The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

February 4, 2013
Engineering association funded shadowy initiative campaigns

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

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

December 18, 2012
California firefighters' political spending reflects grudge

Among the hundreds of campaign expenses incurred by the state firefighters' union political action committees this year, two relatively small line items reflect a grudge the organization has held for years.

The California Department of Forestry Firefighters Small Contributor PAC made 147 contributions to state and local candidate campaigns in 2012. It also made two independent expenditures totaling $10,500 to oppose Curt Stracener's bid to keep his El Dorado County Superior Court judgeship.

Before former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to the bench in 2010, Stracener worked as a senior litigator for the administration who helped shape furlough strategy.

October 11, 2012
From the notebook: More about Washington's paycheck laws

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

Our report in today's Bee takes a look at the history of state laws that place limits on either the spending or the collection of payroll-deducted dues. We wanted to look back to see what California unions might do if Proposition 32 passes.

A significant part of the story looks at Washington state, where voters in 1992 passed the nation's first law to require that members of public-employee unions give annual written permission for their dues to be spent on political activities. A decade later, the state Legislature changed the law to require only a lifetime opt-in with annual employer notice of employees' right to opt out.

Here are some links for State Worker blog users who want to dive more deeply into the Washington law:

Information on Washington's 1992 Initiative 134.
Senate Bill 6713, the 2002 law that eased the member opt-in requirement.
A synopsis of the measure.

IMAGE: www.freeclipart.com

September 11, 2012
See who's fighting Proposition 32

The spreadsheets below, downloaded from the California Secretary of State's filings this morning, detail $35.8 million in contributions to the No on 32 campaign.

Labor organizations have made defeating the measure a top priority this fall, since it would squeeze their political spending resources. The measure would ban payroll-deducted monies from use for political purposes, cutting off unions' chief means of raising such funds. Corporations would come under the same restrictions, but the measure wouldn't impact them as significantly since they play in politics with money contributed by executives and companies' funds.

We're posting this spreadsheet in response to several blog users' requests that we make the information easily accessible. We'll soon publish the details behind the funds raised by the Yes on 32 side, which amounts to a little more than $3 million.

September 6, 2012
Public pension reform: political posturing or profound pruning?

Tweet war: Political posturing or serious pension reform?

Here's an opening snippet of a debate that will run the next 60 days: Is the pension legislation California lawmakers sent to Gov. Jerry Brown truly serious pension reform or an inconsequential political ploy to pump up a November tax measure that Brown, Democrats and organized labor all support?

Storified by Jon Ortiz · Thu, Sep 06 2012 10:01:42

First, public-pension blogger Ed Mendel weighed in with his assessment: Assembly Bill 340 is significant.
Pension reform allows cities to bypass bargaining « Calpensions1 day ago ... Pension reform approved by the Legislature last week gives many cities new cost -cutting power that some have been unable ...
Steve Maviglio, organized labor's public-pension pitbull, then wrote about Mendel's item, arguing that editorials and columns dismissing the measure as a weak brew or calling for a "real" pension reform ballot initiative are wrong:
What the Pension "Reformers" Don't Tell You About11 hours ago ... Ed Mendel's widely-respected Calpensions.com takes a look at the new pension legislation today, noting that the ne...
And in this corner, Chris Reed, editorial writer for the San Diego U-T:
@stevenmaviglio What kabuki, Steve. First you pretend to loathe this reform. Now you're touting its hidden strengths. #MaviglioInAPretzelChris Reed
And awaaaay we go:
@chrisreed99 Re-read the piece. #Pension deal rips $40 billion+ more from public workers. I'm saying it goes too far, not that it's goodSteven Maviglio
@stevenmaviglio Steve Maviglio, I accuse you of Kabuki 101! It's not even grad level kabuki. Y'all think think it helps Prop 30. #FakeAngerChris Reed
Take $40b+ out of your hide and see how much #fakeanger there'd be. Black helicopters coming for you @chrisreed99Steven Maviglio

August 17, 2012
San Francisco hedge fund manager donates $500,000 to defeat Prop 32

Thumbnail image for 120817 Tom Steyer.jpgThe list of big donors to the campaign against Proposition 32 reads like a laundry list of unions -- with a notable exception: Thomas Steyer.

Recently-filed state records show that Steyer, a San Francisco hedge fund manager and major player in California politics, gave $500,000 to the No on 32 campaign on July 30.

Until now, those kinds of donations from individuals in the private sector have gone to the pro-Proposition 32 side. The measure is largely seen as much more business-friendly, since one of its provisions would end union and corporate use of payroll-deducted money for political purposes. That would cut off organized labor's primary vehicle for collecting political spending funds while leaving corporations relatively untouched, since they get funding from their company resources and executive donations.

August 14, 2012
Business group backs Jerry Brown's pension reform plan

Thumbnail image for Jerry Brown 2012 amezcua.jpgWith Democrats promising pension reform legislation by the end of this month, a statewide business group is pushing lawmakers to accept Gov. Jerry Brown's 12-point plan to change state and local retirement benefits.

In a letter to the governor and lawmakers on Monday, 15 members of the Regional Economic Association Leaders Coalition called the Brown plan "an important first step toward returning our pension obligations to a state of fiscal sustainability."

August 13, 2012
Court issues split decision on Proposition 32 language

A Superior Court judge in Sacramento has rendered a split ruling on a lawsuit contesting the language that describes a campaign-finance measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Judge Michael P. Kenny refused to strike a key sentence in the Proposition 32's title and summary that a proponent sued to take out -- although the court agreed with the measure's supporter that some words in Proposition 32's label needed to be strengthened.

Fights over initiative language are common. The titles and summaries appear in the state's voter pamphlet to describe ballot initiatives. Voters see initiatives' labels on the ballot when they vote. Both are written by the attorney general's office.

Kenny refused to strike this sentence from the measure's title and summary: "Other political expenditures remain unrestricted, including corporate expenditures from available resources not limited by payroll deduction prohibition."

It's a key point that the Yes on 32 side wants to downplay while unions have seized on that fact to blast the measure as a veiled attack on labor that would leave corporate interests relatively untouched. Unions depend on payroll-deducted money to play in politics, whereas as corporations get funds from individual donations and company treasuries.

He did agree to change words such as "limits" and "restricts" to "prohibits," as the strikeouts show in this snippet of the amended title and summary:

August 3, 2012
California Teachers Association gives $7.5 million to No on 32

The California Teachers Association has ponied up $7.5 million to fight Proposition 32.

The November ballot measure prohibits the use of payroll-deducted funds for political purposes, eliminating labor unions' primary way of raising money for campaigns and other political spending. It also bans direct campaign contributions by corporations and unions.

The contribution, reported Friday in a campaign finance filing on the secretary of state's website, brings the total raised by the opposition campaign this year to more than $16 million. The No on 32 committee reported having $6.5 million in the bank as of June 30, though that balance doesn't count this check or other contributions received in the last month.

Supporters of the measure, who say it will take special interest money out of politics, have raised more than $2.2 million to date. They ended June with a little more than $1 million in the bank.

July 30, 2012
California Democratic Party takes 'no' stance on union dues measure

The California Democratic Party formalized its position on Proposition 32, voting at a weekend executive board meeting to oppose the November initiative.

The measure bans unions and corporations from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. It also bans direct campaign contributions by either interest group.

Defeating the measure on the general election ballot is seen as the top priority for labor unions, which rely heavily on payroll-deducted member dues to build their campaign war chests, and their Democratic allies.

"We have a real fight on our hands in California this year but Democrats are prepared to dig deep and work hard to win," California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said in a statement. "If Prop 32 were to pass, it would effectively silence the voice of working families at the ballot box while giving corporate interests and billionaire businessmen free rein to exert even more influence on our political system. We're not going to let that happen."

See where the California Democratic Party stands on the other ten measures slated for the November ballot over at our sister blog Capitol Alert.

July 23, 2012
Proposition 32 opponents blast measure as flawed, unfair

Leaders and activists representing good government advocates and labor organizations today officially lauched their fight against a campaign finance reform measure on the November ballot, depicting it as unfair and fatally flawed.

The measure, Proposition 32, eliminates payroll-deducted monies from use for political purposes by unions and corporations. It also bans campaign contributions by either interest group, although both could continue spending unlimited sums on independent expenditure efforts.

July 20, 2012
SEIU Local 1000 gives $500,000 to fight Proposition 32

SEIU Local 1000 has contributed $500,000 more to fight Proposition 32, the campaign-funding initiative, according to records filed Thursday with the state.

Local 1000's latest donation nearly doubled the $503,000 it previously donated to the cause, pushing its total contribution so far to just over $1 million.

Unions so far have given nearly $9 million to defeat the measure, which would ban money obtained via payroll deductions from being used for political purposes. The ban would extend to both unions and corporations, but it would clearly hurt labor interests more, since they receive nearly all of their political operating money from payroll deductions of their members' dues.

Corporations, on the other hand, draw most of their political funds from executive donations and company resources. Those kinds of business sources have donated a little over $4 million to support the measure, which goes before voters on Nov. 6.

Prop. 32 also bans both groups from donating directly to political campaigns, although it leaves room for unlimited spending on independent expenditure efforts to support or oppose politicians or political causes.

SEIU Local 1000 Contribution to No on 32 Campaign

July 10, 2012
Jerry Brown says California public pension reform won't be on November ballot

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 080811 Jerry Brown.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has backed away from his earlier call for legislators to put a pension-change measure on the November ballot, although the administration is continuing to push for statutory changes.

In an email to The State Worker, Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said, "There won't be pension changes on the November ballot. But we'll get the reforms done, you can count on that."

July 6, 2012
Firefighters group gives $1 million to fight campaign finance measure

Here comes the big money.

The union coalition fighting a Nov. 6 measure aimed at restricting unions from collecting campaign cash from their members has received a $1 million dollar donation, according to records filed with the state.

Meanwhile, the campaign backing the initiative, which would end using payroll-deducted monies for political purposes, has received a $500,000 contribution from the head of a Palo Alto holding company, state records show.

California Professional Firefighters Ballot Issues Committee made the million-dollar donation late last month to defeat the initiative, sending a seven-figure signal that labor interests have put the initiative squarely in their cross hairs.

Donations to fight the measure have reached about $8 million so far.

On the other side, Thomas M. Siebel, founder and chairman of First Virtual Group, gave $500,000 to the measure's "yes" campaign four months ahead of the election.

Monday's donation brings the funds raised to support the initiative to a little over $4 million.

June 29, 2012
Mysterious website calls unions 'the new California bandits'

120619 Bandits.JPGA website of unknown origin has launched with a not-so-subtle invitation:

"LEARN THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SIX UNIONS THAT WANT TO RAISE YOUR TAXES AND KILL CALIFORNIA'S ECONOMIC RECOVERY!"

It's not clear who is behind the website. Bee Capitol Bureau colleague Torey Van Oot checked the registration for the site's domain name, thenewcaliforniabandits.com, which led to a Florida-based administrative contact, Domain Discreet Privacy Service.

The State Worker contacted California Republican Party spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns to see if the state GOP was behind the site.

"Nope, not us," Kerns said in an email. "I don't know who it is."

The anti-tax, anti-organized labor website blasts "the union plan" to raise taxes, calls out "union bosses" and publishes the pay of top officials for AFSCME, the California Federation of Teachers, the California Teachers Association, SEIU and the California Nurses Association.

The site gives similar treatment to the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, which was formerly the California chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The libral and politically active group isn't a union but has strong ties with labor.

Visitors to the website are invited to "Report a bandit!" And, of course, there are the usual buttons to share the site via social media.

The State Worker is continuing to investigate the website's source.

June 26, 2012
Defining 'mission critical' retired annuitants in California's state workforce

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

So what's a "mission critical" retired annuitant, anyway?

We'll soon find out. As we've reported, the horse-trading between Gov. Jerry Brown and SEIU Local 1000 over furloughs included a mandate that departments purge their payrolls of RAs by Sept. 1. Only those deemed mission critical -- in other words, people whose departure would impair the normal function of the organization -- will be exempt.

June 21, 2012
Column Extra: How much do California state departments spend on retired annuitants?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100831 calculator.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Today's State Worker column looks at the arguments for and against the state's hiring of retired annuitants and notes that all of the positions have flaws.

Here's a breakdown of $15 billion that state departments paid their employees in calendar 2011, with a breakout of how much of that went to retired annuitants:

June 19, 2012
GOP donor Munger chips in for, unions against payroll measure

120619 MungerJr_baer_2008.JPGThe American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO and the International Association of Fire Fighters - FIREPAC have given a combined $600,000 to defeat a California measure that would ban payroll-deducted money from use on political spending, according to the latest campaign filings with the state.

Meanwhile, Stanford physicist Charles T. Munger Jr. (left) donated more than $237,000 to the group promoting the measure on the November ballot.

Munger is a major GOP donor who backed California's redistricting reforms and is prodding the state Republican Party to the moderate middle by downplaying issues such as abortion, gun rights and same-sex marriage. He also gave $119,469 last year to a group that is now aligned with conservative interests backing the initiative. Supporters have given about $3.3 million to the campaign so far.

The organized labor opponents of the measure have raised more than $7 million so far.

The initiative would ban both unions and corporations from contributing directly to candidates, although both could still fund independent expenditure campaigns.

But should it pass, the measure would be a bigger blow to labor interests because it eliminates their primary method of raising political spending money -- payroll deductions. Corporations raise the bulk of their cash for those purposes from top executives and corporate funds.

PHOTO: Charles Munger Jr. of Santa Clara listens to debate during the California Republican Party convention held at the Hyatt in San Francisco in February 2008. / Sacramento Bee file, Brian Baer

June 13, 2012
From the notebook: Read the 'lost' passages from California retired annuitants story

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

Today's story about the costs and politics of how the state uses retired annuitants in today's Bee is the product of two days of number-crunching and interviews, most of which didn't see print.

That's often the case when reporting complex stories. Reporters and editors sift through what's known and written, making dozens of decisions about what to leave in and what to take out.

We made a decision to take out the following paragraphs from today's piece, concluding that they were probably number-heavy details that general readers either wouldn't easily follow or care about.

State Worker blog users, however, tend to be more knowledgeable about the fine details of state government and the bureaucracy. So rather deleting these paragraphs forever, we thought they would make for good blog item:

... Some agencies relied relatively little on retirees. The California Department of Transportation, the Highway Patrol and the State Compensation Insurance Fund spent less than 0.1 percent of total payroll last year on retired annuitants.

Others relied more on them. The departments of Mental Health, Water Resources and Social Services all spent at least 1.4 percent of their payroll on retired annuitants - twice the statewide average.

Among moderately-sized agencies, Department of Community Services and Development spent about 12 percent of its payroll on 42 retired annuitants in calendar 2011, 17 times the state average and the highest rate of any department.

Spokeswoman Rachel Arrezola attributed that to heavy workloads triggered by federal monitoring standards for how the department is spending $275 million in Recovery Act money received a few years ago.

"Given the increased federal requirements, CSD needed temporary support to meet the temporary workload," Arrezola said.

Before that, the department employed just 13 retirees and currently has 27, about one-third the number of its regular state-employee staff.

"Our Recovery Act program will wrap up in December," Arrezola said. "We'll reduce the department's temporary support accordingly."

RELATED POST:
Audit: State could lose $93 million in Recovery Act money

June 8, 2012
State employees suggest alternatives to Jerry Brown's four-day-workweek furlough plan

The Association of California State Supervisors is running a poll on its website to gauge the popularity of various alternatives to Gov. Jerry Brown's four-day workweek proposal.

The Brown administration has said it will consider alternatives that accomplish the 5 percent cut in employee compensation costs the governor wants in the 2012-13 state budget, so ACSS asked its members for ideas and then used them for the online poll. The options include:

• Reinstituting the Personal Leave Program.
• Going to a one-day-per-month furlough.
• A five-day workweek with 7.5-hour shifts.
• Closing offices at 3 p.m. on Fridays.
• A 5 percent pay cut, working hours not impacted. (0.8 percent picked that option)
• Letting departments design their own savings plans.

June 7, 2012
California state workers ask: Will minimum wage issue return?

Thumbnail image for 100830 checkbook2.gifSeveral jittery state workers have called and emailed in the last week asking whether their pay might be withheld if lawmakers don't reach a budget deal by the June 30 fiscal year-end.

The short answer: No.

But you can understand why some folks might be nervous. Former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger twice tried to apply a 2003 Supreme Court decision that says without a budget appropriation for salaries by July 1, the state shouldn't pay employees more than the federal minimum wage. Once a budget is in place, the state would issue back pay.

Schwarzenegger tried to use the minimum wage threat to pressure majority Democrats into budget concessions. Then the state's chief paycheck writer, Democratic State Controller John Chiang, refused to comply. Litigation ensued. The state never withheld the money.

Three factors are in play now that didn't exist when Schwarzenegger was in office.

First, the Legislature is highly motivated to pass a budget by the June 15 constitutional deadline, even if the numbers are a sham. If they don't, 2-year-old Proposition 25 kicks in, docking their pay until a budget (which would include a state worker salary appropriation) is approved.

Second, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown wouldn't hold state workers' pay hostage. The proof? One month after taking office, Brown dropped the Schwarzenegger lawsuit to force Chiang's compliance.

Additional note: Many employee contracts, including SEIU 1000's guarantee no minimum wage for their duration.

June 5, 2012
Poll: What will California voters decide about San Diego, San Jose pension reforms?

As voters head to the polls today, all eyes are on public pension measures on local ballots in San Diego and San Jose, the nation's eighth-largest and 10th-largest cities respectively. The measures both would put new hires into cheaper defined contribution retirement programs.

The San Jose proposal also would impact current employees by forcing them to choose between much higher out-of-pocket contributions to keep a defined benefit pension or switch to the cheaper defined contribution plan. The San Diego plan freezes employee pay used to calculate city pensions for six years, although the city council could override that provision with a two-thirds vote.

The measures have statewide and perhaps even national implications for the public pension reform movement as check on the electorate's mood on the issue.

Click here to read more about the San Jose's Measure B and click here for details about San Diego's Proposition B. Then take our poll:


May 31, 2012
Last-minute public pension bill enrages Illinois lawmaker

Illinois State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, blew a gasket on Tuesday after leaders in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly delivered new pension-reform legislation at the end of the session's last day. The video above captures Bost's blast, which included throwing the bill into the air, punching at the cascading papers and quoting Moses' words to Pharaoh: "Let my people go."

On Wednesday, Bost explained that the bill's last-minute introduction in the waning moments of the 2012 session set him off.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Republicans didn't like the bill "because of a gradual cost shift from the state to suburban and Downstate school systems, which for the first time would have to pay teacher and administrator pension costs instead of the state."

That would trigger either education cuts or tax hikes that suburban and Downstate Republicans can't tolerate.

House Speaker Mike Madigan dropped his proposal late Wednesday night.

Illinois unfunded state public pension obligations reportedly total $83 billion.

May 30, 2012
Legislature, other elected officials may get pay cut

From our sister blog, Capitol Alert, this story from reporter Jim Sanders:

It's official: The proposal is in writing and set for a vote -- a 5 percent pay cut for Gov. Jerry Brown, all California legislators and state constitutional officers from controller to treasurer to Board of Equalization member.

Click here to read more.

May 22, 2012
Commission could cut state elected officials' pay

From Bee Capitol Bureau colleague Jim Sanders' report this morning:

One week after Gov. Jerry Brown proposed slicing state workers' pay by 5 percent, the Democratic governor and legislators find themselves targeted for a "share the pain" salary cut.

Members of California's Citizens Compensation Commission said Monday that a pay-cut proposal for statewide officeholders will be on the table when the panel meets May 31.

Click here to read the entire story, which includes lawmakers' reactions to the idea.

May 17, 2012
Live chat today at noon will take on Jerry Brown's workweek plan

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for chat logo.jpgWhat does Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to restructure the state workweek mean for state workers and the public?

Is it a good idea or a bad idea? Will it really happen? What about other aspects of his plan to cut costs, like reducing outsourced work and eliminating hiring of retired annuitants?

Join us here at noon today for an hour of your questions and comments during what is sure to be a lively online chat about Brown's version of furloughs. You can even sign up for an email reminder at sacbee.com/live.

May 14, 2012
Jerry Brown's budget proposes longer days, shorter weeks for state workers

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 080811 Jerry Brown.JPGState employees would work longer shifts but fewer of them under the revised budget plan proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown this morning, saving the government more than $800 million.

Brown's budget envisions putting a four-day, 38-hour workweek for "the majority of state employees." If broken into four equal shifts, that translates into four 9.5-hour workdays and a reduction of hours and pay of eight hours over four weeks.

Brown's plan doesn't spare prisons or state hospitals: "The Administration will pursue commensurate reductions in work hours and pay for employees of entities that operate 24 hour a day, 7 days a week when implementation of the four-day workweek is not feasible."

The plan also cuts the state's operating costs by cutting energy usage at state-occupied buildings.

In sum, the workweek reconfiguration plan would save an estimated $839.1 million in fiscal 2012-13. Of that, $401.7 million would be savings for the general fund, which Brown says is confronting a $16 billion deficit.

The budget plan also anticipates more savings through cutting outside contracts, particularly in information technology services, eliminating "non essential" hiring of retired annuitants and cutting 11,000 state positions on top of the 15,000 eliminated in the 2011-12 budget.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown / Sacramento Bee file

April 19, 2012
Column Extra: Union gives $500,000 to fight 'paycheck' ballot measure

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.

Today's State Worker column mentions the latest donation tallies in the campaign arms race over the Stop Special Interest Money Act, dubbed "paycheck deception" by its opponents in labor.

The biggest donation to either side since we last reported the numbers: a $500,000 contribution from the California Council of Service Employees Issues Committee, which like other labor groups, opposed the measure. The council is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union.

CALIFORNIA STATE COUNCIL OF SERVICE EMPLOYEES ISSUES COMMITTEE APRIL 4 DONATIONion

April 16, 2012
Paycheck initiative gets $250,000 donation, faculty union trumps it

Former Univision CEO Jerry Perenchio gave $250,000 last month to support a ballot measure that would ban payroll deductions for raising money for political purposes, according to documents filed with the state.

Two days after Perenchio's Mar. 24 donation to the "Stop Special Interest Money Now Act" campaign, the California Faculty Association Political Issues Committee put $350,000 into Alliance for a Better California 2012, No on Paycheck Deception, sponsored by educators, firefighters, school employees, health care givers and labor organizations.

Perenchio's check was the biggest of a total $365,000 in pro-initiative donations reported to the Secretary of State's office on this April 4 filing.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Police Protective League's Public Safety First PAC put in $125,000, bringing the total to defeat the measure on this April 10 report to $375,000.

Both sides are writing checks anticipating a political slugfest that could total $50 million or more in campaign spending by the time voters decide on the measure in November.

While the initiative would ban both unions and corporations from contributing directly to candidates, both could still fund independent expenditure campaigns to support candidates.

Labor contends the measure is tilted against them, because it eliminates their primary method of raising money -- payroll deductions. Corporations, by contrast, raise the bulk of their campaign money from top executives and shareholders.

In all, supporters have given $2.9 million and opponents $4.7 million.

April 11, 2012
California senators call for a vote on Jerry Brown's pension plan

California's ranking Senate Republican and one of the GOP's representatives on a special pension committee have fired off letters to Gov. Jerry Brown and their Democratic colleagues in the Legislature, calling for a key committee vote on the governor's pension reform plan later this week.

Republicans have embraced Brown's plan and put it word for word in two bills. Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar and Sen. Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel on Tuesday signed the letters delivered to Brown and pension conference committee co-chairs Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, pushing for a vote Friday when the committee meets in Southern California.

They asked Brown to "join us to demand immediate legislative action on your twelve point pension plan, which we believe represents the first steps that must be enacted to get our runaway pension system under control."

Walters is a member of the committee, which has been meeting since last fall to come up with a pension reform plan. Majority Democrats on the panel have been lukewarm, at best, to key provisions of Brown's plan, and the governor hasn't said much about it since he issued the draft legislation which was co-opted by Republicans in February.

President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has said that the Legislature will pass a comprehensive pension-reform measure this year.

Click the link below to read the letters.

April 9, 2012
Poll: Why has hiring dropped off under Jerry Brown's watch?

As our story in today's Bee notes, state hiring fell 25 percent during the first year of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's administration when compared with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's last year in office.

But how much is Brown responsible? After all, the state still added more than 10,000 new full- and part-time employees in the first 14 months of his comeback third term. How much of the difference in numbers is a difference in leadership style, administrative savvy, political experience or bureaucratic cooperation?

Is is possible, for example, that Schwarzenegger's tough-on-state-workers policies (furloughs, attempts to withhold wages during budget stalemates, the campaign to roll back public pensions) prodded so many civil servants into retirement that his administration wound up hiring more than Brown?

Or has Brown, drawing on his many years in the public sector including two terms as governor from 1975 to 1983, simply done a better job of managing the state deficit -- and gained the bureaucracy's support to slow hiring in the process?

On The State Worker's Facebook page, retired state worker Mike Carbahal gave this opinion: "Schwarzenegger did not know what he was doing, nobody paid him or his programs much if any attention - Brown on the other hand does know what he is doing and is taken very seriously."

What do you think?

April 6, 2012
Teamsters ask ex-Los Angeles mayor to ballot measure breakfast

120406 Riordan Bee 2004 John Decker.JPGThe Teamsters have invited former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan to breakfast on Wednesday, April 11, to talk over the "Stop Special Interest Money Now Act" that will be on the November ballot.

The measure would ban both unions and corporations from contributing directly to candidates. Both could still fund political independent expenditure campaigns.

The measure is seen as putting unions at a disadvantage because it eliminates their primary method of raising money -- payroll deductions. Corporations would still be able to raise the bulk of their campaign money from top executives and shareholders, just as they do now.

Riordan, a Republican, has contributed $50,000 to Californians Against Special Interests. That group, in turn, contributed $200,000 to the ballot measure, state records show.

On Thursday, Teamsters Joint Council 42 President Randy Cammack sent a letter to Riordan, asking him to meet for a breakfast chat. Union members and their families will also attend, Cammack said.

Will Riordan show? Even if he doesn't, he'll still be part of the event: The breakfast is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the iconic Original Pantry Cafe in downtown Los Angeles. Riordan owns The Pantry.

Click the link below to see the list of contributors to Californians Against Special Interests.

PHOTO CREDIT: Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who also served as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's secretary for education, talks to reporters about the budget in his Sacramento office. John Decker/ Sacramento Bee file, 2004.

April 3, 2012
SEIU Local 1000, business interests prep for ballot initiative battle

Cash is beginning to flow into campaign war chests as labor and business interests prepare for an all-out brawl over a ballot measure that will ask Californians whether employee payroll deductions should fund political action committees.

Stop Special Interest Money Now has recieved $460,000 in donations since Jan. 1 to support the measure, according to California Secretary of State filings (embedded after the jump). Of that, $200,000 came from Californians Against Special Interests. That group, in turn, is backed with money from Charles T. Munger Jr. and others. Munger is a son of Charles Munger, the billionaire vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.

Meawhile, SEIU Local 1000 gave a quarter-million dollars to the anti-initiative Alliance for a Better California 2012, No on Paycheck Deception on Mar. 20, state records (also embedded below) show.

The two sides are piling up money for a looming multimillion-dollar battle over the "Stop Special Interest Money Now Act."

While the measure would ban both unions and corporations from contributing directly to candidates, both could still fund independent expenditure campaigns to support candidates.

But the measure is seen as especially hard on unions, because it eliminates their primary method of raising money -- payroll deductions. Corporations, by contrast, raise the bulk of their campaign money from top executives and shareholders.

March 30, 2012
Check out what IUOE Local 501 spent on political activities

This is the latest installment in a series of posts detailing political spending by California state workers' unions. The records are downloaded from the California Secretary of State's office and reflect activity filed as of today, March 30, 2012.

The 12,000 or so skilled craftsmen, maintenance staff and equipment operators in Bargaining Unit 12 are represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers, Craft Maintenance Division, California locals 3, 12, 39 and 501. Another 900 or so building maintenance and operations employees in Bargaining Unit 13 are represented by IUOE locals 39 and 501.

IUOE Local 501 reported about $30,000 cash in its PAC's bank as of this month. Since January 2011, it has spent $11,219 with roughly half that going to political contributions. The PAC reported no contributions in the 15-month period.

State employees in Units 12 and 13 make up a small part of the IUOE membership. Collectively, the four locals represent some 250 city, county, special districts, and schools bargaining units, according to the Unit 12 website, many of them outside of California. State workers are assigned to a local based on job class and geography.

As you look through the tables that follow, remember that expenditures show everything a union PAC spent on political activities, including operating costs. Contributions pages break out donations received (usually from members) and donations made to political campaigns and causes. In some cases, tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheets open tables with more detailed information on the union's political spending.

To get a sense of similar spending in California by other interest groups, check out Maplight.org. The California data on that site run through December 2010.


March 27, 2012
See what IUOE Local 39 spent on politics in 2011

This is the latest installment in a series of posts detailing the 2011 political spending by California state workers' unions. The records are downloaded from the California Secretary of State's office and reflect activity filed as of Jan. 31, 2012.

The 12,000 or so skilled craftsmen, maintenance staff and equipment operators in Bargaining Unit 12 are represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers, Craft Maintenance Division, California locals 3, 12, 39 and 501.

Last year IUOE Local 39 reported no donations received, but spent about $46,000 and ended the year with close to $254,000 in the bank. It spent roughly $34,000on political campaigns and causes, including $10,000 to the Asian Small Business PAC.

State employees in Unit 12 make up a small part of the total IUOE membership. Collectively, the four locals represent some 250 city, county, special districts, and schools bargaining units, according to the Unit 12 website, some outside of California. State workers are assigned to a local based on job class and geography.

As you look through the tables that follow, remember that expenditures show everything a union PAC spent on political activities, including operating costs. Contributions pages break out donations received (usually from members) and donations made to political campaigns and causes. In some cases, tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheets open tables with more detailed information on the union's political spending.

To get a sense of similar spending in California by other interest groups, check out Maplight.org. The California data on that site run through December 2010.

March 16, 2012
See what IUOE Local 12 spent on political activities in 2011

This is the latest installment in a series of posts detailing the 2011 political spending by California state workers' unions. The records are downloaded from the California Secretary of State's office and reflect activity filed as of Jan. 31, 2012.

The 12,000 or so skilled craftsmen, maintenance staff and equipment operators in Bargaining Unit 12 are represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers, Craft Maintenance Division, California locals 3, 12, 39 and 501.

Last year IUOE Local 12 received a half-million dollars in donations and spent about $213,000, state records show. Of that, $186,000 went to political campaigns and causes. The union's PAC ended the year with $1.35 million in the bank.

The single largest payee, Nationwide Printing Services Inc., did $26,540 worth of printing work for candidates the local supported, but the payments were in-kind contributions, not cash, according to state filings. The California Democratic Party received $25,000, Local 12's largest cash expense last year.

State employees in Unit 12 make up a small part of the IUOE membership. Collectively, the four locals represent some 250 city, county, special districts, and schools bargaining units, according to the Unit 12 website, some outside of California. State workers are assigned to a local based on job class and geography.

As you look through the tables that follow, remember that expenditures show everything a union PAC spent on political activities, including operating costs. Contributions pages break out donations received (usually from members) and donations made to political campaigns and causes. In some cases, tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheets open tables with more detailed information on the union's political spending.

To get a sense of similar spending in California by other interest groups, check out Maplight.org. The California data on that site run through December 2010.

March 5, 2012
California's state operating engineers local spent more than $470,000 on political activities last year

This is the latest installment in a series of posts detailing the 2011 political spending by California state workers' unions. The records are downloaded from the California Secretary of State's office and reflect activity filed as of Jan. 31, 2012.

Editor's note, 12:25 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the total of IUOE Local 3's 2011 spending.

The 12,000 or so skilled craftsmen, maintenance staff and equipment operators in Bargaining Unit 12 are represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers, Craft Maintenance Division, California locals 3, 12, 39 and 501.

This post focuses on IUOE Local 3, which spent $473,000 on political activities last year through 10 accounts reported to the Secretary of State. The largest account paid the local and the Operating Engineers General Fund a combined $176,000 for "reimbursement of salaries." Another $100,000 went to the California Democratic Party.

As you look through the tables that follow, remember that expenditures show everything a union PAC spent on political activities, including operating costs. Contributions pages break out donations received (usually from members) and donations made to political campaigns and causes. In some cases, tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheets open tables with more detailed information of the union's political spending.

Most of Local 3's accounts showed expenditures and political donations that matched exactly. For the few accounts that reported significant overhead, we totaled the expenditures and posted those figures on the first page of of the appropriate spreadsheets. We also totaled up contributions to recipients when the number of line items merited it.

The first sheet tallies each of the Local 3 accounts' expenses. Detailed spreadsheets for each account follow, starting with the largest, filer number 981697. (We've included a staff/spouse travel tab that shows the union paid $7,300 for airfare, lodging and meals.)

We'll soon post the data for the other three locals representing Unit 12.

To get a sense of similar spending in California by other interest groups, check out Maplight.org. The California data on that site run through December 2010.

March 2, 2012
Gasp! California state workers' PAC spends zip on lobbyists, lawyers, consultants in 2011

This is the latest installment in a series of posts detailing the 2011 political spending by California state workers' unions. The records are downloaded from the California Secretary of State's office and reflect activity filed as of Jan. 31, 2012.

California Association of Professional Scientists, which represents approximately 2,500 state employees, gave a nearly $160,000 to its political action committee last year, which spent about $41,000 -- none of it on the lobbyists, attorneys or political consultants that usually rank high union expenditure lists.

(The union did spend about $172,000 on lobbying to Blanning and Baker Associates Inc. and Aaron Read & Associates LLC, but the money didn't come from the union's PAC account.)

The biggest CAPS PAC checks, $10,000 each, went to the California Democratic Party and to Californians for Health and Retirement Security (the pro-pension labor coalition now known as Californians for Retirement Security). 

As you look through the data below, remember that expenditures show everything a union PAC spent on political activities, including operating costs. Contributions pages break out donations received (usually from members) and donations given to political campaigns and causes. Tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet open tables with more detailed information of the union's political spending

To get a sense of similar spending in California by other interest groups, check out Maplight.org. The California data on that site run through December 2010.

February 28, 2012
See what money Professional Engineers in California Government's PAC received and spent in 2011

This is the latest installment in a series of posts detailing the 2011 political spending by California state workers' unions. The records are downloaded from the California Secretary of State's office and reflect activity filed as of Jan. 31, 2012.

Professional Engineers in California Government's political action committee took in $1.3 million in contributions last year and spent $534,000. Of that, about $468,000 went to political campaigns and causes, including a total $180,000 to the California Democratic Party. Blanning Baker & Baker Associates, the union's principal consulting firm, received $34,500 with consultants Aaron Read & Associates representing the PAC's third-largest expense, $17,500.

PECG represents about 13,000 engineering professionals who design and inspect state highways, bridges and other construction projects.

As you look through the table below, remember that expenditures show everything a union PAC spent on political activities, including operating costs. Contributions pages break out donations received (usually from members) and donations given to political campaigns and causes. Tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet open tables with more detailed information of the union's political spending.

To get a sense of similar spending in California by other interest groups, check out Maplight.org. The California data on that site run through December 2010.

February 27, 2012
See what California Department of Forestry Firefighters spent on political activities in 2011

This is the latest installment in a series of posts detailing the 2011 political spending by California state workers' unions. The records are downloaded from the California Secretary of State's office and reflect activity filed as of Jan. 31, 2012.

California Department of Forestry Firefighters' PAC took in contributions of about $313,500 last year and spent a little more than $290,000 on political activities. Like many state employee unions, CDFF wrote its biggest checks to the California Democratic Party ($100,000 total) and consultants ($38,000 to Marketplace Communications, a media relations arm of Sacramento-based Aaron Read & Associates).

As you look through the table below, remember that expenditures show everything a union PAC spent on political activities, including operating costs. Contributions pages break out donations received (usually from members) and donations given to political campaigns and causes. Tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet open tables with more detailed information of the union's political spending.

To get a sense of similar spending in California by other interest groups, check out Maplight.org. The California data on that site run through December 2010.

February 23, 2012
Steinberg: GOP 'clever' to co-opt Jerry Brown's pension plan, but 'cut-and-paste' bills lack analysis

During his weekly chat with reporters this morning, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, talked about the Republicans co-opting Gov. Jerry Brown's 12-point pension reform plan. (For our analysis, check out today's State Worker column.)

Here are quotes and observations from this morning's get together gathered by The Bee's Senate beat reporter Torey Van Oot:

"I thought that was clever."

"I'm glad that they are entering the debate. It is important to point out that when we last voted on pension reform in 2010, the rollback of SB 400, 40 percent of the Senate Republicans did not vote for that pension reform in large part because it affected public safety," said Steinberg, displaying a printout of the vote.

"I'm glad that they're in the debate, and we are going to do exactly what I said we are going to do. We are going to finish the work of our conference committee. We are going to produce a conference report that addresses all of the governor's 12 points, and we're going to bring this to a conclusion here in a way that represents real reform and at the same time maintains the strength of affordable defined benefit plans."

Steinberg said while the governor's plan includes the right elements, Republicans haven't done much analysis on their "cut-and-paste work" to introduce the package drafted by the governor.

"I thought it was a very clever political move. I complimented Bob (Huff) on it."

February 20, 2012
See how CSLEA spent money on political activities in 2011

This is the latest installment in a series of posts detailing he 2011 political spending by California state workers' unions. The records are downloaded from the California Secretary of State's office and reflect activity filed as of Jan. 31, 2012.

The California Statewide Law Enforcement Association's two active political action committees received about $1.26 million from the union and spent about $530,000 in 2011. A little less than half the money went to political organizations and candidates for office.

CSLEA gave the most money to the California Democratic Party, $110,000. Lobbyists, consultants and lawyers as a group received $283,000. They included attorney Wayne Ordos, $98,000; Yorba Linda-based P.M. Restaurants/Consulting, Inc., $94,000; lobbyist Craig Brown, $55,000; and former CCPOA President Don Novey, $36,000.

As you look through the tables that follow, remember thatexpenditures show everything a union PAC spent on political activities, including operating costs. Contributions pages break out donations received (usually from members) and donations given to campaigns and political causes. Tabs at the bottom of each spreadsheet open tables with more detailed information of the union's political spending.

To get a sense of similar spending in California by other interest groups, check out Maplight.org. The California data on that site run through December 2010.

February 13, 2012
CA prison officers spent more than $1 million on political advice

This is the fourth installment in a series of posts detailing the 2011 political spending by California state workers' unions. The records are downloaded from the California Secretary of State's office and reflect activity filed as of Jan. 31, 2012.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association paid a total $1.1 million to four political consultants and a political lawyer last year, according to documents the union filed with the state.

Media strategy firm The Battin Group (formerly Voter Strategies Inc. and run by former Republican lawmaker Jim Battin) topped the list with $342,000 from CCPOA., followed by $220,000 to J. S. Peace & Associates, which is headed by former state lawmaker and "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" producer Steve Peace.

Other CCPOA expenditures in 2011 included $200,000 to former Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata's firm, Perata Consulting LLC, about $200,000 more to attorney Wayne Ordos and $157,000 to McNally Temple Associates Inc., another consulting firm.

The union also gave $100,000 to the California Independent Voter Project, a non-profit organization that offers to pay the expenses of state lawmakers who attend an annual Hawaii conference. Peace is one of the non profit's principals.

CCPOA, like many players in the political arena gave money to both sides of the aisle. Last year it wrote checks totaling $110,000 to the California Democratic Party and $25,000 to the California Republican Party.

By our count, the union controlled or wholly subsidized at least nine PACs, although not all of them took in or paid out money last year. Click here for a list that includes the committees.

We focused on the six most active PACS and subtotaled individual expenditures and contributions of the biggest accounts. Access those figures by clicking the "expend totals" or "contrib totals" at the bottom of some tables.

Expenditures pages show everything the association spent on political action, including operating costs. Contributions pages break out donations to campaigns and political causes.To get a sense of political spending in California by other interest groups, check out Maplight.org. The California data on that site run through December 2010.

Here are the CCPOA numbers:

February 9, 2012
See how the California Association of Highway Patrolmen spent its money in 2011

This is the third in a series of posts that will detail the 2011 political spending by California state workers' unions. The records are downloaded from the California Secretary of State's office and reflect activity filed as of Jan. 31, 2012.

The California Association of Highway Patrolmen took in nearly twice as much in contributions as it spent on political activities in 2011. Contributors gave the union $465,947, according to reports filed with the state. Only one contribution, $300 returned from Democratic Sen. Ron Calderon, exceeded the $100 threshold for itemized reporting, according to CAHP's filings.

Meanwhile, the association wrote checks for $223,415 to cover political activities. All but about $10,000 went to poltical campaigns, mostly via fundraisers. The largest expenses listed on the union's report were $50,000 for the Speaker's Cup golf tournament at Pebble Beach and $50,000 to the Pro Tem's Cup golf event at Torrey Pines.

We've embedded a spreadsheet below with pages that detail what CAHP spent on political activities last year and other pages that total up the money. You can access each page by clicking the tabs at the bottom of the table.

Expenditures page show everything the association spent on poltical action, including operating costs. Contributions pages break out donations to campaigns and political causes.To get a sense of political spending in California by other interest groups, check out Maplight.org. The California data on that site run through December 2010.

February 8, 2012
See California state attorneys union's political spending in 2011

This is the second in a series of posts that will detail the 2011 political spending by California state workers' unions. The records are downloaded from the California Secretary of State's office and reflect activity filed as of Jan. 31, 2012.

California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment reported political contributions of $154,200 and political expenditures of $206,443, according to records published by the state.

The expense report tallies all political spending, including the contributions figures that break out money that went to politicians and issues campaigning.

The California Democratic Central Committee received the most money, $37,700. Rank-and-file members contributed a little over $41,000 to the CASE PAC. Nearly all of that came in $10 donations. CASE represents roughly 3,400 employees.

We've embedded a spreadsheet below with pages that detail what CASE received and gave last year and other pages that total up the money. To get a sense of political spending in California by other interest groups, check out Maplight.org. The California data on the site run through December 2010.

February 7, 2012
See SEIU Local 1000 political action committees' 2011 spending

This is the first in a series of posts that will detail the 2011 political spending by California state workers' unions. The records are downloaded from the California Secretary of State's office and reflect activity filed as of Jan. 31, 2012.

A political action committees operated by SEIU Local 1000 gave $380,000 to campaigns and organizations last year, including nearly $195,000 to the Democratic State Central Committee of California, according to records filed with the state.

The union also donated a total of $21,000 to help retire 2010 campaign debts for Democrats such as Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara; Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda; and Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, among others.

One of the union's PACs donated several hundred dollars of staff time to politicians, including Controller John Chiang.

For a list of the union's political entities, click here. The union's reports to the state duplicated some expenditures. Note: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1991 that public sector employees may not be compelled to subsidize political or ideological activities of public employee unions.

We've embedded a spreadsheet below that details how the union's various political entities received and gave last year. To get a sense of political spending in California by other interest groups, check out Maplight.org (the California data on the site run through December 2010).

Editor's note, 2:29 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that unions could not use members' dues to fund PACs.


January 27, 2012
Darrell Steinberg: Pension reform must pass 'strength test'

110701 Steinberg Cap Bureau.JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Thursday that the Legislature will consider some sort of pension reform bill this session, and he didn't rule out sending a hybrid plan for new hires to Gov. Jerry Brown for a signature.

The Sacramento Democrat talked at length about pensions during a morning meeting with the Capitol press corps on Thursday. The Bee's Torey Van Oot was there and passed this six-minute audio file from the event.

(Warning: To hear the file, you'll need software that plays m4a files, such as RealPlayer or QuickTime.) The recording is clear but low-volume, so turn up the sound on your listening device.)

A few highlights of Steinberg's responses to reporters' questions:

January 25, 2012
Pension committee hearing set for today

The Joint Legislative Conference Committee on Pension Reform is scheduled to convene today at 1 p.m. at the Capitol. It's the third in a series of hearings on public employee pensions that is intended to vet the issue ahead of legislation.

Today's hearing will focus on hybrid pensions. The centerpiece proposal of Gov. Jerry Brown's pension plan would move future state and local government employees into hybrid plans, which blend a smaller traditional pension with a more risky defined-contribution component that yields retiree payments based on the outcome of investments.

California Pension Reform has proposed putting a similar hybrid plan or a tougher defined-contribution-only measure on the November ballot. The Sacramento-based group is hoping to raise money to circulate petitions for the measure it believes has the best chance of passing, but it hasn't yet announced which one that is.

Hybrid plans are a non-starter with labor.

All of the pension-change plans in play would alter guaranteed benefits for future employees and increase the out-of-pocket contribution costs for nearly all current workers.

The committee meeting today includes Assemblymen Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, Warren Furutani, D-Gardena and Jim Silva, R-Huntington Beach. Senate members include Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto and Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel.

Click here to watch the hearing live on the California Channel, which also archives recorded events for later viewing.

January 10, 2012
Pension measure backers say Kamala Harris wrote false statements

The group behind two ballot proposals that would significantly alter public employee pensions has blasted the summaries assigned to them on Monday by Attorney General Kamala Harris.

California Pension Reform said in a press release this morning that parts of the descriptions are accurate but that the first-term Democrat makes "other statements that are either provably false or grossly misleading."

Spokesman Aaron McLear said this morning that CPR will still press ahead with raising money and collecting signatures after it conducts some polling and decides which proposal has the best chance of success "within the next week or so."

Harris' spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill said this morning that "we believe the title and summary is accurate."

November 10, 2011
Poll: Who will have the most pull in the public pension debate?

It seems like everybody is talking about public pensions.

Gov. Jerry Brown has a 12-point plan he wants to put before voters next year. Republicans applaud the governor for offering up the proposals and have challenged him to call a special session to address the issue. Democrats are wary of Brown's plan.

Meanwhile, California Pension Reform has filed two pension proposals with the attorney general for title and summary, aiming to put one of them on the November 2012 ballot. Labor insists that any pension downgrades should be negotiated, not just legislated.

So what do you think?

November 9, 2011
GOP lawmakers demand special session on public pensions

Four GOP lawmakers this morning praised Gov. Jerry Brown's 12-point plan to change public pensions, then challenged him to go a step further by calling a special session to address the issue.

"The Legislature needs to give our full attention to this, right now," Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton said at a press conference held in his office. "After the first of the year, we're going to be all budget, all the time."

The Rancho Cucamonga Republican said that he sent his request that Brown reconvene lawmakers before the regular session starts in January. Dutton said he hadn't received a response as of this morning.

Dutton and three other GOP senators -- Tom Berryhill of Oakdale, Tom Harman of Huntington Beach and Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel -- took turns praising Brown for offering a series of public pension changes, which the Legislative Analyst's Office described Tuesday as "a bold, excellent starting point" though it "leaves many questions unanswered."

"I want to commend the governor publicly," Harman said. "I think he is serious."

The GOP caucus has a checkered history when it comes to public pension policy. Dutton was among a small number of Republicans who tried to block legislation last year that lowered benefits for new state hires and hiked what all state workers pay into their pension funds. Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger desperately wanted the measure and had Democrats and labor on board.

November 2, 2011
California group moves to put pension overhaul on 2012 ballot

Editor's note, 11:33 a.m.: Due to incorrect information provided by California Pension Reform, an earlier version of this post indicated that full-career public safety workers would receive their full benefit at age 60 after 30 years of service under a defined contribution plan. The correct age is 58 for those workers.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 110815 Dan Pellissier.JPGCalifornia's current and future state and local employees would pay more for their pensions under two ballot initiative proposals submitted to the state attorney general today with the intent of putting one of them to a statewide vote next year.

"Seventy percent of voters think it's time," said Dan Pellissier, president of California Pension Reform, referring to public opinion polls on public pensions.

October 25, 2011
Pension committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday

111024 carson city seal.JPGA special legislative pension committee will hold the first of three hearings on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the City of Carson council chambers, 701 East Carson St. in Carson.

The agenda suggests that this first hearing has plenty of pro-public-pension voices from labor, from Dave Low of California School Employees Association and Californians for Retirement Security to Terry Brennand, Senior Government Relations Advocate, SEIU California.

The city is going to webcast the hearing through its website, which you can access here.

Sitting on the committee: Assemblymen Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, Warren Furutani, D-Gardena and Jim Silva, R-Huntington Beach and Sens. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto and Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel.

The labor coalition Californians for Retirement Security is planning to hold a "Pension Truth Squad" press conference just before the hearing "to set the record straight about attacks on their pensions," according to a press release. The events serve to put a human face on the politically volatile pension debate by putting government workers and retirees to tell their stories before the media.

The coalition said that public workers will also testify at the hearing. Click here for the coalition's press release and advisory.

IMAGE: The City of Carson seal / http://ci.carson.ca.us

October 14, 2011
Lawmakers named to joint committee on California pension reform

Legislative leaders have named six lawmakers to a joint committee that will hold hearings on changes to public employee pension systems.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has appointed Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, Warren Furutani, D-Gardena and Jim Silva, R-Huntington Beach.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has appointed Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto and Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel.

Negrete McLeod and Furutani will co-chair the committee.

The first of three committee hearings is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 26 at the City of Carson council chambers, 701 East Carson St. in Carson. The committee hasn't yet announced locations or dates for two hearings it plans to hold in the Bay Area and Sacramento over the next several weeks.

October 7, 2011
'Paycheck protection' initiative backers collect 900,000 signatures

Thumbnail image for 110819 signature collector petition 1.JPG
This just in from Torey Van Oot on our sister blog, Capitol Alert:

Proponents of an initiative to prohibit unions from automatically deducting dues from members' paychecks for political purposes without permission say they've collected more than 900,000 voter signatures in hopes of placing the measure on next year's ballot.

The so-called "pay-check protection" measure would also limit contributions to candidate-controlled committees by corporations, labor unions and contractors that receive government contracts.

Click here for more details.

PHOTO: A man solicits petition signatures on K Street in Sacramento. (Sacramento Bee 2007 file photo / Brian Baer).

September 15, 2011
Another pension initiative qualifies for signature collection

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100806 ballot-box.jpgA sweeping measure that would curb pensions for current government employees, retirees and future hires has been given approval to collect signatures to qualify it for a statewide vote.

The "Pension Solvency Act" would take effect immediately upon voter approval and apply to all California public pension systems. The provisions include:

August 26, 2011
Poll: Will anti-union initiative get big-bucks backing for ballot?

Thumbnail image for 110713 lanny ebenstein.jpegLanny Ebenstein, the UC Santa Barbara economics lecturer who wrote a ballot measure that would end collective bargaining for California's public employees, is looking for someone with deep pockets to pay for a signature collection campaign.

"I've got a couple of people who said they'd put in $100,000 each," Eberstein said in a telephone interview earlier this week. He figures he needs about $1.5 million to get enough signatures to qualify the measure for voters statewide to consider it next year.

"And that's with pretty good volunteer participation" to help the effort, he said.

Those two backers, whom he didn't name, won't write their checks until others step forward, Ebenstein said.

Which leads us to ask ...

PHOTO: Lanny Ebenstein / courtesy of Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association

August 19, 2011
Pension fund investment initiative author responds to questions

Thumbnail image for 110819 signature collector petition 1.JPGWe've heard back from Michael Lee Madsen Sr., a political activist who has received the secretary of state's permission to collect signatures for a pension fund investment initiative.

Here's the email we sent Wednesday followed by the unedited reply we received from Madsen on Thursday. We're publishing it with Madsen's permission:

August 17, 2011
Public pension initiative can begin collecting signatures

JM CALPERS ENTER.JPGThe proponent of a ballot measure requiring public pensions in California to invest most of their assets in California firms can begin collecting the signatures from 807,615 registered voters to qualify the measure for the November 2012 election.

The proposal would require the state's public sector pension systems to maintain at least 85 percent of their investments in California-based businesses. The goal is to boost economic activity in the state.

The Legislative Analyst's Office said the measure wouldn't accomplish that goal and would probably hurt funds' investment returns.

Cal Watchdog has reported that Michael Lee Madsen, Sr., who submitted the initiative, is a North Highlands activist who lists his activities as "writing scripts and petitions." We've emailed him for a response to the LAO criticisms and to find out whether he has money to collect signatures by the Jan. 12, 2012, deadline. We'll let you know if we hear back.

Here's the attorney general's title and summary of the measure:

July 26, 2011
Pension measure creates 'CalSPERS' for private sector employees

JD_TED_COSTA_MUG.JPGAnti-tax advocate Ted Costa is back at it. His latest target: pensions.

He has proposed an initiative, written by Robert Matteoli, is called the Pension Solvency Act. It would significantly scale back benefits for current and new employees, give the state controller broad authority to audit the state's pension systems and orchestrate the creation of CalSPERS -- a pension system for the state's private sector employers.

"We want an opportunity to show everyone around this state what real reform is," Costa said. "I don't like the idea of shutting down the pension system. For better or worse, we have this. Let's put it back together."

May 31, 2011
Payroll deduction initiative backers now collecting money

From Torey Van Oot over at our cousin blog, Capitol Alert:

Proponents of a proposed initiative to block unions from using automatic payroll dedications for political contributions are collecting cash to fuel their effort to qualify for the 2012 ballot.

Californians Against Special Interests,the committee formed to support the proposal, reported $280,000 in contributions over the weekend, including large checks from the committee for a failed effort to qualify a similar measure for the 2010 ballot, conservative activists and the Lincoln Club of Orange County. The recent contributions bring the committee's total cash raised to $345,000.

Click here for more details.

May 24, 2011
Niello's pension reform initiative enters signature-gathering phase

niello.jpgUPDATE: Former Republican Assemblyman Roger Niello said he will not pursue a signature-gathering campaign for his pension reform proposal because of the diminishing likelihood of a special election on taxes later this year.

"Our urgency is gone," he said. "The reason for filing this measure was to have something in line for a November election alongside the measure on taxes, but that appears unlikely to happen now."

Gov. Jerry Brown is still calling for a special election as early as September to keep in place the current rates of income, sales and vehicles taxes. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said last week he wants that election to happen next year.

Niello said he's open to introducing a new measure for one of the 2012 ballots. He said he likely would amend his proposal to have a lower retirement age for public safety workers and to tie a benefit cap to a specific dollar figure rather than a percentage of wages.

Original post below:

Former Republican Assemblyman Roger Niello may begin collecting signatures to place a pension reform proposal before voters, Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced Tuesday.

Niello faces a deadline of Oct. 20 to gather more than 807,600 signatures to qualify the measure as a ballot proposition. He has called his proposal, the Public Employee Pension Reform Act, more reasonable than some of the other pension reform ideas that have floated around this year.

His proposal would equally split contributions, cap benefits and limit changes to pension plans. The Legislative Analysts Office and the Finance Department said the proposal could save billions of dollars per year over the long run. However, the savings could be offset by other deals made with public employees or changing conditions in the labor market.

Niello's initiative would:

• Set the retirement age for all California public employees, including current workers in every classification, at age 62. All the other elements would only affect future hires.
• Limit retirement benefits for a public agency employee to no more than 60 percent of the highest annual average base wage of the employee over a period of three consecutive years of employment.
• Split the employer/employee contribution to pensions equally.
• Provide public agencies complete power to modify pensions
• Ban modifying pensions through contract or collective bargaining.
• Exclude unused leave time from pension calculations.
• End retroactive pension increases. Public employees who retire before voters approve the proposal would not be affected.

Other groups, including the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, are considering ballot measures to amend the state's pension system. Gov. Jerry Brown outlined a pension reform plan earlier this year. Several elements lacked details and require further study.

PHOTO CREDIT:
Former Assemblyman Roger Niello listens to a question at a state budget panel discussion on March 23. Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee.

March 24, 2011
Former lawmaker Niello proposes pension rollback initiative

Former Republican Assemblyman Roger Niello has submitted a proposed statewide ballot initiative to the Attorney General's Office, the first step to circulating a petition to put a measure on a November ballot, if an election is called this year.

Niello, who lives in Fair Oaks, has submitted what he's calling the "Public Employee Pension Reform Act," which would:

• Set the retirement age for all California public employees, including current workers in every classification, at age 62.
• Limit retirement benefits for a public agency employee to no more than 60 percent of the highest annual average base wage of the employee over a period of three consecutive years of employment.
• Split the employer/employee contribution to pensions equally.
• Exclude unused leave time from pension calculations.
• Ends retroactive pension increases.

Other than the retirement age change, the other parts of the initiative would apply only to new hires, Niello said in a telephone interview this evening.

The proposal also includes this paragraph:

Public agencies shall retain exclusive authority to modify the terms of pension, retiree health, or other retirement benefits provided to its employees and may not relinquish such authority in any employee contract or collective bargaining agreement.

If voters approved the measure, it would take effect immediately.

Niello said that the pension changes he is proposing are "reasonable," particularly compared with some ideas that have entered the public debate. For example, his plan doesn't switch guaranteed pension payouts for 401(k)-style defined contribution plans or a hybrid system like that outlined in last month's Little Hoover Commission pension report.

Asked whether he was prepared for a fight with public employee unions, Niello said, "This is an approach I'd think that they would find more acceptable, given what some of the alternatives are that are out there."

Niello said that he hopes that Gov. Jerry Brown and GOP lawmakers can forge a pension deal as part of a June special election on whether to extend taxes. If they can't and Brown decides to put a tax measure on a November ballot, Niello wants his initiative to be ready to go.

"It's my preference that they work out a compromise for a June ballot measure," Niello said. "But if they can't, we're planning for every contingency."

Read the proposal here.

January 20, 2011
Column Extra: More about foundation's pension change plan

With just 400 to 450 words for our Thursday State Worker column, much of what we learn in the ramp-up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that don't make the cut.

Today's column looks at a pension change plan that the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility is preparing to push for a statewide vote next year. The plan would temporarily change pension accrual formulas for current state and local government employees, but there are other aspects to the proposal that we didn't cover. They include: a cap on benefits, changes to retiree health benefits for employees hired after July 1, 2013 and changes to pension fund governance.

Click here to see a draft of the proposal.

The foundation is going to promote its plan with the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown, but if lawmakers don't embrace it -- it's unlikely they will -- the group will start rounding up money to collect signatures to get the proposal on the ballot in 2012.

October 13, 2010
Pension fighter faces deadline for latest ballot measure

101009 secreatry of state seal.gifIf there's an election on the horizon, you can bet pension clawback crusader Paul McCauley has a ballot initiative in the works.

The Southern California CPA's latest, which would impose a variety of legally questionable taxes and fees on pension income above $40,000 per year, faces a Nov. 8 deadline to get 433,971 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Like others McCauley paid the $200 state fee to file, we're betting this this measure dies a silent deadline death. Here's a summary from the Secretary of State's website:

February 4, 2010
Majority-vote budget initiative OK'd to collect signatures

The Secretary of State's office has authorized signature collection for a November ballot initiative that would make several changes to California's budget process, including passage by a simple majority instead of the current two-thirds requirement. It would, however, retain the two-thirds vote needed to raise taxes and allow the governor to make unilateral budget cuts during a fiscal crisis if the Legislature fails to act.

Click here to read the Secretary of State's announcement and details about the initiative.

The proponents, James C. Harrison and Thomas A. Willis, are partners at Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, a firm with a long history of representing Democratic politicians and causes. They need signatures from 694,354 registered voters by July 1 for the initiative to go before voters in November.

Harrison and Willis already have permission to collect signatures for another measure that allows budget passage by a simple majority. That initiative also mandates that legislators permanently forfeit their pay and per diem for each day past June 15 that the state goes without a budget. Click here for more about that measure.Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100119 ballot box.jpg

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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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