The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

May 31, 2013
Will California state workers have new contracts soon?

Although most state employee contracts expire in the first three days of July, there's not much buzz coming out of the Capitol about ongoing negotiations.

SEIU Local 1000 (which has a standing policy to not respond to calls, emails and texts from The State Worker) has put updates on its website. The latest from the state's biggest union is that talks have produced extensions for provisions in the current contract and that the bargaining team "signed a tentative agreement to create a medical reimbursement account work group that will look at ways to reduce out-of-pocket medical costs for state employees" working outside California.

Then there's this report by California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment that recounts a May 10 meeting with the administration:

CASE also expressed a sense of optimism, because for the first time in nearly a decade the State is enjoying a budget surplus instead of a multi-billion dollar deficit. Members of the Bargaining Team made it clear to CalHR that the era of cuts and takeaways is over, and that it is time to start rebuilding the State's legal infrastructure. CalHR acknowledged there was a budget surplus, but stated that its desire is to negotiate "revenue neutral" contracts for all bargaining units.

Labor leaders of several unions speaking on background say they've heard the same "revenue neutral" message from the Brown administration.

What impact will this have on the speed of negotiations?

May 31, 2013
The Roundup: NM workers win back pay; NY case tests workplace privacy; pensions versus pavement in Sonoma County

NM high court orders back pay for state workersThousands of state workers are owed back pay totaling millions of dollars, New Mexico's highest court ruled Thursday in a victory for unions representing public employees. - Bloomberg Businessweek

Fired state worker tests GPS use
New York's top judges on Wednesday listened to arguments in a workplace surveillance case that, depending on the outcome, could affect the privacy of hundreds of thousands of public employees. The case could set a precedent on the use of electronic tracking devices to trace the movements of state and possibly local government workers. - Albany Times-Union

In California wine country, bumpy roads tell tale of fiscal woe
The serpentine strip of asphalt known as Sonoma Mountain Road wends its way through a bucolic landscape 50 miles north of San Francisco, curving past rows of grapevines, dipping into redwood groves, rising again through rippling hills.- Reuters

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May 30, 2013
The Roundup: California state retirees; department's errors cost $100 million; funding CalSTRS

The State Worker: California employee retirements are rising
California will likely bid farewell to more than 10,000 state employees by the end of this year as a range of factors - from age to the economy to politics - prods them to retire. - The Sacramento Bee

California agency failed to collect $100 million for cleanup of contaminated sites
A California agency spent $100 million in public funds over the past 26 years to clean contaminated property for which polluters were liable but never were sent a bill, officials said Wednesday. - The Sacramento Bee

Viewpoints: Unexpected state revenue should go to teacher pensions
In the May revision to his 2013-14 budget, Gov. Jerry Brown announced an increase in state revenue, largely as a result of rising stock and real estate prices. Appropriately, the governor has counseled spending restraint because the state still hasn't addressed core budget issues and inevitably will face more shortfalls when markets revert to the mean. But there is a uniquely good spot for that revenue. - The Sacramento Bee

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May 30, 2013
Column Extra: California state retirement data details

As our State Worker column in today's fiber/cyber Bee notes, the pace of California state employee retirements is rising again due to a variety of factors. Some 5,086 state employees have put in their papers to retire this year, up from 4,809 last year.

May 29, 2013
Tech experts and execs to talk California government telecom

CALPERS_COURTYARD_JAY_MATHER_2005.JPGOregon-based telecommunications company Integra is sponsoring a panel discussion on Thursday: "The Future of Telecom in the State of California."

The Public Sector Technology Exchange, which identifies itself "as an independent forum created to discuss the issues of government and information technology," is organizing the free-to-attend event in the CalPERS auditorium at 400 Q St. in Sacramento.

Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. The panel discussion 11 a.m. iYou can register via the conference website.

The eight-member panel will address several topics. The one that caught our eye: "Planning for growth in the era of doing more with less."

The panel roster:

May 29, 2013
The Roundup: Bay Bridge bolts; former state worker witness in son's murder trial

Sacramento man convicted of shaking down rehab clinics now a witness in his son's murder trial
A dad who was under federal investigation for using his California state job to shake down drug rehab clinics for thousands of dollars in cash has turned into a key witness against his son in an upcoming Sacramento murder trial. - Sacramento Bee

Transportation commissioners seeking answers on Bay Bridge
Members of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission said Tuesday that they expect new details on fixes for broken and suspect bolts on the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge at a special meeting Wednesday. - Sacramento Bee

Labor big a real heavy sleeper
Union fat cat Mark Rosenthal spends more time sleeping at his desk than organizing labor, a series of damning photos reveals. - New York Post

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May 28, 2013
The Roundup: States deploy apps; CA high-speed rail hits speed bump; IL pension politics

There's an App for That State Service
After a long day of slogging through the woods, Arkansas hunters used to have to check in their game at the nearest mom-and-pop establishment. At the end of the season, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission staff would drive around the state to collect the paperwork.- Stateline

Builder of 1st phase of California's bullet train faces scrutiny
The state bullet train agency is pushing full throttle to start construction of the important first phase of the California high-speed rail system in as little as six weeks, prompting scrutiny of the state's selection of a construction company with the worst technical scores among bidders.- Los Angeles Times

RPT-Deadline near, Illinois pension reform snarled in state politics
With less than a week left to go in Illinois' spring legislative session, the future of reforms to rein in burgeoning costs for the nation's worst-funded public pension system rests with the two Democrats who run the state's House and Senate chambers.- Reuters

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May 24, 2013
California state worker moonlighting bill held up in committee

20121203_HA_JEFF_GORELL.JPGCalifornia Assembly lawmakers this morning put a hold on legislation that would have prohibited salaried state employees from taking a secondary hourly-wage position within their same department or agency.

The Appropriations Committee didn't officially vote to kill Assembly Bill 208, but holding the measure in committee essentially kills it.

Assembly Budget Vice Chairman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, introduced the legislation after reports in The Bee shed light on the obscure policy. Gorell blasted the practice, saying that it had become a means for salaried state workers to receive de facto overtime.

"I continue to ask my colleagues to make the responsibility of government oversight a top priority," Gorell said in a statement released this afternoon. "Week after week we are seeing new examples of executive branch mismanagement, and this is just one more example of a government culture out of control and irreverent to oversight."

Democratic majority leaders, including Assembly Speaker John A. PĂ©rez, expressed concern about the policy and Gov. Jerry Brown has since banned intra-departmental "additional appointments" for salaried state employees. His edict carries the force of administrative policy, not law.

Last week Brown's Department of Human Resources released an audit that concluded departments inappropriately appointed salaried managers to secondary-wage jobs. A separate audit by the State Personnel Board said that departments violated state civil service laws by doling out additional appointments without a competitive, fair application process.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, joins Assembly members in applause after they were sworn in during the first day of session at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

May 24, 2013
Blog Back: UC system's union fight revives classic pay debate

130513-UC-Seal.jpgAh, memories.

Posts about the bitter labor fight between the University of California and AFSCME dredge up the kind of user comments we used to see during the pitched union battles that were common during Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration.

A sampling of the "unions-good/unions-bad" debate with criticisms of this blog mixed in:

May 23, 2013
Senate subcommittee rejects CalHR request for tech funding

20130311_HA_Loni_Hancock.JPGA California Senate budget subcommittee delivered a setback to a planned upgrade for the state's job website today by rejecting a proposal to fund it.

The California Department of Human Resources figures it will take about $10 million over four years to make the portal more user-friendly. It would absorb a little more than 80 percent of that cost, but Brown's 2013-14 budget proposal includes $821,000 in supplemental funding. (Click here for a recent State Worker column about the project.)

The three-member Budget Subcommittee No. 5 gave the funding a thumbs down this morning. Chairwoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, noted that an earlier estimate of the project figured it would cost half as much and that the state's high-tech history is pockmarked with failure.

May 23, 2013
Column Extra: Where the $14.6 million for MyCalPays will go

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Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee looks at the how budget decisions regarding the failed MyCalPays project highlight the inherent tensions of governing.

In the case of the twice-failed state payroll program, officials face two related questions: Should the state commission an audit that would help other government mega-projects avoid the same errors? Or should it hold off on a detailed inward-looking forensic review -- a delay that would severely affect a review's findings and value -- to avoid undercutting potential litigation between the state and the MyCalPays contractor?

The Brown administration's May revision of the governor's proposed 2013-14 budget adds $14.6 million for cleaning up the wreckage from the failed system, but nothing for an independent review.

So where will that money go? Here's a breakdown provided by Controller John Chiang's spokesman Jacob Roper:

May 22, 2013
Assembly bill tweaks state's five-day AWOL determination law

130522-Write-up.jpgThe Assembly has passed a bill that gives state employees more due-process protections if they are prematurely terminated for being off work without permission.

SEIU Local 1000 sponsored the measure by Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, which would allow an adjudicating law judge to consider whether a department properly fired an employee who for being AWOL.

Currently the law assumes AWOL firings are righteous. An adjudicating law judge can reinstate employees who satisfactorily explain their absence, why they failed to obtain leave and also can prove readiness, willingness and ability to return to work.

But a judge can't consider whether departments fire employees before they cross the AWOL threshold for dismissal: five consecutive days away from work. Brown's bill requires a department to reinstate employees who are fired prematurely. If they don't, employees could then make that argument for reinstatement and a judge would have the leeway to consider it.

AB 855 also says that employees can demonstrate fitness to resume duty with documented verification from a doctor or other licensed health care provider.

IMAGE CREDIT: / Getty Images

May 22, 2013
The Roundup: UC workers strike; WI smokers' surcharge


Wis. Legislature approves smoker surcharge, other measures for public employees
The Legislature's budget committee Tuesday approved a measure meant to discourage public employees from collecting a pension and a paycheck at the same time.- Fond du Lac Reporter

Thousands strike at University of California hospitals
As non-emergency surgeries were postponed and fill-in medical technicians were brought in from out of state, thousands of employees walked off the job Tuesday at the UC Davis Medical Center and four other University of California hospitals.- Sacramento Bee

State lawmakers' pay cleared for hike
SACRAMENTO -- Earlier this year, the commission that decides whether state politicians get raises put off a decision, waiting to hear from the state finance department whether the fiscal picture is bright enough to allow for increases.- U-T San Diego

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May 20, 2013
Audit: California must look inward to assess failed payroll system

20111102_ha_JoHN_CHIANG0365-AMEZCUA.JPGA new report from the Legislative Analyst's Office says the state needs to assess its role in the MyCalPays debacle.

That conclusion is part of the LAO's take on the $14.6 million Gov. Jerry Brown's budget gives the State Controller's Office to clean up the failed payroll overhaul.

The budget doesn't include funding for an audit of why the project failed. The analyst suggests that an outside firm should assess the state's role in the project's demise.

Controller John Chiang's spokesman, Jacob Roper, said that the money for an internal forensic analysis wasn't included in Brown's budget.

The timing for such an audit "is still being developed right now," Roper said.

PHOTO CREDIT: State Controller John Chiang. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee 2011 file

May 20, 2013
State denim drive collects 1,900 items for women's causes

130519-denim-drive.JPGThe final tally is in: Government employees at 20 state and local departments and four Sacramento-area businesses collected 1,916 pieces of clothing during last month's Denim Drive.

Many of the donated items go directly to victims of violent crime and abuse, while others will be sold in thrift stores that fund assistance services, including WEAVE, Yolo Co Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center., and La Casa de las Madres in San Francisco.

The annual drive is inspired by Denim Day, an observance that started 12 years ago to protest an Italian court's decision overturning a rape conviction because the victim was wearing jeans.

Here's the roster of this year's Denim Drive government- and private-sector sponsors:

May 20, 2013
From the notebook: Table tallies California managers' dual jobs

Thumbnail image for NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgAs we reported late last Friday and Saturday, the Brown Administration and the State Personnel Board released their audits of California state managers and supervisors who had a second (and in some cases, a third and a fourth) appointment to hourly-wage jobs in their same departments.

About 85 percent, CalHR said, held secondary positions in violation of state hiring policies and civil service laws that aim to make state jobs subject to a fair and open process.

The remaining 76 of the appointments were appropriate, CalHR investigators said.

What follows is the unedited spreadsheet from CalHR that summarizes its auditors' findings:

May 17, 2013
Audit: Departments wrongly doled out hourly jobs to managers

Some of California's most prominent departments improperly gave salaried managers additional jobs that pay an hourly wage, violating civil service rules, according to a audit released late this afternoon.

The state's prison and hospital systems, CalPERS and the Department of Social Services together accounted for nearly all the 504 salaried managers and supervisors who held a second hourly-pay position in 2012. Human resources auditors in the Gov. Jerry Brown's administration said 428 employees, or 85 percent, shouldn't have received secondary job titles because the hourly work fell within the scope of their salaried job duties.

Brown's human resources department and the State Personnel Board investigated 11 agencies whose managers also held hourly part-time jobs last year. The audits launched after The Bee first reported on the policy in January. Brown subsequently banned additional appointments for state managers and supervisors.

The state human resources department dedicated 10 staffers to research and write their reports over the course of three months. Still, their findings lack some basic information, such as how much the departments spent overall on managerial additional appointments last year. CalHR spokeswoman Pat McConahay couldn't come up with that figure when asked this afternoon.

May 17, 2013
The Roundup: Unions lose holiday court fight; questions arise over donation to California state parks


California state worker unions lose ruling on loss of holidays
A Sacramento appellate court ruled Thursday that state workers covered by expired job contracts were not exempt from the state's elimination of two paid holidays.- The Sacramento Bee

Commentary: 'Nevada must be made whole'
As the 77th session of the Nevada Legislature nears its close, I invite my fellow Nevadans to learn about their state employees before the final votes are cast to determine the economic fate of state employees, their families, and their neighborhood businesses.- Elko Daily Free Press

State officials say parks fundraiser wrongly used cash
A private fundraising company hired to raise money for California state parks is accused of spending almost $1 million of a large donation on its own bills, an accusation it denies as legislators say they want more information.- News 10

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May 16, 2013
Survey: Governments rely less on hiring freezes and pay cuts

A new survey finds that "the picture is brightening" for the state and local government civil service workforce as fewer employers resort to hiring freezes and layoffs -- although they're continuing to whittle away at employee benefits costs.

About one-third of state and local governments told the non-profit Center for State & Local Government Excellence that they're freezing pay this year. That's down from 51 percent in 2012.

Just 18 percent of government employers said they're laying off workers, compared to 28 percent that axed jobs last year.

Governments have continued making changes to health and retirement benefits, with 56 percent modifying health benefits in 2013 and 44 percent altering retirement programs. The change most often cited in both areas: shifting cost from the employer to the employee through higher contributions.

Meanwhile, 22 percent of employers surveyed said their retirement-eligible employees accelerated their retirement plans this year, the same as 2012.

Here are the survey results in detail. Click here to view the 2012 report for comparison.

May 16, 2013
Column Extra: California's decades-long civil service civil war

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100609 gavel.jpgToday's State Worker column looks ahead to Friday's much-anticipated reports on additional appointments and how they will test Gov. Jerry Brown's 2-year-old reorganization of the State Personnel Board and the Department of Human Resources.

The piece also references the long, combative history between CalHR (formerly the Department of Personnel Administration) and the personnel board as they jostled for power over various aspects of the state's hiring and workplace policies. At one point, SPB sued the then-DPA over contracts it negotiated that allowed some state employees to take disciplinary appeals to a different panel than the personnel board.

Here's the 2005 California Supreme Court ruling in State Personnel Board, et al. v. the Department of Personnel Administration. The court sided with SPB.

State Personnal Board, et al. v. Department of Personnel Administration

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, the documents and the observations that inform what's published.

May 15, 2013
Scientists' union sponsors Capitol science day for kids

130513-scientists-day-courtesy-CAPS.JPGThe California Association of Professional Scientists is sponsoring its 25th annual State Scientists Day at the Capitol today.

The event always draws several thousand Northern California school kids from third grade to sixth grade. This year they'll see exhibits that include demonstrations of how scientists treat sick and injured wildlife following disasters like oil spills; the science of earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis and a hands-on insect display.

State Scientists Day kicked off at 10 a.m. on the Capitol's west side and runs until 1 p.m.

PHOTO CREDIT: Edward Newman, an environmental scientist at the California Emegency Management Agency, teaches kids the different warning signs that are on hazardous materials like explosives, corrosives and poisons at State Scientists Day 2012. Picture courtesy California Association of Professional Scientists.

May 15, 2013
The Roundup: Bay Bridge questions; NC could curtail civil service protections


Senate panel questions Caltrans about Bay Bridge broken bolts, broken trust
Frustrated state senators pressed California Department of Transportation officials at a Tuesday hearing about how they will deal with thousands of suspect steel parts in the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge which were installed even though they had not met specifications.- Sacramento Bee

Civil protections curtailed for state workers under McCrory bill
RALEIGH -- The legislature is poised to curtail civil service protections for state employees, giving preliminary approval Tuesday to a bill pushed by Gov. Pat McCrory.- Raleigh News & Observer

New state budget: Where's the heart and humanity?
Try looking for some trace of heart and humanity in the $7.2 billion state budget for fiscal 2014 approved by the House and awaiting Senate action. Still searching? So too are many others. The budget is big on bricks and mortar and meager for people, those state employees who keep the government running. - Tulsa World

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May 14, 2013
Failed state payroll clean up price tag: $14.5 million

RB_State_Checks_Machine.JPGThe program may be dead, but the spending isn't over for the state's defunct payroll system overhaul.

Gov. Jerry Brown's budget includes a $14.5 million allocation for legal costs and computer data clean up associated with the MyCalPays system that Controller John Chiang killed earlier this year.

Brown's January budget proposal called for $38 million and 150 positions to finish implementing the program, but Chiang canceled the contract with tech giant SAP after a series of error-filled test runs raised concerns that the project could never expand statewide.

Chiang spokesman Jacob Roper didn't have a detailed breakdown of how the controller will spend the reduced allocation.

The governor's budget revision says part of the money will pay for 40 temporary positions to move employee payroll accounts that were part of the failed test runs back to the old computer system, fix errors and make employees whole.

Some of the money will pay for legal costs. Chiang has said he will sue SAP, which has said it fulfilled the contract's terms.

In total, the controller's office has spent $262 million over nine years on the project. Lawmakers first approved funding for a state payroll overhaul in 1998.

PHOTO CREDIT: State paychecks roll off a printer at the State Controller's Office on C Street in Sacramento. Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee 2003 file

May 14, 2013
Jerry Brown 'aiming low' on pay for state employees

130514-Jerry-Brown-press-conf-white.JPGDuring a press conference this morning to tout his latest state budget plan, Gov. Jerry Brown said that he wants to hold down state payroll costs as his administration bargains new pacts with nearly a dozen unions.

One questioner noted noted that the administration is in contract negotiations and asked Brown why the new proposal didn't include employee costs.

"That's one of the things about bargaining. You put a number in and (the unions) know where you're going," Brown said. "Suffice it to say, we're aiming low."

May 13, 2013
No. 2 at California toxic substances control department resigns

Odette Madriago, the chief deputy director of the Department of Toxic Subtances Control has resigned from her post to take a lower-level job at the agency before she retires at end of the year.

Madriago's decision to leave came after the non-profit Consumer Watchdog filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission that she had a financial stake in some companies that the department regulates. The group has also published a report that accused Madriago of blunting state regulatory efforts.

Toxic substances spokeswoman Tamma Adamek declined to comment, but released an email sent to employees last Friday by department Director Debbie Raphael that says that Madriago will work on a special project until she retires at the end of this year.

Last year Madriago earned $112,090, according to state payroll records. She will move down to her last position, supervising engineer II. Adamek did not know how much that job will pay.

Here's the email:

May 10, 2013
University of California wants court to stop hospital strike

130419-UC-Davis-Med-Center-Pench-2012.jpgThe University of California said today that it will ask a judge to keep hospital workers from striking later this month.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 says its members will walk off the job at the university system's five hospitals May 21 and May 22.

UC officials and the union have been in negotiations since last summer for a new contract covering some 13,000 patient care workers. The contract expired Oct. 1, and the contentious talks deadlocked earlier this year.

AFSCME says it's fighting to fix unsafe hospital conditions and foolish spending by high-level university officials who enrich themselves while seeking cuts to employee compensation.

The university counters that the union's real aim is to avoid new state laws that significantly reduce retirement benefits for new pension-system members.

This isn't the first time that AFSCME Local 3299 has threatened a walkout. In 2008, the union called a strike at all five UC medical centers. A San Francisco Superior Court judge issued a restraining order. The union ignored it and walked off the job for five days in July that year.

May 10, 2013
Watch the Assembly hearing on CalPERS' long-term care

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We've received quite a few calls and emails from CalPERS long-term care policyholders asking for more details about this week's Assembly committee hearing on the system's program and the long-term care insurance industry in general.

We thought former Assemblyman Dave Elder's comments had the most news value. The rest of the hearing retraced details that we have reported plenty in the last six months or so.

In response to policyholders' intense interest in this topic and their questions about Tuesday's hearing, we've embedded the proceeding's archived video feed above, courtesy of the California Channel. Set aside some time if you plan to watch the whole thing. It's nearly four hours long.

May 9, 2013
Column Extra: CalHR should report on IT project, analyst says

130509-HEWLETT-PACKARD-SERVER.JPGOur column in today's fiber/cyber Bee looks at the California Department of Human Resources' retooling of the state's job application and testing processes after taking over the project from the State Personnel Board.

The piece references the Legislative Analyst's Office summary of findings on the Examination and Certification Online System, which is now estimated to cost roughly twice its original $4.7 million estimate with a 2017 launch date -- nearly two years late.

Print space limitations kept us from mentioning that LAO recommended the Legislature require CalHR make quarterly progress reports.

"Given the history of this project," the LAO's summary says, "... we recommend that the Legislature require (the Technology Agency) and CalHR jointly submit quarterly reports on the project's progress to the chairpersons of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and fiscal committees."

CalHR "pretty much agrees," said department spokeswoman Pat McConahay. "We're going to be very transparent about this."

IMAGE CREDIT: Computer server image, courtesy Hewlett Parkard / Sacramento Bee 2000 file

May 9, 2013
The Roundup: California's tech test; AK workers learn bear defense

HA_newspapers3808.JPGThe State Worker: Small project a big test for California's government tech skills
At the state's human resources headquarters in Sacramento, a small-but-significant test of state employee computer prowess is rebooting. - Sacramento Bee

State Workers Get Bear Defense Training
NCHORAGE - Some state employees' job requires them to deal with the state's crankiest residents. That's why for about four weeks every year, about 100 state workers who work in the field prepare for the worst-case scenario. - KTVA

New effort targets Pa.'s 'triple-dipping' state workers
Public employees would be protected from punishment for providing information requested by Louisiana lawmakers under a bill approved by a House committee Wednesday. House Bill 387 by Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, comes after some high-profile instances in which state officials who disagreed with Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lost their jobs. - | The Times-Picayune

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May 8, 2013
Indiana state worker fired for forwarding anti-Muslim joke email

Check out this report from Indiana, where a state worker is claiming he was treated unfairly for forwarding a joke from his work email account.

Discipline for 3 Indiana state workers over forwarding joke emails - RTV6

May 8, 2013
Former lawmaker: State could control CalPERS' long-term care plan

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgA former assemblyman suggested Tuesday afternoon that the Legislature should consider reining in CalPERS' control of its struggling long-term care insurance program if the system follows through with plans to hike premiums for some policies by 85 percent.

May 8, 2013
The Roundup: Authorities want Bay Bridge review; Cal Fire cuts

HA_newspapers3808.JPGIndependent review urged for Bay Bridge fixes
State and local transit authorities are calling for an independent review of proposals to repair the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, whose planned opening date has been jeopardized by recent construction setbacks. - Sacramento Bee

California Guard Firefighting Aircraft Threatened by Cuts
The California National Guard's ability to supply planes and helicopters to fight wildfires in a season already above normal may be jeopardized by automatic federal budget cuts, according to the two-star general who commands the force. - Bloomberg News

Prison Guard Shot in Head While Pumping Gas
Police were investigating the motive behind a shooting at a Colton gas station that left a California state corrections officer in critical condition with a bullet wound to the head and two men in custody. - NBC 4

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May 7, 2013
University of California employees vote to authorize strike

130419-UC-Davis-Med-Center-Pench-2012.jpgFor the second time in five years, the union representing thousands of University of California hospital workers is poised to strike.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 said this morning that 97 percent of its members have voted to authorize a walkout. The union's announcement didn't detail how many members voted.

The local represents some 13,000 custodians, gardeners, cooks, patient care assistants, vocational nurses and radiology technicians at the five hospitals in the university system, including the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. Those employees have been without a contract since October.

AFSCME has complained that the university routinely understaffs hospitals and wants to cut employee compensation while it spends more on pay and benefits for administrators. The university has brushed aside those barbs as union posturing during deadlocked contract negotiations.

During talks for its last contract in 2008, the union mounted a five-day strike despite a restraining order by a judge who found that the labor action would endanger public safety.

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

May 7, 2013
From the Notebook: CalPERS' health-care verification program

Thumbnail image for NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgCalPERS' decision to get tougher on dependent eligibility checks for medical insurance presents a ticklish public relations challenge for an agency that has long prided its customer service-oriented reputation.

If the system's amnesty message is too feeble, it will be ignored. Come on too strong, and CalPERS risks backlash from offended employees and retirees.

May 3, 2013
The Roundup: California prison plan; capitols crumble; PA triple-dippers legislation

HA_newspapers3808.JPGBrown says more prison releases require Legislature to act
The Brown administration told a federal court Thursday night that to further reduce inmate prison population the Legislature would have to agree to dramatically restructure the laws governing California's corrections system. - Sacramento Bee

States Rush to Fix Capitol Buildings After Years of Decline
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin literally had a nose for news when she took a group of journalists on a tour of the state Capitol's basement "dungeon" in January. Gas from raw waste fouled the air, the result of collapsing sewer lines underneath the century-old building. But the nasty odor didn't bother a hairy-legged bug crawling out of its moldy, moist habitat to say hello. "Ooh, there's a big cockroach," Fallin said. - Stateline

New effort targets Pa.'s 'triple-dipping' state workers
Progress may have slowed on legislative efforts to put an end to a practice known as "triple dipping" -- although Pennsylvania lawmakers say they're determined to get a measure to the governor's desk soon.

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May 2, 2013
The Roundup: Legislature takes up CalPERS' long-term care; federal hiring slows


The State Worker: Committee calls hearing on CalPERS long-term care insurance
Don't be surprised if an Assembly hearing next Tuesday gets a tad heated. - The Sacramento Bee

Budget cuts squelch hiring
Hiring in the federal government has dropped by a third over the past three years as budget cuts have taken their toll.- Federal Times

Senate kills 'right to work' plan for Ohio
Just hours after two House Republicans on Wednesday unveiled a three-part strategy to make Ohio a "right to work" state, GOP leadership in the Senate killed the idea.- / The Plain Dealer

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May 1, 2013
Jerry Brown signs bill to cut California business-filing backlog

111201 Brown Amezcua.JPGIn response to an embarrassing six-week queue of business filings, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a measure today that immediately sends $1.6 million to the California secretary of state's office to relieve the backlog.

Lawmakers acted after a March 6 report in The Sacramento Bee revealed that more than 120,000 forms, many with filing fees attached, were stacked up in the agency's Sacramento headquarters.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen blamed the delay on the cyclical nature of the filings, budget cuts imposed by the Legislature and a paper-based system in desperate need of automation.

Some form-processing delays hamper business startups. Other states, such as New York, Texas and Nevada, use web-based technology to turn around similar filings in a week or less.

The measure Brown signed, Assembly Bill 113, gives Bowen money from the current budget to pay for overtime and to hire temporary workers between now and June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Legislative leaders have said they intend to appropriate more money over the next few years to get business filing wait times down to 10 days or less and then maintain that benchmark until a new automated system comes online in 2016.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee file, 2012

May 1, 2013
Capitol event to recall Caltrans workers killed in line of duty

1104280-caltrans-memorial-ortiz.JPGIn the grim wake of two Caltrans employees' deaths last week, the department is holding its Annual Workers Memorial on Thursday at the California Capitol.

For the last 23 years, the event has honored Caltrans employees killed in the line of duty. Some 180 Caltrans workers have lost their lives on the job.

After nearly two years without an at-work death, two Caltrans workers, Shawn Baker, 50, of Weed, and Joseph Jones, 40, of Montague, died April 24 while stabilizing a hillside on a state route west of Yreka. A third Caltrans employee suffered moderate injuries in the same accident.

The Caltrans memorial starts at 11 a.m. on the west side of the Capitol.

PHOTO: Caltrans vehicles fill 10th Street on the west side of Capitol Park during a 2011 memorial for department employees who died in the line of service. Jon Ortiz / Sacramento Bee

May 1, 2013
Website features leadership tips from California state execs

20111102_ha_JoHN_CHIANG0365-AMEZCUA.JPGThe California Department of Human Resources has launched a new webpage that quizzes high-level state officials about their careers and leadership.

"Executive Perspectives" will offer a new Q&A each week. It went live this morning with comments from California State Controller John Chiang, California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley, Franchise Tax Board Executive Director Selvi Stanislaus and Howard Schwartz, CalHR's chief deputy director.

Human Resources spokeswoman Pat McConahay, who edits the interviews for readability before they're vetted by the various departments and posted online, said the site will add new leaders each week as it aims to "inspire any state workers interested in growing their own careers."

The officials who contributed to the first round of features were picked, McConahay said, because they've shown keen interest in developing leaders in the state workforce.

PHOTO CREDIT: State Controller John Chaing. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee 2011 file

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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