130415-circle-slash.jpgA bill that would have let unions and retiree groups exploit CalPERS' annuitant mailing list for marketing purposes has died by the author's own hand.

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, pulled Assembly Bill 785 one day after she issued an op-ed piece that touted the measure as a way for retirees to stay informed about pension issues.

Then CalPERS staff delivered an analytical beat-down.

April 11, 2013
CA Senate moves up hearing for bill on business-filing backlog

California_Capitol.JPGA bill aimed at relieving a six-week backlog of business filings at California Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office gained some procedural speed today after it looked like it might bog down in the Senate.

Assembly Bill 113 would immediately give $2 million to Bowen's office to pay for extra help and infrastructure to work down the backlog. It flew through the lower chamber last month in just five days.

But after being sent to the Senate, the measure was held up while Bowen sent over a spending plan, a condition that Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg placed on moving the legislation along.

Earlier this week, the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, chaired by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, set a hearing date for April 29.

As The State Worker noted Wednesday, that made it highly unlikely Bowen would have the money by May 1, which her spending plan assumes.

This afternoon, Steinberg spokesman Rhys Williams emailed an update:

"Staff has set the committee to hear the bill on April 18th at the request of the Pro Tem and Senator Leno."

Business-filing backlog bill gets hearing date for end of April
Business filing rejected by the state, Bay Area man tries again
State Senate to move 'quickly' on business filing-backlog bill

April 11, 2013
Analysis recommends CalPERS oppose member mailing-list bill

CalPERS staff will recommend next week that the fund's board oppose a measure that would make its retiree-address data available to outside groups for non-political mailings.

A scathing analysis prepared for next week's board meeting concludes that Assembly Bill 785 is contrary to the board's current policy on mailing information to annuitants, diminishes the board's authority and "creates legal, financial and information security risks for the System."

The measure, authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, requires CalPERS to give mailing information to third party direct-mail vendors at the request of groups that represent CalPERS' retiree members. The groups would then use the vendors to mail materials to the retirees. Once the mailers went out, the mailing lists would be destroyed.

A (highly unscientific) poll on this blog shows that 94 percent of those who responded think the bill is a bad idea.

Weber says AB 785 merely aims to educate retirees and that it has built-in cost and security requirements that would repay CalPERS for the cost of servicing the member groups and protect members' personal information.

The analysis counters that about $205,000 in annual administrative costs wouldn't be recouped and that mishandled information would expose the fund to risk of litigation.

Worth noting: AFSCME, which is sponsoring the measure, "previously requested CalPERS to provide names and addresses for a direct mailing under conditions similar to those proposed in this bill and CalPERS did not approve the organization's request," according to the analysis.

The State Worker: Union pushes bill to get CalPERS' mailing list
Poll: Should state open CalPERS' mailing list to interest groups?

130415 Calpers Item 5c by jon_ortiz

April 10, 2013
Business-filing backlog bill gets hearing date for end of April

20120104_PK_DARRELL_STEINBERG.JPGAfter the Assembly took just five days to push through a bill allocating $2 million to Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office to work down a mountain of business filings, the Senate is taking a more measured approach to the legislation. Its first committee hearing date is set for April 29.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said last month that the Senate would move quickly on the bill, which would fund overtime and temporary student hires to open thousands of envelops stacked up in the Secretary of State's office, most with checks attached to file important business documents.

The Senate asked for a detailed spending plan from Bowen, who sent this to the Senate nearly two weeks ago. It assumes that that lawmakers will make the funds available on May 1.

It's not clear whether the May Day start is realistic, since the Senate committee won't hear the measure in committee until the end of this month. We've emailed Steinberg's office to ask.

Asked for comment about the Senate's comparatively slow action on the measure, Pérez spokesman Steve Maviglio said the lower house moved quickly on the bill "because every day we don't act, we're losing jobs." The speaker hopes the Senate will move quickly on the bill, Maviglio said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Sacramento Bee 2012 file

April 10, 2013
The Roundup: San Jose judge rules on leave cashouts; Texas denies union-rep rights; phishing scheme targets government workers

HA_newspapers3808.JPGSan Jose public employees: Judge says city owes retired librarian $28,000 for unused sick leave
SAN JOSE -- San Jose owes a former employee more than $28,000 for unused sick leave under a judge's ruling that puts the city on the hook to pay millions of dollars to other retiring workers from the generous perk that it has tried to claw back. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Mary Arand's tentative ruling, dated Thursday, could influence other cases in California. Mercury News

Missouri workers could keep gun in locked cars
JEFFERSON CITY, MO. (AP) -- The Missouri House has advanced legislation guaranteeing state workers the right to keep firearms in their vehicles on state property when they're on the job. KRCG 13

PUC official in hot water for trying to secretly record meeting
A routine staff meeting at the state Capitol turned controversial last week when a California Public Utilities Commission official was caught trying to secretly record the conversation. Sacramento Bee

Daniel Borenstein: Stockton bankruptcy explores whether pension promises can be broken
A bankruptcy judge's ruling last week declaring the city of Stockton insolvent sets the stage for a possible legal showdown over whether financially destitute municipalities can alter employee pension benefits. Mercury News

State jobless agency changing how it handles claims
COLUMBIA -- South Carolina's jobless will now have to file claims online instead of having state workers take their applications at a workforce center, a move required by shrinking federal funding, officials announced this morning.

April 9, 2013
Business filing rejected by the state, Bay Area man tries again

130409-lerman-ortiz.JPGThe Bay Area attorney who waited six weeks for the state to process his business registration form filed the paperwork again on Tuesday after the Secretary of State's office rejected his first application.

The Bee reported on David Lerman's story as part of its investigation into the average 43-day wait time for Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office to handle business filings. After the story ran, the Assembly pushed through legislation that gives Bowen more money to work down the backlog.

The measure is now in the Senate, which insisted on seeing a spending plan for the extra $2 million the bill gives the agency on May 1. (Click here to see the plan.)

April 8, 2013
Union-backed bills target managers' pay, special retirement fund

130408-beall-2013-senate-chamber-amezcua.JPGThe California Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee's hearing today is considering one measure aimed at increasing state managers' pay and another that would close and cash out a special retirement fund.

Senate Bill 216, by committee chairman Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, would require the Department of Human Resources to "address" managerial and supervisorial employees' salaries "consistent with the principle that a minimum 10 percent supervisory salary differential is appropriate."

April 5, 2013
California DMV recognized for social media innovation

Information technology giant Cisco Systems Inc., global manufacturer 3M Co. ... and the California Department of Motor Vehicles?

That's right. The state's most-public department is among some of the heaviest hitters in government and private industry to receive a 2013 Computerworld Honors Laureate for Innovation.

The technology publication honored DMV's 3-year-old social media program, which includes active Facebook and Twitter accounts. DMV was the first state agency to develop its own YouTube channel to distribute driver training and humorous informational videos such as the DMV Answerman. The clips have drawn 26 million hits so far.

DMV spokeswoman Jan Mendoza said that the department is in tune with technology trends and is constantly brainstorming how to exploit new information tools to reach the public.

"We have to keep up," Mendoza said. "Our customers demand to be served."

Founded in 1988 by Computerworld's corporate parent, International Data Group, the Computerworld Honors Program is governed by a not-for-profit foundation that honors organizations and individuals for using information technology to promote positive social, economic and educational change.

DMV is among 268 laureates in 11 award categories this year. One winner in each category will be recognized with a 21st Century Achievement Award at a June banquet in Washington, D.C.

April 5, 2013
Read the Stockton bankruptcy hearing transcript

Bee columnist Dan Walters digs into this week's Stockton bankruptcy decision and concludes the transcript of the judge's comments on his ruling "imply that the city and CalPERS may not prevail on the pension issue when he weighs the city's plan to deal with its debts."

Click here to read Dan's column.

Read the court transcript for yourself and see if you agree. Judge Christopher Klein discusses CalPERS and the city's bankruptcy plan starting at PDF page 45 (page 588 of the transcript). To jump to that part of the document, just put "45" in the page field at the bottom of the embedded document viewer. Mobile users can click the link to open the transcript.

Transcript 4-01-2013 Judge Klein Ruling in City of Stockton BK case

April 4, 2013
Poll: Should state open CalPERS' mailing list to interest groups?

As we've reported today, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber has introduced a bill that would allow unions and other employee groups to use the fund's member database for direct mailings.

Assembly Bill 785 doesn't allow the groups to exploit the information for political purposes, but other mailers, such as recruiting brochures or informational newsletters, would be permitted. Third-party firms would handle the mailings and destroy the lists to prevent misuse.

CalPERS' staff is still analyzing the measure, so the fund's board hasn't taken a position on it.

We also asked CalPERS whether the member database could be sorted by bargaining unit or union membership, since some groups would probably want to narrow their mailing lists using that data. Fund spokeswoman Rosanna Westmoreland is checking.

What do you think? Take our poll and, if you're using a platform that allows it, leave a comment.

April 4, 2013
Column Extra: The CalPERS mailing list bill

130228_postal_distribution.JPGToday's State Worker column looks at a new Assembly bill that would allow unions and and retiree groups to exploit CalPERS' member-address database for direct mailing of non-political materials.

Here's Assembly Bill 785 by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego:

Assembly Bill 785

With 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.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mail bins at West Sacramento's regional postal distribution center. / Sacramento Bee 2011 file, Jos&ecute; Luis Villegas

April 4, 2013
State employee investment events in Sacramento, Ontario

130404 Savings Plus.JPG
The Savings Plus Roadshow kicks off this morning at the Sacramento Convention Center.

The event brings together experts on a range of state-employee financial planning strategies. Representatives with the Social Security Administration, CalPERS and the new Savings Plus administrator, Aon Hewitt also will be on hand.

The Savings Plus program makes 401(k) plan and 457 plan savings available to most California state workers.

Events start today and tomorrow at 9 a.m. and run until 3 p.m. both days. On April 19, the event travels to the Ontario Convention Center.

Click here for more information.

April 3, 2013
California state retirements on the rise in 2013

CALPERS_COURTYARD_JAY_MATHER_2005.JPGCalifornia state employee retirements rose nearly 8 percent for the first quarter of this year when compared with the same period in 2012, according to the latest data from CalPERS.

The 3,576 retirement applications were just below the record-setting January-to-March period in 2011 when 3,626 state workers took their pensions.

The increase indicates that California's aging state employee population is retiring in greater numbers, a trend that will continue for the foreseeable future, said Elizabeth Kellar, president of the Center for State and Local Government.

"This isn't unexpected," Kellar said in a telephone interview.

Furloughs and labor unrest in 2010 and 2011 likely pushed many state workers to leave a little sooner, Kellar said, which is why the retirement numbers spiked to record highs for those two years before they fell in 2012.

"But now we're entering a more normal environment in terms of the way people make decisions," Kellar said, so the California's retirement rate has returned to the gradual increase that demographers predicted many years ago as baby boomers take their pensions.

More broadly, first quarter CalPERS retirement applications from state and local government employees and school district workers rose by a bit more than 10 percent, to 8,888 from January through March.

CalPERS counts applications from mid-month to mid-month, so the first quarter data includes the second half of December. Owing to the method CalPERS uses to calculate pensioners' first cost-of-living increase, more employees retire at the end of the calendar year than at any other time. Those retirements are counted in the January numbers.

April 2, 2013
Poll: Should California state workers have treadmill desks?

Stateline's Melissa Maynard reports on a proposed pilot program in Oregon "that would fund treadmill desks for some state workers and study the effects on health and productivity. Treadmill desks range in cost from $400 to $5,000, but the hope is that the state could recoup its expenses through lowered health care costs over the long run."

Treadmill desks are popping up in the private sector, Maynard says, but the upfront costs create a hurdle for governments.

Oregon Republican state Rep. Jim Thompson, who sponsored the bill, says the benefits from a healthier state workforce outweigh the costs.

Read Maynard's story and then take our poll:

April 1, 2013
California's spending transparency ranks 49th among states

NEW_HUNDRED_DOLLAR_BILLS.JPGA group that lobbies for government openness has given California an "F" for spending transparency.

The California Public Interest Research Group and its national counterpart, USPIRG, hammer the Golden State in a report on states' use of web technology to open their books for public scrutiny.

The report issued last week assigns point totals and letter grades to all 50 states' transparency websites based on content and user friendliness.

The Golden State ranked 49th, with just 37 points out of a possible 100 points. North Dakota placed 50th, with 31 points.

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


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