The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

October 17, 2013
Chuck Reed scheduled for Bay Area, Los Angeles radio shows

100610 microphone.JPGSan Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is scheduled to discuss his new public pension ballot proposal on two radio shows today.

Reed and Robert Sapien Jr., president of San Jose Fire Fighters Local 230 will discuss pensions on KQED's "Forum" at 9 a.m. (Listen live here, or click in later for archived audio.)

A couple hours later, Reed is scheduled for "AirTalk" on Southern California's KPCC to debate with Terry Brennand, representing union coalition Californians for Retirement Security.

Click here to listen live from 11:20 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. The audio file will post on the station's website a little after 1 p.m. Go to the "AirTalk" webpage and scroll down to find the archive link.

IMAGE: www.freeclipart.com

October 16, 2013
CalPERS weighs in on new public pension ballot proposal

100607 CALPERS HQ.JPGOfficials with California's massive public pension fund, CalPERS, issued a press statement Wednesday on the new proposed ballot initiative on public employee pensions that restates the long-held position that those pensions are deferred compensation and a vested right under both federal and state law.

"CalPERS is bound by fiduciary duty to deliver the promised pension benefits according to the U.S. and California Constitutions, statutory law and case law," the release says. "The California voters placed these protections and duties in our Constitution to ensure that employees' pensions would be protected by CalPERS as their fiduciary and trustee. CalPERS will continue to support and defend our members' vested rights, in accordance with the laws of the land and our obligations under the federal and State constitutions."

Rather than downgrade pensions for government employees, CalPERS says, "a better solution would be to help those without pensions find ways to save for retirement ... Changes to pension benefit levels should be determined by the employer and the employees, and not at the ballot box. If this initiative were to pass, then all contractual rights in California could be in jeopardy."

You can find the full statement on the fund's website.

PHOTO: CalPERS headquarters in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Jay Mather

October 16, 2013
From the notebook: More quotes on California's public pensions

NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgAs reported in today's Bee, the battle lines have been drawn now that a new group led by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has filed papers to put a public pension measure on the November 2014 ballot.

What follows are quotes that didn't get into today's story or Tuesday's breaking-news blog post.

October 16, 2013
From the notebook: California public pension initiative papers

NOTEBOOK1.jpgAs we reported in today's fiber/cyber Bee, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed on Tuesday filed a ballot initiative language with Attorney General Kamala Harris that would alter California's constitution to explicitly allow public employees' pensions to be changed prospectively.

Until now, most legal experts have concluded that the state constitution protects pensions promised to workers on their first day at work as a "vested right."

Here are the documents that Reed and four other mayors of California cities submitted as a first step to putting the pension measure on the November 2014 ballot:

October 15, 2013
Reed files public pension ballot proposal with California AG

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed filed papers Tuesday in the first step toward qualifying a public pension measure for a statewide vote in California, a move that drew instant criticism from public employee unions.

"The Pension Reform Act of 2014" would alter California's constitution to allow state and local government employers to cut pensions for current workers prospectively, while the benefits they have already earned would be protected.

"Skyrocketing retirement costs are crowding out funding for essential public services and pushing cities, counties and other government agencies closer to insolvency," Reed said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

Reed was joined by Democratic mayors Pat Morris of San Bernardino, Miguel Pulido of Santa Ana and Bill Kampe of Pacific Grove as well as Republican Mayor Tom Tait of Anaheim in submitting the proposed ballot initiative to the Attorney General's Office.

Union leaders have blasted the proposal and characterized Reed as a self-aggrandizing political lifer and puppet of Wall Street interests.

Dave Low, chairman of the union coalition Californians for Retirement Security, called the proposal an "extreme" one that breaks retirement promises made to millions of public employees. The coalition represents 1.6 million government workers.

Low also predicted that the proposed initiative would stir up the same labor forces that defeated Proposition 32 last November. That measure would have made it harder for unions to collect members' dues.

October 15, 2013
VIDEO: Chuck Reed's public pension talk at Hoover Institution

Here's video of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed's keynote address on public pensions at Stanford's Hoover Institution on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

As we reported last week, Reed said during a Q&A after his presentation that he would soon file papers to put a public pension measure on California's statewide ballot. That part of the video starts at roughly the 24-minute mark.

Reed, a Democrat, is proposing an amendment to the California state constitution that would allow state and local government employers to cut pensions prospectively for all employees, while pensions already earned would be protected.

October 14, 2013
Jerry Brown's approval of new hiring law prompts state action

131011-Brown_budget_II.jpgA new law that delays when California state and local public employers can ask job applicants about their criminal histories reflects existing state policy, but it still has state officials thinking about the measure's implications.

Several weeks before Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 218 on Thursday, officials at the Department of Human Resources started meeting to discuss the law's potential impact on the 150 or so entities under gubernatorial authority.

"We really have tried to get ahead of this," CalHR spokeswoman Pat McConahay said in a telephone interview.

The measure, which takes effect July 1, 2014, requires state and local government employers hold off asking a job applicants whether they have a conviction record until after their minimum qualifications for the position are established. Assembly Bill 218 still permits up-front inquiries for jobs within a criminal justice agency and other positions that require a background check.

Government employers can ask anyone whether they have a criminal conviction record after the candidate's minimum qualifications have been established.

The state in 2010 moved two criminal-history questions from its standard job application to a supplemental form that departments distribute as needed. And any department can ask verbally or in writing whether a job candidate has a felony or domestic abuse record once the applicant has cleared minimum-requirement screening.

CalHR has been surveying how departments apply the policy (or haven't). The department intends to issue guidance and launch statewide training for best practices for recruiting, interviewing and checking references, McConahay said, because "we want to make it very clear."

RELATED POSTS:
Rule change helped thief return to state of California payroll
AUDIO: Embezzler talks about her re-hiring and firing from rail agency
Poll: When should government ask job seekers about criminal past?
Jerry Brown signs bill to ban felony question on public job apps
The State Worker: Which 'common-sense' view on criminal records will prevail?

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown and first lady Anne Gust Brown share a moment with Sutter, the couple's dog, on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011, as the governor signs bills near his office in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

October 11, 2013
Jerry Brown signs Richard Pan bill to limit state outsourcing

131011-Richard-Pan.jpgGov. Jerry Brown on Friday announced signing union-backed legislation aimed at making personal services contracts more transparent to unions.

Assemblyman Richard Pan's measure originally limited so-called "personal services contracts" to two years with no more than one two-year extension. Unions rallied at the Capitol in support of the measure, arguing that the state spends billions of dollars on contract workers at far greater cost than hiring more state employees.

The legislation that Brown signed today is a far less aggressive measure than the one labor interests wanted. Assembly Bill 906 requires that departments merely notify affected unions before they execute a contract for personal services.

Lawmakers removed Pan's time-limit and contract-renewal provisions from the bill. The state may also sidestep the disclosure provision if the services are "necessary due to a sudden and unexpected occurrence that poses a clear and imminent danger, requiring immediate action to prevent or mitigate the loss or impairment of life, health, property, or essential public services."

Still, Pan and AFSCME declared victory in a press release that the Sacramento Democrat's office issued Friday afternoon, quoting union Assistant Director Willie Pelote as saying the new law "will help us build a system of oversight that California needs to prevent overspending on private contractors."

PHOTO: Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, during the first day of session at the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

October 10, 2013
Jerry Brown signs bill to ban felony question on public job apps

130912-Job-fair-pge.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that bans government employers from asking job applicants about their criminal record until later in the hiring process, effectively extending the state's policy to some 6,000-plus local and regional government agencies in California.

Assembly Bill 218, by Sacramento Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, requires public employers determine a job applicant's minimum qualifications before they ask about the person's conviction history.

Practically speaking, that means removing the check-box questions common on many applications that ask, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?"

Once the law takes effect on July 1, 2014, employers will have to wait later in the hiring process to inquire about a job candidate's criminal past. Applications and initial interviews for jobs that by law require a conviction background check, such as police officers, are exempt. The state, for example, includes the question on a supplemental application form given for California Highway Patrol officer candidates.

October 10, 2013
San Jose mayor says he'll file pension initiative language soon

131010-chuck-reed-courtesy-san-jose.jpgSan Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said Wednesday that he will soon file papers to place a public pension measure before voters.

'I hope we'll in the position of filing for the title and summary in a few days," Reed said during remarks at Stanford University's conservative Hoover Institution.

The Democratic mayor said that "time is of the essence" for cutting government pension obligations that he says have strained municipal budgets statewide. For several months Reed has been recruiting support for a measure that would alter California's constitution so that state and local governments could lower pensions prospectively for current employees, while keeping their earned benefits intact.

Prevailing legal wisdom says that retirement promises to current employees are constitutionally protected. A voter-approved rollback for San Jose city employees that Reed promoted is testing that theory in court.

Although lawmakers last year dialed down retirement benefits for new hires and required most current employees to contribute more toward their retirement funds, "we have to go further than the Legislature did in 2012," Reed told the Hoover audience.

Unions have rejected Reed's ideas and have challenged the San Jose law in court. A statewide measure would undoubtedly trigger a massive response from organized labor a la its successful campaign to defeat a 2012 initiative that would have made member-dues collection more difficult.

Experts figure Reed will need between $2 million and $4 million to collect the 1.3 million signatures required to qualify the measure for the November 2014 ballot. There are signs that a Texas millionaire is willing to kick in to the cause. Silicon Valley money from conservative backers such as Charles Munger Jr. could pour in as well.

PHOTO: Chuck Reed. Courtesy City of San Jose.

September 27, 2013
Jerry Brown signs state employee pay raise, contract bills

130927-Jerry-Brown-bill-signing.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that funds special pay raises for workers in two departments and another measure that appropriates money for new contracts he bargained with seven employee unions.

Senate Bill 102 approves special agreements with various unions totaling $45.1 million, including raises in fiscal 2013-14 for key State Water Project employees and wage hikes for DMV workers.

Assembly Bill 478 appropriates $18.5 million to cover the fiscal 2013-14 cost of contracts negotiated with seven unions and conforms to pension roll-back laws passed last year.

The measure also makes compensation for those employees a continuous appropriation for either two or three years, depending when their contracts expire. The designation guarantees their pay won't be withheld if a budget impasse keeps the state from paying other obligations on time.

Here's a list of the unions included in AB 478 and the final year of their continuous appropriation protection:

California Correctional Peace Officers Association (BU 6) - FY 2014-15
California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (BU 7) - FY 2015-16
Professional Engineers in California Government (BU 9) - FY 2014-15
International Union of Operating Engineers (BU 12) - FY 2014-15
Union of American Physicians and Dentists (BU 16) - FY 2015-16
California Association of Psychiatric Technicians (BU 18) - FY 2015-16
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (BU 19) - FY 2015-16

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and his Legislative Affairs Secretary, Gareth Elliot, discuss a bill awaiting the governor's signature in the Capitol courtyard on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

September 13, 2013
Poll: California public-employee bills that passed, failed in 2013

With the California Legislature now closed until 2014, here's a quick scorecard on legislation of consequence to state workers (not including contract bills). Will measures that went to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk will become law? Will defeated bills make a comeback next year?

AB 1222 (Bloom and Dickinson) PASSED
Temporarily exempts unionized mass-transit employees from California's new pension law. Keeps billions of dollars in federal mass-transit grants flowing while the courts decide whether pension reform mandates violate collective bargaining and therefore disqualifies agencies that apply the law from receiving the federal funds.

AB 218 (Dickinson) PASSED
Requires that state and local government employers delay asking job applicants about their criminal conviction history until the agency determines potential hires' minimum qualifications. Part of the "ban the box" movement.

September 12, 2013
Lawmakers OK bill banning felony question on public job apps

130912-Job-fair-pge.jpgThe state Senate today approved a bill that converts the state's job application policy regarding felony conviction questions into a law that applies to local government agencies.

Assembly Bill 218, authored by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature or veto and after 40-seat upper chamber passed it with the minimum 21 votes.

September 6, 2013
Read bill exempting mass-transit workers from pension reform

DICKINSON-lg.jpgAs we've reported, Gov. Jerry Brown is backing legislation to exempt California mass-transit employees from his pension-rollback law while the courts decide whether it violates federal collective-bargaining conditions for mass-transit grants.

Here's the legislation, Assembly Bill 1222, authored by Assemblymen Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, and Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica. The bill is an "urgency" measure that needs two-thirds support in the Assembly and Senate to take effect immediately with Brown's signature.

September 4, 2013
Jerry Brown backs bill to let transit workers sidestep pension law

JV_072913_K_STREET_070.JPGA billion-dollar stare down with federal officials ended this morning with an announcement that Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed legislation to exempt roughly 20,000 mass transit employees from California's new pension law.

The measure, which is expected to move swiftly through the Legislature, was prompted by the U.S. Department of Labor's decision today to suspend millions of dollars in grant money for the Sacramento Regional Transit District.

Assemblymen Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, and Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, will author the legislation.

Although the administration's announcement says the bill "preserves the state's ability to fight for the pension reform law in court," the news is at least a temporary win for the mass-transit unions, which argued California's pension law mandated terms that should have been collectively bargained.

Although the Brown administration disagreed, U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez sided with the unions' position. He warned the governor earlier this year that $1.6 billion in federal money for mass transit projects around the state was at risk because federal law requires that grant recipients preserve their employees' collective representation. The Labor Department certification of that requirement is the last step before the money is released.

Brown's proposal exempts mass-transit employees from pension changes that required they pay more toward their own retirement accounts and mandated new hires work longer to receive less-generous benefits than their longer-tenured coworkers.

Brown's office declined to comment.

PHOTO: A light rail train crosses Eighth Street on K Street in Sacramento on July 29, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/José Luis Villegas

August 19, 2013
Assembly apologizes to fired Japanese-American state workers

110822 Assembly chamber.JPGThe Assembly today approved a resolution that formally apologizes for a 1942 policy that institutionalized discrimination against more than 300 Japanese-American California state employees during WWII.

Assembly Concurrent Resolution 19 offers no reparations for terminating those workers on the basis of their ancestry, noting that the state gave wrongly-dismissed employees $5,000 each as a "symbolic compensation" in 1982. (Although the government offered reinstatement in 1946, only a handful reported to work within the 10 days given them.)

The Legislature has never offered an official apology for initiating the policy. The State Personnel Board, which carried out the Legislature's edict to discriminate against Japanese-American employees, issued an apology earlier this year.

Assemblyman Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat, authored the resolution, which passed on a voice vote.

PHOTO: Lawmakers meet in the California Assembly chamber in 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 13, 2013
From the notebook: California and federal laws about to collide

NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgOur story in today's fiber/cyber Sacramento Bee explains the looming crash between California's Public Employee Pension Reform Act and a federal mass-transit grant law that makes the money conditional on preserving collective representation of mass-transit workers.

Congress tied the federal strings tied to mass-transit money with a 1964 law intended to protect private mass-transportation employees' collective bargaining rights. Struggling mass-transit operations around the country were shifting from private-sector control to the public sector at the time, and unions worried their members would lose vested pension benefits, the right to strike and power to collectively negotiate contracts if they became public employees.

Back then, unions were common in private industry, but relatively rare in government. (California didn't allow local government employees to organize until 1968. First-term Gov. Jerry Brown signed a collective-bargaining law covering state employees nearly a decade later.) And then, as now, state and local government employers were expressly exempt from the National Labor Relations Act.

Today unions are much more prevalent in the public sector and have nearly disappeared on the private side.

Some links and embedded documents that add history and more details to today's report:

"Bill would exempt thousands of California public employees from pension overhaul" (Jan. 29 Sacramento Bee report)
Assembly Bill 160 analysis. The measure would exempt public mass-transit employees from pension reform.
"Brown aide defends pension reform for mass-transit workers" (Feb. 21 State Worker blog post)
Background on the Federal Transit Act, Section 13(c)
Legal Research Digest: "Transit Labor Protection -- A Guide to 13(c) Federal Transit Act"

And here's the memo from Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority CEO Arthur Leahy that includes a list of MTA projects at risk and a letter from U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to Gov. Jerry Brown warning that the feds are prepared to cut off funds:

June 18, 2013
California bill adds fine for child porn on public computers

130618-students-computers-kitagaki.JPGState workers convicted of possessing or transmitting child pornography would have to pay an extra $2,000 fine if they used work computers to commit the crime, under terms of a bill breezing through the Legislature.

Assemblywoman Marie Waldron's measure is aimed at curbing criminal use of public computers in libraries and at colleges, but the measure would also apply to public employees' workstations. The bill cleared the Assembly on a 74-0 vote and now is set for a floor vote in the Senate.

Current law makes possessing, transporting or producing child pornography punishable by imprisonment county jail for a year or state prison for up to three years plus a fine of up to $10,000. Possession for sale is punishable by up to six years in state prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Assembly Bill 20 mandates that revenue from the $2,000 government computer-use fine be shared equally to fund sexual assault investigator training, to fund public agencies and nonprofits serving victims of human trafficking;and to fund teams that fight child abuse by bringing together law enforcement, child protection groups, medical and mental health providers and victim and child advocacy organizations.

California Assembly Bill 20

PHOTO: Students work on computers in the library media area at THE Yuba College Sutter County Center in 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

June 17, 2013
California bill requires reports on moonlighting state workers

130620-RB-Super-Moon.JPGAmong the mountain of budget-related measures lawmakers approved last week, two paragraphs in the voluminous Assembly Bill 76 call for greater scrutiny of "additional appointments" and the policy that fueled them.

The measure requires the Department of Human Resources make regular reports to the Legislature on employees who hold two or more jobs in state government. The State Personnel Board would also have to make a report to the Legislature about the obscure, loosely-written policy manual departments leaned on to justify the practice.

The measure, now awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature, is the latest turn in a series of events triggered by Bee reports that showed how the once-obscure policy allowed California state employees -- including salaried managers -- to take a second hourly-wage job within their same department.

A measure died in committee last month that would have prohibited salaried state employees from taking a second hourly-wage position within their same department or agency. The bill's Republican author, Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, said at the time he hoped lawmakers would enact similar legislation as part of the budget.

Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has banned the practice for salaried employees. Here's the budget trailer bill language:

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. Pérez, 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 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: PhotoObjects.net / Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 22, 2013
California retiree health measure fails in committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 15, 2013
CalPERS opposes gun manufacturer-divestment bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then CalPERS staff delivered an analytical beat-down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This afternoon, Steinberg spokesman Rhys Williams emailed an update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

130415 Calpers Item 5c by jon_ortiz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 11, 2013
Bill would require legislative approval for outsourcing

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

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

February 28, 2013
California bill would extend confidentiality privilege to unions

Should a union representative have the same privilege as a priest?

A new Assembly bill would give some union officials the same shield afforded doctors, lawyers and clergy by protecting their communications with union members from disclosure to the authorities, even when they learn of a crime.

Unions sponsored the measure introduced by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez. The West Covina Democrat said the bill gives "needed protections from employers" by walling off discussions between a union agent and a union member about bargaining or employee discipline.

"Most employees ... assume that such communications are confidential," Hernandez said in an emailed statement sent by his staff to The Bee.

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.

January 8, 2013
Legislation adds a paid holiday to California government calendar

State workers would get back a holiday they lost four years ago under the terms of legislation introduced Monday by Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina.

The government would shut down for Native American Day on the second Monday in October, replacing what used to be the Columbus Day paid holiday on the state calendar.

If the measure becomes law, it would restore a portion of what lawmakers took away from state workers in 2009 when they thinned the state schedule from 13 paid holidays to the current 11 by axing Columbus Day and Lincoln's Birthday. Eventually, state workers received two floating days off each year that offset the lost holidays.

From the Hernández press release announcing the measure:

"This legislation is inspired by the recognition that the so-called discovery of the America's by Columbus eventually led to the genocide of Native Americans. This bill hence provides the proper respect and recognition to our Native American nations."

December 10, 2012
State dedicating Sacramento freeway interchange to fallen employees

121210 State Engineer Memorial Exhange.jpgEarly next year, the state will officially name the junction of Interstate 5 and U.S. 50 in Sacramento to honor Caltrans employees killed in the line of duty,

Assembly Concurrent Resolution 100 lists the State Engineer Memorial Interchangeas one of 26 new highway designations that recall the distinguished service of groups and individuals who have passed away.

Ryan Endean, spokesman for Professional Engineers in Calfornia Government, expects an official naming ceremony in spring 2013.

Since 1924, some 178 California Department of Transportation employees have been killed on the job. The leading cause of death: errant drivers who strike road workers.

PHOTO: The Interstate 5 - State Route 50 interchange / courtesy Professional Engineers in California Government.

December 7, 2012
Bill extends social media protections to public-sector workers

121207 Facebook.JPGPublic-sector employers in California wouldn't be allowed to ask their employees or job applicants for access to personal social media accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook, under the provisions of a measure introduced this week.

Assembly Bill 25, authored by Assemblywoman Nora Campos should be a slam-dunk. The San Jose Democrat wrote a similar measure that sailed through the Legislature virtually unopposed during the last session. Gov. Jerry Brown signed it in September to take effect Jan. 1.

AB 25 tweaks that new law, which failed to specify that government employers may not request social media usernames or passwords from their employees or prospective hires. The amendment also bans disciplining, terminating or otherwise retaliating against anyone who refuses a request for their social media information.

Here's the bill language:

November 8, 2012
Column Extra: More about the 'Proposition 32' effect

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much 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.

Election Day is a lot like the Super Bowl: When it's finally over, everyone -- players, pundits and fans -- offer up hindsight analysis to explain the outcome.

So it is with today's State Worker column about union get-out-the-vote efforts to defeat Proposition 32 and how they helped Proposition 30 win.

In a post-election email, California Labor Federation spokesman Steve Smith called the phenomenon "the Proposition 32 effect."

We dealt with just one aspect of the political spillover that flowed from galvanizing labor groups against the payroll-deduction measure, but as Smith points out, it's likely that union muscle made a difference up and down the ballot -- including Democrats' historic supermajority takeover of both chambers of the California Legislature.

We've posted Smith's email below.

November 7, 2012
Now that Prop. 32 has lost and Prop. 30 has won, what next?

As we reported in the wee hours this morning, Proposition 32 has lost and Proposition 30, Jerry Brown's tax increase measure, has won.

When we asked State Worker blog users last week to forecast the votes on the politically linked measures, 34 percent of you correctly predicted the outcome.

Now here's a new question for you to ponder:


November 5, 2012
Bill Clinton robocalls blast California's Proposition 32

121105 Clinton at Davis.JPGFormer President Bill Clinton has jumped into the Proposition 32 fight in the last few days with recorded telephone messages urging voters give thumbs down to the campaign-finance measure on Tuesday's ballot.

Clinton, arguably the nation's most popular Democrat, also has been robocalling on behalf of candidate Ami Bera, who is seeking to unseat Republican incumbent Dan Lungren in the hotly-contested the Sacramento region's 7th Congressional District race.

Clinton's call criticizes Proposition 32 as faux reform that helps special interests "put even more money into politics. It's arithmetic." It's produced by the union-backed No on 32 committee with major funding from the California Teachers Association Issues PAC Committee and the California State Capitol Service Employees Committee.

The measure's supporters say Proposition 32 is reasonable reform that will limit both union and corporate influence in California's state and local politics by prohibiting either group from making contributions directly to candidates or to candidate-controlled committees.

The measure doesn't rein in spending on independent expenditure campaigns, but unions couldn't use members' dues to play in that arena. Proposition 32 also bans spending payroll-deducted money -- including members' dues that are organized labor's sole funding source -- on political activities. Corporations would still have money to spend on politics because they fundraise with company resources and executive contributions.

PHOTO: Former President Bill Clinton at UC Davis stumps for Democrats on Oct. 9, 2012. / Sacramento Bee, Renee C. Byer

November 5, 2012
The Sacramento Bee breaks down key ballot measures

The Bee breaks down key ballot measures

Here are three quick videos produced by The Bee's Capitol Bureau staff that lay out the issues and politics of four key measures on the Tuesday ballot.

Storified by Jon Ortiz · Mon, Nov 05 2012 09:18:02

Here are three quick videos produced by The Bee's Capitol Bureau staff, hosted by Capitol Alert blogger Torey Van Oot, that lay out the issues and politics of four key measures on the Tuesday ballot: Propositions 30 and 38, Proposition 32 and Proposition 37.
Props. 30/38thebeecapitolalert
Prop. 32thebeecapitolalert
Prop. 37thebeecapitolalert

ELECTION 2012
Vote results: Customize your races
Sacbee.com's Election Central: News, photos, video
Voter Guide: Candidates, issues
California propositions
Sacramento Bee endorsements

November 2, 2012
From the notebook: The Field Poll stats on Proposition 32

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.

Here's the statistical breakdown and analysis by the Field Poll's Mark Dicamillo and Mervin Field of how likely voters plan to cast their ballots -- or already have -- on Proposition 32, the campaign finance measure. As our story in today's Bee notes, half of those asked said they intend to vote against measure and the gap has grown significantly between opponents and supporters in the last six weeks.

The Field Poll release this morning also includes a breakdown of Proposition 34, which aims to repeal California's death penalty. Bee colleague Sam Stanton wrote a front-page story from those numbers.

Scroll to the end of the document for the poll's methodology and the exact wording of the questions asked.

IMAGE: www.freeclipart.com

November 1, 2012
Arizona donor appeals, forestalling FPPC audit

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgAs expected, Phoenix-based nonprofit Americans for Responsible Leadership has appealed a court order that it submit to a state audit of the funding sources behind $11 million it contributed to a California committee fighting Proposition 30 and backing Proposition 32.

Click here for the story from The Bee's Kevin Yamamura.

October 31, 2012
Judge confirms ruling against mystery donor to ballot campaigns

A Sacramento judge has ordered the Arizona nonprofit behind an $11 million contribution to a California political committee to produce documents for an audit by the Fair Political Practices Commission by 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Phoenix-based Americans for Responsible Leadership had objected to the FPPC's request for documentation as a violation of the First Amendment, a transgression of the commission's own policies and rules and as a politically-motivated move by the state to squash a political opponent of Gov. Jerry Brown.

The group gave $11 million to the independent Small Business Action Committee, which is both fighting Brown's tax measure, Proposition 30, and supporting Proposition 32, the campaign finance measure that would ban payroll deductions as a source for political activities.

FPPC Chairwoman Ann Ravel is a Brown appointee.

Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang said that on balance, the public's right to know by Election Day if the nonprofit violated disclosure laws outweighed the group's concerns.

It's not clear whether the commission can conduct its audit and, if the results warrant, reveal by Tuesday who is behind the nonprofit's donation. The matter could still get hung up in the courts.

In a prepared statement, said Matt Ross, spokesman for Americans Responsible Leadership's legal team said, "We are disappointed in the today's court ruling. We have asserted all along that the FPPC does not have the authority to issue an audit in advance of the election. We continue to believe so and will appeal this case."

Click here for the story on our sister blog, Capitol Alert.

Added at 11:27 p.m.: Sacr County FPPC V ARL Final order- 1031.pdf to read the court ruling, which is also embedded below.

October 30, 2012
Court says Arizona-based Prop. 32 donor must disclose funds

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100609 gavel.jpgA Sacramento Superior Court judge has issued a tentative ruling that would require an Arizona-based nonprofit disclose the source of $11 million it has injected into California politics, including efforts to support Proposition 32 and oppose Proposition 30.

Click here to read Kevin Yamamura's report.

Scroll down to Item 11 in the embedded document below to read the tentative ruling that will be up for debate at a hearing scheduled for Wednesday. Judges rarely change their tentative decisions.

October 29, 2012
Campaign money in Prop. 32 fight reaches $124 million

121029 Prop 32.JPGWith just over a week before Election Day, the interests backing Proposition 32 and fighting Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative, Proposition 30, have raised $58 million, including a recent six-figure donation from a Texas oil man.

Meanwhile, the union-backed No on 32 side has raised $66 million.

The money highlights the role of special-interest independent expenditures in backing a measure that claims to be a check on special interests.

October 22, 2012
From the notebook poll: CCPOA and other state employee unions

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 story in today's fiber/cyber Sacramento Bee about the shifting strategy of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association came from our observation that as of last week the union hadn't but any money into efforts to defeat Proposition 34, which would repeal California's death penalty, and Proposition 36, which softens the state's three-strikes law.

Subsequent conversations with several sources bolstered our sense that the union has shifted political gears away from influencing public opinion about big issues and expanding spending on prisons. Instead, it's focused on closer-to-ground concerns such as mitigating job losses and preserving members' benefits.

More broadly, when you think about CCPOA and other state public employee unions, how are they faring in these changing fiscal and political times?

October 19, 2012
Group calls for FPPC investigation of mystery Arizona money

121019 cressman.JPGAs details emerge about an out-of-state group that dumped $11 million into California politics this week, a good-government organization this morning called for an investigation into who is behind the money.

California Common Cause has asked the state's political watchdog commission to examine Phoenix-based Americans for Responsible Leadership and its contribution to an independent committee backing a controversial campaign finance measure on the Nov. 6 ballot, Proposition 32, and opposing Gov. Jerry Brown's tax proposal, Proposition 30.

"You know, $11 million doesn't just drop out of the sky," said Derek Cressman, Western regional director for Common Cause.

October 18, 2012
Check out the 'Proposition Song'

From our sister blog, Capitol Alert:

The nonpartisan California Voter Foundation has released "The Proposition Song" to introduce voters to the 11 ballot measures whose fate will be decided in the Nov. 6 election.

Click here for more from The Bee's Jim Sanders and to see the 3-minute video, shot at various locations around Sacramento.

October 15, 2012
From the notebook: More about Prop. 32 and states' payroll 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.

We spoke to about 15 sources for our recent story on how unions would react if voters approve Proposition 32 in last week's Bee. Here are some of the quotes from those interviews that didn't get into the story.

October 12, 2012
Poll: How much would Prop. 32 impact California unions?

Forces arrayed for and against Proposition 32, which would ban payroll-deducted money for political activities, are entering the last three weeks before the Nov. 6 election. Polling indicates that California voters are leaning against the measure.

But what if it passes?


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

October 10, 2012
California teachers' union donations surpass $20 million to fight Prop. 32

The California Teachers' Association has given another $2 million to the No on Proposition 32 campaign over the last 10 days, bringing the union's total spending to fight the measure to more than $20 million.

That's 40 percent of the $50 million the No on 32 campaign has raised so far.

Tuesday's filings with the Secretary of State also show that several firefighter unions contributed about $140,000. The San Diego Firefighters Local 145 gave a little over half the total, $73,260.

October 9, 2012
Unions say Prop. 32 campaign is hiding its expenses

The union-backed No on Proposition 32 campaign has filed a formal complaint with a state political watchdog commission over $8 million the measure's supporters spent on media ads last month.

The opposition group on Monday asked the Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate two Yes on Proposition 32 campaign committees, California Future Fund for Free Markets and the Small Business Action Committee PAC, No on 30/Yes on 32. The complaint alleges the independent pro-32 committees failed to disclose enough payment detail for TV and radio spots that started running in mid-September.

October 8, 2012
Democrat Gloria Romero and Common Cause's Kathay Feng spar over Prop. 32

Former Democratic state Sen. Gloria Romero and Kathay Feng, executive director of Common Cause, faced off last weekend over Proposition 32 on "NewsConference," Southern California's local version of "Meet the Press."

Romero represented supporters of the measure, which would among other things ban payroll-deducted money from use for political purposes. Feng, whose good-government group supports the idea of campaign reform, represents the opposition.

The debate gets heated a few times, challenging the moderation skills of host Conan Nolan. The first segment runs seven minutes. The follow-up runs about five minutes.

View more videos at: http://nbclosangeles.com.


View more videos at: http://nbclosangeles.com.

October 5, 2012
Charles Munger contributions for, against initiatives reach $23 million

Charles Munger Jr. has now given a nearly $23 million to an independent committee fighting for a measure that would curtail union political fundraising abilities while opposing Gov. Jerry Brown's tax proposal.

Both initiatives, Proposition 32 and Proposition 30, respectively, go to a statewide vote on Nov. 6.

Munger, a Stanford physicist and the namesake son of billionaire Warren Buffet's long-time business partner, gave another $2 million on Thursday to the Small Business Action Committee PAC, according to a state filing that was released today.

William Oberndorf, the now-retired co-founder of the Mill Valley, Calif., investment firm SPO Advisory Corp., kicked in $1 million to the dual-purpose committee.

Munger's latest contribution follows $10 million donation from Munger earlier this week and two contributions last month that totaled $10 million. He's also given a total $873,000 directly to the Yes on 32 campaign.

RELATED:
Charles Munger doubles down to defeat Prop. 30, support Prop. 32
Charles Munger gives $10 million for Prop. 32, against Prop. 30

October 3, 2012
Charles Munger doubles down to defeat Prop. 30, support Prop. 32

Thumbnail image for checkbook2.gifCharles Munger Jr. has given another $9.9 million to a committee with a dual mission: defeat Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure, Proposition 30, and support a measure that is anathema to unions, Proposition 32.

A filing with the Secretary of State's office posted online this afternoon shows Munger gave the money to Small Business Action Committee PAC, No on 30/Yes on 32.

October 3, 2012
Charles Munger gives $10 million for Prop. 32, against Prop. 30

Thumbnail image for 120619 MungerJr_baer_2008.JPGNew filings with the Secretary of State show that Republican activist Charles Munger Jr. gave a little more than $10 million to a committee that is supporting Proposition 32, the campaign finance measure on the November ballot, and opposing Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative, Proposition 30.

State records show that some of the money that went to the Small Business Action Committee was spent on a statewide advertising campaign that launched Tuesday. The committee opposing Brown's tax measure received $700,000.

Click here for more details on our sister blog, Capitol Alert.

PHOTO: Charles Munger Jr. / Sacramento Bee 2008 file

October 1, 2012
More voters oppose Proposition 32 than support it, poll says

Another poll shows that Proposition 32 is losing support among voters.

The latest survey by the University of Southern California Dornsife and the Los Angeles Times shows 44 percent opposed the measure which would cut off payroll-deducted money from use in political campaigns. Researchers found 36 supported the measure. The remaining 20 percent of voters surveyed said they were undecided.

The USC/Times research almost exactly mirrors the results of a Field Poll survey that found the No on 32 side leading 44 percent to 38 percent with 18 percent undecided. A recent Public Policy Institute of California poll yielded similar voter reaction.

October 1, 2012
Jerry Brown vetoes bill aimed at arming California state hospital police

Thumbnail image for 120514 Jerry Brown budget presser Amezcua.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a measure that would have required the state to establish a plan to allow hospital police officers to carry guns.

The director of the Department of State Hospitals sets the gun policy for a combined 800 facility police statewide. Currently, those officers cannot carry firearms while on duty.

Brown said in his veto message that the policy is "best left to the discretion of the department director who already has authority to arm its officers."

Earlier drafts of Assembly Bill 2623 by Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, would have simply authorized the officers to carry guns.

September 28, 2012
Majority of California voters say pension reform balanced or went too far

More than half of likely California voters think recent changes to public pensions strike a good balance or go too far, according to a new poll by the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Times.

The poll mirrors a similar survey by the Field Poll and UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies released last week.

September 24, 2012
Unions contribute $3.48 million to anti-Proposition 32 campaign

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100806 ballot-box.jpgThe American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees contributed $1.5 million to defeat Proposition 32, part of $3.48 million given by labor unions and politicians within the last week.

The campaign supporting the campaign finance-reform initiative raised about one-tenth over the same period.

September 21, 2012
From the notebook: What other polls say about Proposition 32

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 story in today's Bee looks at the latest polling on Proposition 32 by the Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. The results showed 44 percent against, 38 percent for and 18 percent undecided.

But that wasn't the only survey on the state campaign finance reform measure released this week. On Wednesday the Public Policy Institute of California said that its most recent polling shows 49 percent of likely voters in the state said they will vote no on the measure. Of the other voters polled by the nonpartisan institute, 42 percent said that they will vote for the measure and 9 percent said they were undecided.

September 19, 2012
Poll: What do you think of Proposition 32?

You've read the stories, columns and the blog posts. Maybe you've talked about it with your friends, family and coworkers. Now weigh in on Proposition 32:


September 17, 2012
From the notebook: What California state workers pay in union dues and fees

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 story in today's fiber/cyber Bee mentions how much state workers paid in union dues and fair share fees for one month, December 2011: roughly $10.5 million.

What follows are three spreadsheets that lay out state workers' dues and fair share payments of that month, built from the state controller's payroll records. The first sheet details the number of employees by bargaining unit and their payments to their unions (it also pulls out numbers for the largest union, SEIU Local 1000). The second focuses on the percentage of dues and fair share fee payers in each unit. The third shows the regular pay and total pay by union.

September 14, 2012
Conservative organization gives $4 million to Proposition 32

With a single donation, a conservative group with ties to the Koch brothers has doubled the money backing a ballot measure that would hamper union's political fundraising.

The Des Moines, Iowa-based American Future Fund gave $4 million to a new committee backing Proposition 32, the California Future Fund for Free Markets.

The American Future Fund is an organization affiliated with the Center to Protect Patient Rights, which in turn has reported ties to billionaires Charles and David Koch.

The measure has several provisions, but labor groups are most concerned about its ban on using payroll-deducted money for political purposes. If enacted, the measure would eliminate unions' fundraising staple while leaving corporations relatively unscathed, since they raise their money from executive contributions or by tapping company resources.

The donation signals that a funding fight that was running 10-1 against the measure is far from over.

The Koch brothers, worth an estimated $50 billion, are considered among the conservative movement's most generous donors, although the opaque nature of PAC reporting makes it difficult to know exactly how much they have donated to candidates and causes around the nation.

September 12, 2012
See who's supporting Proposition 32

Supporters of Proposition 32, the campaign contribution measure on the November ballot, have raised about 10 cents for every dollar raised by their opponents, according to data from the Secretary of State's office.

The spreadsheets below detail the nearly $3.2 million in contributions given to the Yes on 32 campaign. To see breakdowns of the $35.8 million donated by opponents, nearly all of it union money, click here.

Labor organizations blast the initiative as faux campaign reform that would cut off their chief means of raising political money. Although corporations would come under the same restrictions, the measure wouldn't curb their political resources to the same degree, because they raise most of their funds through executive contributions and company treasuries.

Supporters counter that the measure limits political contributions to the fullest degree allowed by law, that it reflects federal standards and that it would limit the flow of money -- and the influence that goes with it -- from both labor and business interests.

September 12, 2012
UPDATED: Jerry Brown signs California public pension reform bill

Gov. Jerry Brown this morning signed Assembly Bill 340, the pension reform measure that the lawmakers passed on the last day of the legislative session.

Read more from The Bee's Laurel Rosenhall by clicking here.

Updated at 1:16 p.m.: From AFSCME California spokesman Willie Pelote: "Today when Governor Brown signed AB 340 he made his disdain for a secure future for public employees crystal clear. AB 340 was flawed legislation that failed to take into account the massive concessions that public employees across California have made to balance budgets at the state and local level. As if there was any doubt the Governor's comments yesterday that pension changes didn't go far enough revealed that the Governor's real intent is to take public retirement funds and hand them over to the same Wall Street gamblers who drove our economy into a ditch."

Updated at 12;12 p.m.: SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker has released a statement about the pension legislation that reads, in part, "SEIU Local 1000 has always supported smart pension reform that ensures that as many workers as possible can afford a modest level of retirement security as they grow older. We believe that, in the long-run, the solution to the retirement crisis is to expand retirement security for all workers - public and private - not whittle away at the pensions of teachers, nurses, analysts, auditors and water quality personnel."

September 6, 2012
Teachers' union gives nearly $7 million to fight Proposition 32

The California Teachers Association has donated $6.95 million toward defeating the November ballot measure that would squeeze funding for unions' political efforts.

A state report filed today shows that the union gave the money on Wednesday. The donation pushes the union-backed No on Proposition 32 campaign to about $35.7 million. Of that, the teachers' union has given $16 million so far.

Proposition 32 supporters have raised about $3 million.

The measure would ban unions and corporations from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. It also bans direct campaign contributions by either interest group. Both sides could continue funding independent expenditure campaigns.

Labor unions have made defeating the initiative their top priority. They rely on payroll-deducted member dues to build their political war chests, including money for independent expenditure efforts. Corporations use contributions from executives and funds from their company treasuries to play in politics, so the measure wouldn't hit them as hard.

September 1, 2012
Poll: What's your take on the pension bill sent to Jerry Brown?
August 31, 2012
California Legislature sends public pension overhaul bill to Jerry Brown

MC_LEGIS_05A.jpgOver loud objections from organized labor and Republicans, the Legislature has approved a state and local public pension overhaul package that rolls back benefits for future hires while raising what those workers and current employees contribute to their retirements in coming years.

Lawmakers sent the bill to Gov. Jerry Brown on a 38-1 vote in the Senate and 48-8 vote in the Assembly. Democrats, who control majorities in each chamber, barreled ahead with the vote just ahead of the end-of-session deadline after issuing language for the measure Tuesday evening.

Assembly Republicans tried and failed to suspend the measure or at least hold it up while a bill catch-up to close a loophole discovered on Wednesday. They also argued that Assembly bill 340 was a rush job and doesn't do enough to change the pension system.

"Can anyone say what this bill does?" said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, countered that the legislation came from months of discussions and represents a refinement of a 12-point pension plan Brown proposed earlier this year. Republicans backed Brown's plan.

"It is meaningful, significant, historic reform," Pérez said.

August 29, 2012
CalPERS: California public pension savings could reach $60 billion

California state and local governments stand to save between $40 billion and $60 billion over 30 years, according to a hasty fiscal analysis of a pension reform measure set for a vote later this week, according to CalPERS.

The fund's top actuary, Alan Milligan, announced the estimate with plenty of caveats during a special meeting of the fund's Board of Administration. Lawmakers didn't issue the 38 pages of language for Assembly Bill 340 until Tuesday evening. CalPERS staff worked overnight to analyze it in time for this afternoon's special

"We've had limited time in which to review the provisions," Milligan said, "so this estimate will change as we continue to delve in to the language of the bill."

August 29, 2012
Reaction pours in to public pension reform plan

A roundup of press statements about the new public pension reform proposal announced Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown:

Rob Feckner, president, CalPERS Board of Administration:

The Conference Committee's proposed legislation is the result of a thorough process involving multiple hearings across the state. We thank the Committee for its commitment to hear the views and ideas of all stakeholders and wish to recognize those that have contributed to the process.

According to news reports, many of the elements of the legislation announced today, including anti-spiking legislation, a strong definition of pay rate, and prohibitions against retroactive pension enhancements, will go a long way to ensure sustainability of the retirement fund, reduce abuse and add protections, ease administration, and reduce pension costs over time.

August 29, 2012
Read the California public pension reform bill

Here's the measure approved Tuesday night by majority Democrats on the Legislature's six-member conference committee on pension reform:

August 28, 2012
Unions blast California public pension reform plan

Labor unions wasted no time bashing the pension reform unveiled by Gov. Jerry Brown this morning as a unilaterally-imposed political exercise that needlessly guts state and local public employees' retirement for hundreds of thousands of workers.

"This is far more than 'low hanging fruit,'" said Dave Low, chairman of union coalition Californians for Retirement Security in statement issued while Brown was still holding a pension press conference in Los Angeles just before noon. "This is the fruit, the branch, the tree trunk, and the roots."

What particularly rankles labor leaders, however, was that none of this was bargained.

August 27, 2012
Steinberg: Lawmakers consider cap on pensions, not hybrid

120827 Steinberg kitagaki jr 2012.JPGLawmakers charged with overhauling California's state and local public pension law are considering a plan to cap defined benefit pensions that would not include a second 401(k)-style component common in so-called "hybrid" retirement plans.

"There will be a cap," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, during a hallway press conference this afternoon with Capitol reporters. "I think what you will see tomorrow, there won't be a hybrid. ... It will just be a cap, for both miscellaneous and public safety workers."

Steinberg wouldn't divulge details such as where the cap would be set, a key figure that will establish how many of California's 2 million-plus public-sector state and local workers fall under the provision. He also cautioned that his comments this afternoon shouldn't be construed as a formal announcement. As of this afternoon, lawmakers were still hammering out specifics and no pension language had been released.

"This is not a deal," Steinberg said, "I'm telling you I'm confident there will be."

August 27, 2012
California public pension reform legislation deadline looms

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 110701 Steinberg Cap Bureau.JPGLawmakers have a deadline to send pension reform legislation to Gov. Jerry Brown by Friday. The buzz around the Capitol is that Democrats met through the weekend, but as of this morning it looks like specific terms are still being debated.

There's no bill language in place. The special committee charged with delivering legislation is primed to meet relatively quickly, but it probably won't convene until tomorrow to vote on a bill package.

Every source we've talked with this morning in the labor, legislative and pension reform arenas say that differences remain in some key areas: the scope of reforms (those impacting current employees versus those that would be applied to future hires only), whether some changes should be bargained (unions want everything bargained) and the annual salary ceiling for setting a defined benefit pension cap.

Leaders of both the Senate and Assembly have promised to deliver pension legislation before the Legislature's two-year session ends at midnight on Friday. Any bills waiting for approval after that will die.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg / Sacramento Bee 2011 file, Hector Amezcua

August 20, 2012
Survey: More than 55 percent of voters favor Prop. 32

120816 Prop 32 survey.JPGMore than half of California voters favor Proposition 32, according to new poll by the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University, although the support for the measure has declined in the last two weeks.

The decline is probably tied to the union-backed No-on-32 radio ads that launched statewide during that period.

The university and business association have been running bi-weekly online polls on ballot measures since mid-July. Click here to see more detailed test results from Aug. 12 to Aug. 15 poll.

Note: The first July polling on Proposition 32 gauged participants' reaction to the initiative's title and summary. Subsequent polls used the measure's label, which is the wording that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

GRAPH: courtesy California Business Roundtable

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 14, 2012
Union chips in $2.5 million to fight Proposition 32

Service Employees International Union has put another $2.5 million into defeating Proposition 32 , a November ballot measure that would alter how political campaigns are financed in California.

The donation came from SEIU's California State Council of Service Employees Issues Committee, according to state records filed on Monday, bringing the total contributions to the No on 32 campaign to about $19.5 million.

Between contributions from its issues committee and from SEIU Local 1000, the union has now kicked in about $3.5 million to defeat the Nov. 6 ballot proposal.

The Yes on 32 campaign has taken in about $4 million so far.

The measure would ban unions and corporations from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. It also bans direct campaign contributions by either interest group. Both sides could continue funding independent expenditure campaigns.

Labor unions have made defeating the initiative their top priority because they rely on payroll-deducted member dues to build their political war chests, including money for independent expenditure efforts. Corporations use contributions from executives and funds from their company treasuries to play in politics, so the measure wouldn't hit them as hard.
Aug. 13, 2012 Late Contribution Report -- Proposition 32

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 10, 2012
Unions kick in another $1.1 million to defeat Proposition 32

Service Employees International Union and labor organizations representing firefighters and pipe trades workers have given a combined $1.1 million to the campaign to defeat Proposition 32, according to state records.

SEIU's California State Council of Service Employees Issues Committee gave $500,000. California Professional Firefighters Ballot Issues Committee donated $350,000 and California State Pipe Trades Council of the United Association contributed $250,000. The contributions were reported Thursday.

The Nov. 6 ballot measure would ban unions and corporations from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. It would also ban direct campaign contributions by either interest group. Both sides would be able to continue funding independent expenditure campaigns as they do now.

Defeating Prop. 32 is the top priority for labor unions, which rely heavily on payroll-deducted member dues to build their campaign war chests. Corporations use other means, such as contributions from executives and funds from their company treasuries to play in politics.

120809 Union Contributions

July 24, 2012
California Legislative Analyst releases Prop. 32 explainer

LAO logo.jpgThe Legislative Analyst's Office has issued the explanations that voters will read in their November ballot pamphlets for all of California's propositions, including the breakdown of Proposition 32.

The measure would change campaign finance rules by banning corporations and unions from contributing to candidates. It also would ban spending for "political purposes" any money received from payroll deductions.

That would hit unions harder than business interests, since payroll-deducted dues are organized labor's main vehicle for raising political cash. Corporations fill their political war chests with money from company resources or individual executive donations.

Here's the LAO's breakdown of the measure:

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 18, 2012
More about why teachers' unions don't like Prop. 32 supporter Gloria Romero

Following our report on her support of a controversial ballot measure, Los Angeles Democrat Gloria Romero asked The State Worker to expand on why she drew fire from teachers' unions when she served in the state Assembly and Senate.

The former Senate majority leader's request came after we reported that Romero supports Proposition 32, the campaign contributions reform initiative on the November ballot.

Our Monday post noted that the former state Senate Majority Leader has championed charter schools, which drew fire from teachers' unions. But Romero wanted to be sure that State Worker blog readers understand that organized labor's opposition to her runs deeper.

In a follow-up email to our Monday telephone conversation, Romero said this:

July 16, 2012
Former California Democratic Senate leader endorses Proposition 32

Romero.JPGFormer Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero today said she is endorsing Proposition 32, the November ballot measure that would change California's campaign finance law and limit unions ability to raise political cash.

The announcement marks the first time that a high-profile Democrat has publicly supported the measure, which unions have blasted as a disguised effort by business interests to hobble organized labor's political influence.

"I've studied it carefully," said the Los Angeles Democrat during a telephone interview this afternoon. "This is as balanced a measure as we can achieve at this time."

Proposition 32 would ban both unions and corporations from contributing directly to candidates, although both could still fund independent expenditure campaigns to support candidates.

But the measure also eliminates unions' primary method of raising political spending money -- payroll deductions. Corporations, by contrast, raise the bulk of their political funds from executives and corporate resources.

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.

July 5, 2012
Budget ends furlough protections for State Compensation Insurance Fund employees

California's state attorney's union launched its furlough agreement ratification today. While it's 3,700 or so members ponder their vote, several hundred who work at the State Compensation Insurance Fund face a new reality: They're no longer protected from furloughs.

Lawyers representing the state attorneys' union and SEIU Local 1000 employees won several court cases that turned back furloughs and restored lost pay for employees at the self-sustaining fund by relying on a state law that protects them from "staff cutbacks." Nearly 8,000 State Fund workers were wrongly furloughed, the courts said.

This time around, however, things are different.

June 29, 2012
Peace Officers of California pushes for own bargaining unit

A bill that would require the California Public Employment Relations Board to allow sworn peace officers to separate from non-sworn employees in one of the state's bargaining units is facing some opposition from those who claim it would set a precedent for groups to be able to override the board's decisions.

Senate Bill 252 by Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, would grant a petition to allow the sworn peace officers in Bargaining Unit 7, Protective Services and Public Safety, represented by the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA), to form their own bargaining unit.

If the group, which calls itself the Peace Officers of California, is successful, the move would create a 22nd bargaining unit representing some 2,700 law enforcement officers currently in Bargaining Unit 7.

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 18, 2012
Anti-paycheck-donations campaign launches web video

The group backing a measure that would ban using payroll-deducted money for direct contributions to political candidates has launched a new web video that hammers state employee raises while the state is mired in a deficit.

The video, titled "Deficit," is embedded below. It follows an Internet broadside recently fired off by labor unions.

The raises the pro-initiative web ad references are top-step hikes negotiated in the last rounds of contract bargaining in 2010 and 2011. For the most part, the wage increases offset higher out-of-pocket pension costs the unions accepted in their last contracts. The pension contribution increases started immediately after the deals took effect, while the pay hikes were deferred.

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

The measure would hit labor interests, however, because it eliminates their primary method of raising money -- payroll deductions -- that they would use on IEs. Corporations, by contrast, raise the bulk of their political spending money from top executives and corporate funds.

June 14, 2012
CA budget bill deletes state worker furlough language -- for now

Thumbnail image for assembly seal.gifThe Legislature's 2012-13 state budget proposal eliminates language that Gov. Jerry Brown proposed that would have allowed him to furlough or make other payroll-cutting moves against rank-and-file state workers if their unions refused to negotiate a 5 percent pay reduction.

The unions have been pushing Democrats in the Legislature to make the change, which strengthens their position in negotiations with the administration to cut a total $839 million from the state's payroll costs.

Lawmakers could make more language tweaks between now and Friday's budget deadline or later enact legislation that restores some or all of the authority Brown wanted.

The budget language indicates that Democrats are hoping that all the unions will negotiate payroll reductions for the coming budget year without legislative intervention. But just as the union's hand is strengthened at the bargaining table now, Brown's position is weakened. The unions, which all have current contracts, could view the watered-down bill as a reason to seek more at the table, give Brown less or refuse any pay-cut deal at all.

There's a question in this for Brown, too: How much does he want explicit authorization to enact payroll reductions if bargaining fails? Is he willing to veto a budget that fails to give him that leverage? Or is he certain that all the unions will accept a 5 percent pay reduction even if there's no imposed furlough threat backing him up?

Here's the pertinent language in Assembly Bill 1464 and Senate Bill 1004, which was released this morning. We've underlined the key phrase:

June 14, 2012
Column Extra: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's message to unions: 'Work it out.'


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 highlights the tension between labor unions and Democrats over whether the Legislature will confer furlough authority on Gov. Jerry Brown. At the end of the piece, we quote Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, weighing in on union talks with the governor over pay reductions.

The brief video above captures our question about the negotiations and Steinberg's remark at the very end of a Wednesday morning Capitol press conference on the budget.

June 14, 2012
Column Extra: The proposed California budget furlough language

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.

The Bee's State Worker column today dissects some of the politics in play over Gov. Jerry Brown's state worker pay reduction proposal as lawmakers prepare to pass a budget on Friday.

Here's the proposed budget language that confers authority on the governor to furlough state employees, among other things, to cut $839 million in the state's employee compensation costs.

Worth noting: Unlike the furlough era under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, all 21 bargaining units that represent some 183,000 organized state employees have current contracts through July 1, 2 or 3 of 2013, adding a new legal wrinkle to any litigation that imposing furloughs would spark.

RELATED POST:
Live Chat: The Bee's Jon Ortiz hosts: California Supreme Court rules on furloughs

Section 3.90

June 11, 2012
Unions fire Internet blast at California ballot measure

The organized labor coalition fighting a November ballot measure that would end payroll-deducted money for political spending -- the channel through which unions raise funds to play in politics -- has launched a new video blasting the proposal.

The unions' message attacks the measure as an unfair idea that would put new limits on the influence of organizations that speak up for working people while exempting self-interested elites.

As we mentioned in our Sunday story on the battle ahead over the proposition, look for labor to continue connecting the words like "exempt" and "Wall Street" to tar the measure. Backers, meanwhile, will continue to insist that it's an even-handed proposal that would limit influence by both unions and corporations because it bans both sides from making direct contributions to candidates.

The measure does nothing to limit independent expenditure spending. Since unions raise political money through payroll deductions of their members and corporations spend money donated by executives or taken from company funds, the proposition would hit organized labor harder.

June 5, 2012
Breaking news: Signature drive for part-time Legislature shuts down

120605 Costa Grove Kitagaki.JPG

This in from Bee reporter Jim Sanders on our sister blog, Capitol Alert:

Hurting financially, an initiative campaign to convert the Legislature to part-time has shut down its paid signature-gathering effort, essentially killing any hopes of submitting petitions to the state by a July 2 deadline.

Click here for more details.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, and Sacramento anti-tax crusader Ted Costa talk with Bee Capitol Bureau reporters on Feb. 21 about their ballot measure to make the Legislature part-time. / Sacramento Bee, Paul Kitagaki Jr.

June 1, 2012
Bill to arm California state hospital cops goes to Senate

AlanBarcelona.jpgA watered-down measure aimed at arming hospital police is now in the state Senate's hands after clearing the Assembly without opposition.

Assembly Bill 2623, authored by Santa Rosa Democratic Assemblyman Michael Allen, cleared the lower chamber on 71-0 vote Thursday.

The measure requires the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Developmental Services to develop a policy for arming state hospital peace officers are working outside the secure area of the hospital.

That's not much different than current law, which leaves it to the departments to decide whether those 800 or so cops can carry a weapon on the job. None do.

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
San Bernardino union gives $100,000 to fight payroll measure

A Southern California public employee's union has given $100,000 to the campaign fighting a November ballot measure that would, among other things, end payroll-deducted contributions for political fundraising.

The San Bernardino County Safety Employees' Benefit Association made the donation May 14, according to records filed with the state last week that you can access here or read below. The opposition campaign has raised nearly $6.5 million so far. Supporters have raised about $3 million.

The proposal would ban unions and business groups from donating money directly to politicians, although all could continue unlimited spending on independent expenditure campaigns.

But the proposition also eliminates payroll-deducted contributions, unions' primary means of raising money. Businesses would come under the same ban, but they get the bulk of their political funding from top executives and company funds.

The group behind the measure contends that the measure is an even-handed proposal to limit the influence of both business and labor.

San Bernardino County Safety Employees' Benefit Association donation to defeat 'paycheck' measure

May 22, 2012
Unions give $500,000 to oppose 'paycheck' ballot measure

The California Labor Federation has donated $500,000 to the campaign fighting a November measure aimed at restricting union political fundraising.

The proposal would prohibit unions and business groups from donating money directly to political candidates, although all could continue spending on independent expenditure campaigns.

The proposition also eliminates payroll-deducted contributions, unions' primary means of raising money. Corporations couldn't use payroll deductions either, but they get the bulk of their political funding from top executives and company treasuries.

The measure's backers say that the proposal is even-handed and that both business and labor interests are displeased at the prospect of it becoming law.

According to a statement filed with the California Secretary of State last week (and posted below), the Labor Federation made its donation on May 4, part of $6.3 million raised so far by the opposition campaign.

The group backing the measure has raised about $3 million.

120517 Labor Fed

May 18, 2012
Private-sector retirement savings bill set to move forward in California Senate panel

Legislation to create a state retirement account program for private sector workers in California is now set for a key vote next week that will determine whether it goes to the floor for a full vote.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday will decide which bills from its "suspense file," including Senate Bill 1234, coauthored by Democratic Sens. Kevin de León and Darrell Steinberg, will advance. With Democratic leader Steinberg as a co-author, the measure is likely to go to the Senate floor for a vote.

Related posts:
SEIU Local 1000 president supports retirement for all
California retirement savings bill advances in the Senate
Pension and public employee bills set for hearing Monday

PHOTO: The State Capitol / 2010 Sacramento Bee file, Hector Amezcua

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

May 11, 2012
Common Cause says California ballot measure puts unions at disadvantage

Government accountability advocate Common Cause is against the a measure aimed at restricting union political fund-raising that goes before California voters in November.

The proposal would stop unions and businesses from donating money directly to political candidates, although both groups could continue spending on independent expenditure campaigns.

The measure also eliminates payroll-deducted contributions, unions' primary means of raising money from members. Corporations couldn't use payroll deductions either, but they get the bulk of their political cash from top executives and company funds.

The measure's backers say that the proposal is even-handed, that both business and labor interests are displeased at the prospect of it becoming law.

Common Cause, which supports partial public financing of campaigns, likes the measure's direct donations ban, but not the prohibition on payroll deductions, as it explained in a press release issued this afternoon:

Unfortunately, it also effectively bans the current practice of payroll deductions, thus eliminating a major funding source of labor unions, while leaving ample room for indirect political spending by corporations from their corporate treasuries. This initiative would result in significant undue advantages for one set of interests over another that we believe will do more harm to California's democracy than good, and we urge voters to vote 'No.'"

May 8, 2012
SEIU Local 1000 president supports retirement for all

120508 Yvonne Walker 2008 brian baer.JPGRisky retirement plans aren't doing right by U.S. workers, SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker says in a CNN.com piece published today, and she thinks a California retirement-for-all bill is a "step in the right direction."

Walker's op-ed item refers to Senate Bill 1234, by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, which would establish a state-administered retirement fund for private-sector workers. The article, which you can read here, also mentions that New York is talking about a similar plan.

"Part of what we aspire to as Americans is being able to stop working with our dreams and reasonable expectations of retirement still intact," Walker writes.

SB 1234 is scheduled for a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on May 14.

PHOTO: Yvonne Walker / Sacramento Bee 2008, Brian Baer

May 3, 2012
California Senate OKs state management pay analysis bill

The Senate this morning approved a measure that mandates the state report the costs of pay raises for supervisors and managers when analyzing union labor contracts.

Much of the time, managers and supervisors get similar employment terms to those negotiated for the employees they supervise. For example, if SEIU Local 1000 negotiates a 2 percent pay raise for its members, the related managers get the same.

But not always. The Department of Personnel Administration (and soon the new California Department of Human Resources) negotiates labor pacts and also sets the pay for excluded employees. By law, it must issue a fiscal analysis of what the negotiated contracts cost, but the department isn't required to do the same for related management compensation.

Senate Bill 1113 would mandate CalHR include analyses of the financial obligation for related excluded employees. The California Correctional Supervisors Organization, which is sponsoring the bill, says the measure would make employee costs more transparent.

Early versions of the bill also required the state to "address salary compaction and parity concerns for excluded employees," but that language was struck from the legislation the Senate OK'd today on a bipartisan 36-0 vote.

SB 1113, authored by Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, now goes to the Assembly.

May 3, 2012
Darrell Steinberg says pension reform legislation still on track

Thumbnail image for steinberg.JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said this week that public pension reform legislation is still on track for this year, although he wasn't sure about the timing.

"I've said all along it's our obligation to deliver comprehensive pension reform legislation this session," Steinberg said during a meeting with reporters in his office Thursday morning. "Whether it's before or after the budget, I don't know. It depends on conversations with the governor and the Assembly, as well."

Lawmakers have a constitutional deadline to deliver a balanced budget by June 15.

A conference committee focused on pension reform has been meeting since October. Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, who co-authored failed legislation that co-opted Gov. Jerry Brown's pension proposals, said last week that lawmakers generally agree on many points but that major sticking points include switching future workers to a hybrid plan and changing the retirement age for those future hires.

PHOTO: Darrell Steinberg / Sacramento Bee 2011 file, Hector Amezcua.

April 27, 2012
Firefighters, SEIU Local 1000 give $500,000 to fight ballot measure

California Professional Firefighters and SEIU Local 1000 recently donated a combined half-million dollars to the group combating a Nov. 6 ballot measure aimed at curbing unions' political power and banning direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.

The California Professional Firefighters Independent Expenditures PAC donated $250,000 on April 11 and Local 1000 kicked in $252,762 a couple days later, according to a report filed this week with the state.

Local 1000 and the state council with which it's affiliated have given nearly $1.1 million since last summer. Professional Firefighters, between its independent expenditure committee and its ballot issues committee, has donated $800,000 over the past nine months. Contributions to defeat the measure now total $5.7 million.

Supporters raised about $2.9 million so far.

The proposal would stop unions and businesses from donating money directly to political candidates, although both groups could continue spending freely on independent expenditure campaigns.

Labor groups would have a harder time raising money for those independent campaigns, however, because the measure also eliminates payroll-deducted contributions, unions' primary means of raising money. Corporations couldn't use payroll deductions either, but they raise the bulk of their campaign money from checks written by top executives and shareholders.

April 26, 2012
Update: Pension issue alive despite bill derailment, Smyth says

Editor's note, 4:50 p.m.: This post has been updated with news about Senate pension legislation.

Despite a procedural move this morning to push aside two GOP pension reform bills, one of the suspended measures' co-authors says the issue is far from dead.

In a telephone interview after the Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee hearing, Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, said that informal conversations with lawmakers lead him to believe that there's general agreement about many points of the plan that he and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway introduced in February.

"It seems like there are two sticking points: the hybrid plan and changing the retirement age," Smyth said.

As expected, the committee put a hold on several public pension bills this morning, including the two measures by Conway and Smyth that co-opted Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's 12-point plan that would, among other things, fundamentally change benefits for future workers.

Public Employees Committee chairman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, several days ago told lawmakers that pension reform bills would be put on hold, in deference to a special committee formed to consider the issue. Furutani co-chairs the Joint Legislative Conference Committee On Pension Reform, which started hearings last fall and is expected to propose legislation during this session.

Two mirroring measures in the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee, Senate Bill 1176 and Senate Constitutional Amendment 18, both authored by Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, have not been voted on. The deadline for moving fiscal bills out of policy committees is Friday.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said in February that the Republicans were "clever" to claim Brown's plan as their own, but the GOP measures were "cut-and-paste" bills without analyses. The Senate's ranking Democrat has said several times that he expects a pension reform package to pass this year.

When asked it he thought that would happen, Smyth said, "From the conversations I've had, everyone seems serious," but that Republicans would "remain engaged" and keep Democrats accountable.

Conway blasted Democrats on the Public Employees committee for sending Assembly Bill 2224 and Assembly Constitutional Amendment 22 (both by Conway and Smyth) to interim study, effectively killing them.

"It is appalling that Democrats would prefer to stick their heads in the sand rather than enact bipartisan reforms," Conway said in a press release.


April 26, 2012
California retirement savings bill advances in the Senate

120426 Steinberg and de Leon.JPGLegislation to create a state retirement account program for private sector workers in California cleared a Senate committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1234, authored by Democratic Sen. Kevin de León, cleared the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations on a 4-1 vote. In favor: Sens. Ted Lieu, D-Torrence; Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Mark Leno, D-San Francisco and Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

Republican Sen. Mark Wyland, of Solana Beach, cast the lone no vote. Sens. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, and Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, didn't vote.

The measure creates a state-run "California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust" that would set up professionally-managed retirement savings accounts for private-sector workers.

Opponents -- insurers, a variety of trade industries and the California Chamber of Commerce, among others -- contend it establishes a needless new bureaucracy, creates uncertainty for employers and damages businesses that already sell retirement savings vehicles.

Critics have also charged that Democrats offered up the measure to counter pressure they've felt to change public employee pensions. Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg rejected that notion and has said on numerous occasions that Democrats, who hold a legislative majority, will enact substantive pension reform legislation this year.

SB 1234 now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

RELATED POST
California Democrats push pension plan for nongovernment workers

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento (left), and Sen. Kevin de Léon, D-Los Angeles, walk to an event where they unveiled legislation on Feb. 23 to create a state-run retirement system for private sector workers in California. Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

April 25, 2012
California state worker pay cap proposal killed in committee

A measure that would have limited state workers' pay to what the governor earns died in the Senate Government Organization Committee on Tuesday, with six votes in favor and seven against.

Tuesday morning's hearing on Senate Bill 1368 became an opportunity for lawmakers to tee off on CalPERS and CalSTRS executives as well as top-level administrators and faculty at the UC and CSU systems who make more -- some many times more -- that the $174,000 currently earned by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill's author and committee member, Sen. Joel Andersen, R-Alpine, juxtaposed news that two former CalPERS officials are being sued by the federal government with bonuses has paid to executives and concluded the money rewarded "a dismal performance."

Anderson also tied his bill to the current debate over whether the state should increase taxes.

"I cannot look at my constituents and say you're not doing your fair share," Anderson said, "while we continue to attract the best, the brightest -- and the greediest."

David Wolfe of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, told the committee that high-end state wages are "unfair" and "ridiculous" and that "populist anger ... is intense."

But labor unions opposed the measure, as did the university systems and CalSTRS. Lobbyist Doug Chiapetta said that the unions he represents, AFSCME and the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, "applaud the concept -- times are tough" but that they had concerns about overtime provisions of the bill and what it meant for collective bargaining.

A UC representative said the bill was "a rigid statutory scheme." A CSU spokewoman said the system was working on a "new process" for determining executive compensation.

No votes came from Democratic Sens. Ron Calderon, Ellen Corbett, Kevin de León, Noreen Evans, Ed Hernandez, Alex Padilla and Rod Wright.

Supporters included Anderson and Republican Sens. Tom Berryhill, Anthony Cannella, Mimi Walters and Mark Wyland as well as Democrat Leland Yee.

April 18, 2012
Salary cap measure clears California Senate committee

120418 Senator Anderson Senate Floor Photo.JPGA bill that would cap California state employees' pay at no more than what the governor earns cleared the Senate Public Employee and Retirement Committee today on a 3-1 vote.

Senate Bill 1368, authored by Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, would limit the annual pay of state officers and employees, including overtime, to the governor's salary, currently $173,987 per year.

The measure exempts current salaries set by contracts but requires the limitations to take effect for those employees once those deals expire. Anderson's bill also includes exemptions for public safety workers and judges.

Republican Sens. Ted Gaines of Rocklin and Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel and Democratic Sen. Juan Vargas of San Diego voted for the measure. Sen. Alex Padilla D-Los Angeles, opposed it. Chino Democratic Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod abstained.

The measure now moves to the Senate Governmental Organization Committee for a hearing Tuesday.

CalSTRS, which has sponsored a bill that would allow it to boost pay for its chief financial officer and chief operating officer well beyond what the governor earns, has opposed the measure.

Related posts:
Anderson bill would cap state worker pay at Jerry Brown's salary
The State Worker: Linking state pay cap to governor is tricky exercise
Column Extra: Who earns more than Jerry Brown?
Bill allows big pay hike for two CalSTRS executive jobs

PHOTO: Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, on the Senate floor in 2011. / Courtesy Joel Anderson.

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 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 6, 2012
Pension and public employee bills set for hearing Monday

120406 State Capitol Building 1996 Sac Bee Rob Ferris.JPGThe Senate Public Employment & Retirement Committee is scheduled to hear several bills Monday, including three measures of interest to state employees:

SB 955 (Fran Pavley): Authorizes pension boards to give investment priority to in-state infrastructure projects over out-of-state infrastructure projects.

SB 1234 (Kevin de León): Establishes a guaranteed retirement savings system for private-sector workers. (Click here for a recent report on the measure.)

SB 1368 (Joel Anderson): Caps state employee pay at what the governor earns, currently about $174,000. (Click here for a recent State Worker column about the measure.)

The committee hearing is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 2040.

PHOTO CREDIT: California State Capitol / Sacramento Bee file, Rob Ferris

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
Poll: How much does money matter?

A reader called on Thursday to strongly disagree with this week's State Worker column, which looked at a bill that would cap state pay at what the governor earns, currently about $174,000 per year.

The column suggested that the cap idea doesn't acknowledge key differences between what motivates people to aspire to the executive and what motivates them to become, say, a state university president, CalPERS investment manager or a nuclear physicist.

The caller contended that the state doesn't need to compete for talented individuals to run departments, conduct nuclear research, manage investments or to perform other high-level, high-skill jobs. Public service and love of the work, he said, is a reward in itself. Plenty of competent folks would line up for jobs that he said currently overpay incumbents.

And anyone who passed on a job because they wanted more money? "The state doesn't need them," the caller said.

What do you think? How much should money matter to public servants? Do some care about it less than others? Take our poll and leave your comments:


March 29, 2012
State workers 'Bill of Rights' clears first legislative hurdle

The so-called "Public Employees Bill of Rights," Assembly Bill 1655 has cleared its first legislative committee review.

The six-member Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security passed the measure 4-1 on Wednesday. Democratic Assemblymembers Warren Furutani, Michael Allen, Bob Wieckowski and Fiona Ma voted for it. Republican Allan Mansoor voted against it. Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, did not vote.

The measure, which strengthens California state employee job protections and sets new workload standards, now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. No hearing date has been scheduled yet.

Related posts:

Committee hears pro and con of 'Public Employees Bill of Rights'
State government contracting debate back at California's Capitol
Assembly Bill 1655

March 29, 2012
Column Extra: Who earns more than Jerry Brown?

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.

Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee filters the debate over state workers' wages through Senate Bill 1368, which would cap state pay -- including overtime -- at what the governor earns, about $174,000 per year.

So we asked our state worker pay database guru, Phillip Reese, to find out how many state employees would have been affected last year if SB 1368 had been law, and what job classes dominated that pay strata. We also asked him to look at UC system employees (the latest data we have for them is for 2010) to get a sense of how many of them made more than the governor. SB 1368 wouldn't affect them, though, because the UC system is constitutionally protected, but the bill encourages its leaders to conform to the cap.

Here's Phillip's email answering my questions:

About 2,015 civil service, CSU and legislative workers earned base pay over $174,000 in 2011, state controller's data show. Another 2,560 UC employees earned that much in 2010, according to the most recent data available from the UC system. So about 4,500 total -- a number that almost doubles if you look at total pay, which includes overtime, bonuses, etc. (I know Anderson, in his bill, cited "more than 8,000 workers," which is in line with my numbers if looking at total pay, instead of just base pay.)

By far, the largest job class in this group is physicians, mostly working at UC hospitals, state prisons and state mental health facilities. About 2,100 of the 4,500 are doctors, dentists or psychiatrists. Running far behind, but with more than 200 employees making that much, are judges, senior professors and top administrators at myriad agencies.

RELATED POSTS:
Anderson bill would cap state worker pay at Jerry Brown's salary
Steinberg: state worker pay cap bill 'worth considering'

March 28, 2012
Committee hears pro and con of 'Public Employees Bill of Rights'

Thumbnail image for 110304 Dickinson Randal Benton 2010.JPGIt looks like the so-called "Public Employees Bill of Rights" is on the way to clearing its first legislative hurdle after the Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security listened to brief arguments for and against the measure and then voted 3-1 in favor of the measure.

Because it needs one more "aye" from the six-member panel to pass, the bill was placed "on call" until the two absent members could vote.

Democratic Assemblymembers Warren Furutani, Michael Allen and Fiona Ma supported the bill. Republican Allan Mansoor opposed. Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont and Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, were not present.

Assembly Bill 1655, written by Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson of Sacramento, which would give rank-and-file state workers explicit preference over outside contractors for state work, shorten the period employers would have to discipline employees and guarantee protections against increased workloads brought on by furloughs or layoffs.

The measure has several other employee protections extended to other state employees, Dickinson said this morning, and that much of the bill is already standard practice or contained in labor contracts.

"But those can change," Dickinson said, whereas his bill would take "basic items and codify them."

Several labor groups voiced support, including representatives from SEIU Local 1000, AFSC ME and associations representing state attorneys, physicians, dentists and state university workers.

All suggested that the bill would save the state money and provide much-needed protections to employees.

Jennifer Barrera of the California Chamber of Commerce said the Dickinson bill would "disadvantage the private sector" in competing for state work and the measure has ambiguous language regarding employee workloads and quotas that could trigger litigation or drive up the state's employee costs to avoid lawsuits.

"We disagree this would be a cost-saving measure," Barrera said.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Roger Dickinson / Sacramento Bee file 2010, Randall Benton

March 27, 2012
Wednesday hearing set for California 'Public Employees Bill of Rights'

The Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee will consider Assembly Bill 1655, also known as the "Public Employee Bill of Rights," at a hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday.

The measure gained a bit of attention when Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, introduced it last month. The measure would extend some job protections to rank-and-file state workers that are already afforded public safety employees, plus gives civil servants explicit preference for work the state needs to have done.

Dickinson has tweaked the bill's language a bit.

A provision to shorten the statute of limitations for employers to press disciplinary action against a employee has been changed from one year to one year from the discovery of an alleged offense.

The first version of the legislation gave rank-and-file state employees first dibs on state work ahead of excluded employees and outside contractors. The revision strikes the reference to excluded employees.

March 26, 2012
Report says unions have big money advantage in politics

Here's one side of the argument you'll be hearing for the next seven months over the so-called "Stop Special Interest Money Now Act" the political-committee funding measure on the Nov. 7 ballot in California.

"DUES AND DEEP POCKETS: Public-Sector Unions' Money Machine," published by the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, argues that dues withheld by payroll deduction and paid directly to unions, along with rules that force employees to pay for representation even if they aren't members, gives labor "an abundant and reliable source of money, sparing unions the need to spend resources on recruitment, retention, and fund-raising."

Author Daniel DiSalvo says that means civil service unions have a serious advantage over other groups throwing elbows for government resources.

The Stop Special Interest Money Now Act would, among other things, prohibit use of payroll-deducted funds for political purposes by unions, corporations or government contractors. Employees could still contribute to employer or union committees, but they'd have to do it annually and in writing. (Click here to read the measure.)

California unions' will take a big revenue hit if voters approve the as-yet-to-be-numbered proposition, since labor relies on members' payroll deductions to raise money for political spending. Business interests don't.
DUES AND DEEP POCKETS: Public-Sector Unions' Money Machine

February 24, 2012
Ron Yank explains why he's leaving Jerry Brown's administration

Thumbnail image for 110816 Ron Yank.JPGAs we reported earlier this week, Department of Personnel Administration Director Ron Yank is leaving his post at the end of this month. The news -- which he spread himself in a series of personal calls and emails -- surprised labor leaders and state managers.

Late last month I asked Yank how he was enjoying his job as California's labor relations point man. "I love it," he said, and told me that he had no plans to leave.

I asked him that question nearly every time that we spoke over the last year. Yank didn't need the money, having retired from a long and successful career in labor law representing the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and other unions.

And I always wondered whether Yank, a marathon runner who admits to flashes of temper and salty language when it gets his point across, was suited to head a bureaucracy.

The DPA director sits at what can be an uncomfortable intersection between politics, law and finance. The job requires offering carrots and sticks to other department heads and labor leaders and walking a narrow path between the administrative independence that gives the office power while still executing the governor's agenda.

Ron Yank never struck me as a guy who was keen on asking for permission. His exit illustrated that fact. Instead of waiting for the governor's office to announce his departure and name a successor, he broke with protocol, picked up the phone and started calling union leaders to tell them he was leaving at the end of the month. The news quickly spread.

On Wednesday, Yank said that despite all of his assurances to the contrary, he took the post with the understanding he would leave after one year. That was all the time he was willing to take away from his family in the Bay Area, he said.

He didn't want to make that known for fear of hobbling his effectiveness. "If I'd been a lame duck, we couldn't have accomplished half the things we accomplished," he said as we drank coffee at a restaurant near DPA's offices on S Street.

What follows is an email to DPA staff with the subject line, "Why is Ron leaving his job after only one year?" Yank issued it a few hours after news of his exit surfaced on Tuesday. We're publishing it here after confirming its authenticity with DPA.

As of this morning, the Brown administration still hasn't issued an official statement about Yank's departure or named a successor.

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 23, 2012
Democrats want to extend guaranteed retirement savings to private sector

120223 de Leon 20110621 .JPGNew legislation unveiled this morning aims to build a sort of CalPERS-for-all retirement savings system that the measure's author says could cover an estimated 7 million working Californians in the private sector.

Senate Bill 1234 by Los Angeles Democratic Sen. Kevin de León would require businesses with five or more employees to enroll them in a new "Personal Pension" defined benefit program or offer an alternative employer-sponsored plan.

De León, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and other political and labor leaders who touted the measure noted that public discourse has focused on public employee pensions.

The press event came one day after Republicans co-opted Brown's 12-point pension plan and offered it up as their own legislation. When asked if the Democrats were offering the bill hoping to relieve pressure on them to curb public pensions, Steinberg said, "Absolutely not."

The majority party is "committed to public pension reform. We're going to be analytical about it. We're not running away from it," Steinberg said, calling the de León bill the private-sector "bookend" to public pension reform.

"I hear a lot about 'pension envy,'" said Democratic Assemblyman Warren Furutani, who is co-chairing a joint public pension committee. And while many critics of the current system, including Gov. Jerry Brown, have called for reforms, Furutani said he sees many of those efforts as a misguided attempt to spread the private sector's retirement insecurity in the name of fairness.

"This bill turns that argument on its head," Furutani said.

Still, de León said his bill isn't intended to provide government-level benefits for the private sector. "It's a supplement," he said. "It's not a panacea."

The personal pension system's investments would be professionally managed by CalPERS or another contracted organization, de León said. Employees would contribute about 3 percent of their pay through a payroll deduction. Employers would not be required to provide matching contributions.

The fund would be managed "very conservatively," de León said, with investments tied to US Treasury bond rates.

Treasuries, considered among the safest investment vehicles, offer roughly half the 7.75 percent rate of return that CalPERS assumes on its investments.

February 22, 2012
Republicans introduce Jerry Brown's pension reform plan

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's 12-point public pension reform plan has some new supporters: Republicans.

GOP lawmakers told reporters this morning that they are introducing Brown's reform plan as legislation, exactly as he wrote it.

"We haven't changed one comma, one period or one word," Senate Republican leader Bob Huff said during a Capitol press conference to announce the party's plan.

He called on Democrats to join his party to enact four measures that together would put the plan to voters as a state constitutional amendment and alter pension law for both state and local governments.

The Republican's move comes after Republican-backed California Pension Reform suspended its cash-starved campaign to put pension reform on the November ballot. One plan that the organization was considering would have closely mirrored Brown's, including the centerpiece idea to put future state and local workers into hybrid pension schemes that blend a smaller traditional guaranteed pension with a more volatile 401(k)-style component.

Lawmakers could have donated to the campaign. When asked if any of the legislators had been approached for contributions or supported the initiative campaign before its demise, Huff brushed the question aside.

February 21, 2012
Bill puts $250,000 limit on compensation to calculate CA pensions

Democratic Assemblyman Jerry Hill of San Mateo reintroduced a measure last week that caps the amount of state and local government employees' compensation used for pension calculations.

Assembly Bill 1639 would bring the state and local pensions in line with IRS rules that limit pensionable compensation. This year the limit is $250,000, up from $245,000 in 2011.

The law allows exemptions from the limit for public institutions. A few years ago the University of California's pension system was granted just such an exemption, although it wasn't implemented.

Then three dozen highly-paid UC employees demanded their pensions calculated on th