The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

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.


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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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