The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

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."

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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
Stanford think tank starts online course on retirement, pensions

The conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University is firing up an online, eight-week class on retirement finance, including a look at public pension systems.

"Finance of Retirement and Pensions," starts Monday. Joshua Rauh, a Hoover senior fellow and professor of finance at the university's Graduate School of Business, is teaching it. The course is free.

Stanford spokeswoman Katie Pandes said as of Friday some 20,000 people had signed up.

In January, the class culminates in a symposium titled "Innovative Ideas for the Future of U.S. Public Sector Pensions," to be held at the Stanford business school, according to a university press release. Click here for more information

The course -- and the publicity it brings -- is starting just as San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is pushing to put a public pension initiative on the 2014 ballot.

Stanford has become a center of pro-pension-change thinking in the last few years. The university's Institute for Economic Policy Research has issued controversial assessments of California's public pension-system debt at the state and local levels. David Crane, former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's pension point man, is a research scholar at the economic policy institute.

VIDEO: Hoover Institution/NovoED

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 11, 2013
California takes a small step toward exiting troubled high-rise HQ

131013-BOE-windows-2005-villegas.jpgCalifornia officials have put out feelers for what it would take to leave the state's unofficial money pit -- AKA the Board of Equalization headquarters -- with an Oct. 31 deadline for responses from developers, landowners. politicians (hello, mayors of Rancho Cordova, Elk Grove, West Sacramento, etc.) and any other interested parties.

The "request for information" from the Department of General Services asks for ways to consolidate board operations that now spread more than 4,000 employees across several facilities in the Sacramento area, about half of them in the notorious 24-story tower at 450 N Street in Sacramento.

You can expect lots of ideas to build new space, since "there is no facility currently available in the Sacramento region that is large enough to house a consolidated BOE operation," Government Operations Secretary Marybel Batjer told Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in this Sept. 26 letter obtained by The State Worker.

Steinberg, a Democrat whose Sacramento district includes the 20-year-old high rise, chairs the committee that confirmed Batjer's appointment to the newly-created agency in August. The BOE building came up during that hearing.

Fiscal and marketing obstacles are in the way of moving BOE, however, and the timeframes and costs are subject to change.

Bond debt on the facility stands at around $100 million and it's supposed to be paid off with BOE lease money by 2021. The state would have to pay the bondholders earlier to leave sooner and ante up funding for a new facility. State officials have estimated the 463,000-square-foot building could sit empty for a couple years to rehab it for new tenants.

Assuming that any could be found. The tower has a long history of well-known troubles, from leaking windows and toxic mold to faulty elevators and corroded plumbing. Workers are currently replacing hundreds of exterior panels after one popped off last year and crashed to the sidewalk below.

PHOTO: Wood panels cover openings where two glass windows popped out on the south side of the Board of Equalization building in 2005. Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

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
Column Extra: Read the ruling that slams Corrections' contract

Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee reports the latest developments in the fight over two contracts totaling $11 million for outsourced legal services for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Check out the column and then, if you really want to get into the weeds (attention, all state attorneys!), read through the State Personnel Board's decision, which it telegraphed by putting a verbal smackdown on the state's attorney during an August hearing.

State Personnel Board Decision and Order

October 4, 2013
Jerry Brown sues U.S. Labor Department over pension law

As he announced last month, Gov. Jerry Brown today sued the U.S. Department of Labor over its ruling that California's new pension-reform law violates mass-transit workers' collective bargaining rights.

The Sacramento Regional Transit District joined Brown's Department of Transportation as a party to the complaint which seeks to overturn federal decisions that have withheld $54 million from the Sacramento district, including $14 million for light rail construction to Elk Grove that cannot be recovered.

A 1964 law requires that the Labor Department certify agencies are preserving their employees' collective representation as a condition of receiving federal mass-transit grants.

September 27, 2013
Former government tech official weighs in on Ohio's IT lessons

Thumbnail image for email.jpg Reader Steve Steinbrecher emailed his response to our Thursday State Worker column, "Lessons from Ohio's state tech project." We're publishing it here, unedited, and with the author's permission:

Dear Jon:

I read your piece in this morning's Bee with a great deal of interest. I am a retired Chief Information Officer (CIO) who worked 35 years in public sector IT. I spent a number of years as CIO for San Joaquin County, as well as Contra Costa County, and also spent a good amount of time working on integrated projects with the state and its CIO's.

Short background: I had leadership responsibility for a couple of very large and expensive, but successful county IT projects (integrated Health Care and Criminal Justice Systems for San Joaquin, a couple of Enterprise Resource Planning systems for both counties (more commonly known as "Empty Rear Pocket" if you allow the consultants to drive your project) to replace aging Payroll and Human Resources applications, and of course, the infamous Y2K project. I cut my teeth on California's first attempt at a Statewide Welfare System (I think it was called SPAN) back in the late 1970's (failure), was very involved in the only successful Statewide Automated Welfare System (SAWS) in the 1980's, and the Statewide Automated Child Support System (SACSS - A colossal failure that County CIO's warned the state of impending failure three years before it even attempted to "go live"). I truly love reading all of these stories in the Bee and other publications, because as Led Zeppelin says, "The Song Remains the Same."

Mr. Conomy got almost everything correct in your interview. However, fear NEVER works as a motivator, in my humble opinion, because when the brown stuff hits the fan with respect to a public (or private) sector IT project, the CIO is fired, the politicians and high level project sponsors cover their butts, and the project either goes on, or another one come along to take its place (just look at California's IT track record, as you so aptly pointed out in your piece). Having said that, what he DID get right is:

NEVER give an IT project to outside contractors and consultants. The only skin they have in the game is receiving your monthly payments (and yes, post-retirement, I too worked as a strategic planning IT consultant for about 8 years...)

September 26, 2013
California state auditor sounds warning on prison realignment

Supreme_Court_California_Prisons.jpgCalifornia's woefully underfunded teachers' retirement system, the state's swelling long-term health care costs for government retirees and its deteriorating roads, bridges and other infrastructure aren't the only items on the list of "high-risk" issues noted in a new report issued Thursday morning.

Like prior biannual assessments by State Auditor Elaine Howle's office, the audit dings the government for those failings and others: poor preparation for the mass exodus of retiring employees, inadequate emergency-preparedness and insufficient oversight of information technology projects.

But new to the pantheon of multibillon-dollar worries since the last high-risk report in 2011 is prison realignment, which shifts responsibility for some lower-level offenders to the counties. Here's Howle's summary:

The State does not currently have access to reliable and meaningful data concerning the realignment. As a result, the impact of realignment cannot be fully evaluated at this time. Even so, initial data indicate that local jails may not have adequate capacity and services to handle the influx of inmates caused by realignment. Until enough time has passed to allow the effectiveness and efficiency of realignment to be evaluated, we will consider it a statewide high-risk issue.

Here's the full audit:

September 13, 2013
California Legislature closes, three unions still without contracts

130222 Blanning.JPGWhen California lawmakers closed the books on their 2013 session Thursday night, state employee unions representing state attorneys and other legal officials, scientists and stationary engineers still didn't have contracts.

California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers In State Employment (CASE), California Association of Professional Scientists (CAPS) and Bargaining Unit 13 of the International Union Operating Engineers (IUOE) represent a combined 7,700 or so employees who will be working for the next several months under the terms of contracts that expired in July.

The Legislature's recess ended any chance that it would authorize money for new labor contracts before it returns to work in January. Until lawmakers appropriate funds, a deal can't be sealed.

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 11, 2013
Judge: Federal prison receiver can get California state pension

130911-Kelso-2008.jpgA Sacramento judge has ruled that California's Prisons Receiver J. Clark Kelso qualifies for a state pension, even though his position as the penal system's medical overseer was established by federal appointment.

The decision by Judge Michael Kenny sides with CalPERS, which said it had vetted an unusual deal between the federal judge who appointed Kelso and the state Administrative Office of the Courts that allowed him to stay in the state pension system. In essence, Kelso is working as a state-courts employee on loan to the federally established California Prison Healthcare Receivership Corp. charged with overseeing the medical care of inmates.

Before Kelso took the receiver job, he held several leadership positions in state government, with years of contributions built up in his CalPERS pension account.

Daniel Francis, a retired state employee, sued CalPERS, arguing that Kelso was really a federal employee and that payments to his state pension account amounted to a gift of public funds.

Kenny said that Francis failed to prove that CalPERS' determination of Kelso's employment status was wrong.

RELATED:
Lawsuit claims prison receiver spiking CalPERS pension
Judge: Lawsuit against CalPERS over California prison receiver pension may proceed

PHOTO: Federal Prisons Receiver J. Clark Kelso takes questions during a 2008 news conference. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

September 10, 2013
August retirement applications to CalPERS down slightly

The number of California state workers who applied for pensions declined less than 2 percent last month, according to CalPERS, but the retirement trend since January remains higher than in 2012.

Meanwhile, the number of all retiring CalPERS members -- state and local government, school district and special district employees -- rose nearly 12 percent in August. The number of all CalPERS retirements is up nearly 4 percent this year for the combined group of state and local government, school district and special district employees.

The gradual increase in the overall retirement numbers so far this year suggests that the slumping economy, furloughs that cut pay, layoffs, and (for local governments) early retirement incentives of a few years ago have washed through the government ranks. Still, employers expect to see the upward retirement trend continue as aging baby boomers head for the exits.

The state employee figures for the last few months of this year will bear watching as a bellwether for how a new round of raises negotiated with Gov. Jerry Brown will affect retirements. Will some workers who might have left with no prospect of a pay increase might decide to stick around enough for the higher pay to affect their pension checks?

Click here for detailed tables of month-by-month retirement application numbers tracked by CalPERS dating back to 2007. The fund counts applications from mid-month to mid-month. The last two weeks of December, when many state workers leave to take advantage of cost-of-living allowance rules, are counted in the January tallies.

September 9, 2013
California state worker-AWOL bill sent to Jerry Brown's desk

110822 Assembly chamber.JPGA bill that gives state employees a better chance at reinstatement if they're fired for being AWOL is on the way to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

Republicans in the Democratically-controlled Assembly framed debate over Assembly Bill 855 as an argument over existing law that allows state workers five days away without explanation before they can be terminated. They can be reinstated if they explain to an administrative law judge why they were absent and why they failed to get leave for the absence. They must also show proof they are "ready, able and willing" to return to the job.

But the judge can't consider the other side of the equation: whether the employer properly invoked the AWOL statute to terminate an employee. The measure by Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, allows for that.

The Democrat-controlled Assembly had already approved the bill once and sent it to the Senate. Friday's vote was to approve minor tweaks made by the upper chamber.

Such "concurrence" votes usually aren't dramatic. But the first round of votes fell a few shy of the 41 required to produce a majority for the union-backed bill, despite Democrat's two-thirds control of the 80-seat Assembly. The measure was put on hold, more votes rounded up and it eventually went to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. Final tally: 46-30.

PHOTO: The California Assembly during a 2011 session. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

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 5, 2013
From the notebook: Letter explains how California, federal laws conflict

thomas_perez.jpegAs we reported in a breaking news story on Wednesday and followed with a more detailed report today, the Brown administration has announced a plan that it says will allow federal grants to continue flowing to regional transit districts while the courts decide whether California's new pension law degrades mass transit employees' collective bargaining rights.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez had warned Gov. Jerry Brown that at least $1.6 billion was at risk, because federal mass transit law requires agencies that receive certain federal grants protect their workers' collective bargaining rights. The Labor Department certifies whether employers are complying.

The warning became an official decision on Wednesday. Here's the letter from Michael Hayes, the director of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards, that explains why the Obama administration decertified the Sacramento Regional Transit District because it has implemented California's Public Employees' Pension Reform Act.

September 4, 2013
California state law enforcement contract costs $26.5 million

RP_STATE_PARKS_BINOCS.JPGA new three-year contract for about 7,000 state workers in public safety and inspection jobs will add about $26.5 million in costs through fiscal 2015-16, according to a just-published review by the Legislative Analyst's Office.

The centerpiece of the agreement with the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association and Gov. Jerry Brown is a 3 percent raise on July 1, 2015. The union represents employees including California Highway Patrol dispatchers, Department of Motor Vehicles licensing-registration examiners, park rangers and game wardens.

Two other employee subsets in the union, state hospital police officers and developmental center peace officers, are in line for an additional 4.67 percent bump on the same date.

Related: Law enforcement officers' union agrees to new contract

The agreement also gives employees the option to cash out up to 20 hours of vacation or annual leave each year at their employing department's discretion.

There's no official estimate of what that would cost, although the LAO says it would be "a few million dollars in any given year." While the leave buyouts would hit departments in the short-term, they're a long-term savings because employees who cash out when they exit state service do so at their final pay rate.

"At the end of fiscal 2011-12," the analysis embedded below notes, "the state's liability associated with Unit 7 employees' vacation/annual leave balance was about $55 million."

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

September 3, 2013
Read the contract between Jerry Brown, California engineers

AerialDelta.JPGAs we reported over the holiday weekend, California's state engineers' union has tentatively agreed to a two-year contract that includes an across-the-board raise.

The deal "deep classes" a handful of engineering job classifications and also adds State Water Project engineers to a paid-time-off incentive program. Other union contracts already include the program, which pays up to 80 hours to employees whose divisions within the Department of Water Resources meet certain water delivery and power generation goals.

Here's the tentative agreement. Scroll down to pages 18 and 19 for more details about the incentive program:

September 2, 2013
Lawmakers to CalPERS: Let's talk about that pension database

The controversy that kicked up in July over CalPERS' plan to launch a online pension database has reached the California Legislature.

According to an Aug. 26 letter from Sen. Jim Beall and Assemblyman Rob Bonta to CalPERS President Rob Feckner, the Senate and Assembly pension committee leaders plan to hold hearings on "issues related to the right of the public to access CalPERS data and ... personal privacy concerns."

The letter doesn't set any dates, but it's safe to assume that hearings will be scheduled sometime between the legislative year-end on Sept. 13 and Jan. 6, 2014 when lawmakers return to the Capitol.

Fund officials hoped the website would become the go-to resource for CalPERS pension data that they said is sometimes mishandled or cherry picked for political purposes. They also expected a regularly-updated site would curb the number of individual requests for information that now consume staff time to process.

Pensioner groups, including California State Retirees, said that putting names, allowance mounts, last employer information, service time and other data on in searchable form on the Internet -- even though it is considered public record -- would make some vulnerable seniors easy targets for scammers.

The retirees asked the Legislature to intervene. Meanwhile, CalPERS decided to put the database launch on hold.

Here's the Beall/Bonta letter:

August 30, 2013
Read the audit of Cal Fire's cost recovery program, training fund

130829-fire-saw-training-cal-fire.jpgOur story in today's Bee highlights the findings of a new state audit that says the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had no authority to create a $3.6 million off-the-books training fund fed with money from civil lawsuits settlements and didn't properly account for what the money purchased.

More broadly, auditors found that Cal Fire managers weren't tracking cases the Cal Fire Civil Cost Recovery Program, which has billed and sued responsible parties for nearly $100 million in firefighting costs since 2005.

Here's the audit:

August 30, 2013
Operating engineers' new deal costs state up to $54.9 million

130620-capitol-mall.JPGThe tentative agreement between Gov. Jerry Brown and the union representing roughly 11,000 heavy equipment operators will add up to $54.9 million to the state's payroll costs, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.

The two-year deal, like most Brown has negotiated with other unions over the last two months, relies on a fiscal trigger to determine whether the money will be split over two years or deferred to the last year.

One scenario for state workers in Bargaining Unit 12, who are represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers, provides a $1,200 bonus on July 1, 2014 (which equals 2.5 percent of the average wage for employees covered by the contract) and a 3 percent raise on July 1, 2015.

That, along with higher employer contributions to health insurance premiums and a few other minor non-wage increases, would cost the state $54.9 million, according to the LAO.

But if Brown says revenues in fiscal 2014-15 aren't sufficient to cover the bonus, union members will have to wait one year to get a 3.25 percent raise with no bonus. That plan would reduce the contract's three-year cost to $42.3 million.

That hits the high points of the IUOE deal, but if you want to get more deeply into the numbers and terms, here's the analyst's report:

August 29, 2013
AUDIO: Embezzler talks about her re-hiring and firing from rail agency

Thumbnail image for NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgOur story in today's Bee explains how changes on state government job applications led to the High Speed Rail Authority hiring a woman who served prison time for embezzling $320,000 from another department.

Rail officials fired Carey Renee Moore for lying on her job application. When the state blocked her from receiving unemployment benefits, she appealed her case before Administrative Law Judge Katie Zwinski on October 3, 2012.

A recording of that 23-minute hearing was among the public records we received in response to requests filed with the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and the State Personnel Board. Documents include the unemployment insurance appeal paperwork Moore filed with Zwinski and the High Speed Rail termination notice that went to the Personnel Board when Moore filed -- and then withdrew -- a challenge to her firing.

Here are some audio clips from the hearing attended by Moore and her mother, a long-time state personnel officer. No one from the state attended the hearing to defend Moore's termination.

Moore discusses her 2007 resignation from Board of Equalization.

Moore's take on the political motive for her firing and how changes to the state's job application gave her an opportunity to return to state service.

How Moore handled rail officials' questions about her absence from state service.

Moore explains how she researched the changes to state job applications to make sure she could apply for work without disclosing her criminal history.

Moore describes what she said was her limited access to a high speed rail credit account.

An emotional Moore says her dismissal from the rail agency was "cruel" and "a little bit of a shock."

ILLUSTRATION: Seattle Times/Gabi Campanario

August 27, 2013
State worker vehicle accident settlements threaten to overwhelm fund

20 dollar bill.jpgLawmakers are on the verge of sending a measure to Gov. Jerry Brown that will tap the state's general fund to pay nearly $21 million for legal settlements of two automobile accidents involving state workers.

Normally, the money would come from an obscure state self-insurance fund maintained with contributions from departments. But the two lawsuit settlements, and a third multi-million dollar payout earlier this year, would strain the Motor Vehicle Insurance Account. The fund averages about $38 million in payouts each year against $45 million it takes in from premiums.

Assembly Bill 234 has cleared the lower chamber and is now poised for a Senate floor vote. It would pay $15 million to the two daughters of a man killed on a San Bernardino freeway last year after he was rear-ended by a CalFire employee driving 70 mph in a state vehicle. Most of the money will be placed in trusts for the man's two daughters, who were ages 4 and 7 when he died.

The balance of the money in AB 234 covers a personal injury settlement with a motorcyclist who collided with a state car driven by a Department of Public Health employee on a San Leandro street. The motorcyclist was left paralyzed from the chest down as a result of the 2011 accident.

A mediator found that both parties were equally at fault: The state employee failed to yield to an oncoming driver. The motorcyclist was speeding. State attorneys negotiated a $5.75 million settlement, with 40 percent of the money earmarked to buy an annuity that will pay for the injured man's medical care.

Taken with a $15.6 million payout a few months ago, the state has settled three cases totaling more than $36 million. Paying the money from the state insurance account would threaten its viability, according to the bill analysis, so lawmakers are dipping into the general fund to pay the bills.

It's not an unusual move for big-ticket settlements, but the number and size of them this year is unusual, according to the bill's analyses.

PHOTO: freephoto.com

August 26, 2013
Law enforcement officers' union agrees to new contract

Another union has reached a tentative contract agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown.

This time it's the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association agreeing to a three-year deal that includes a 3 percent raise for all 7,000 state workers it represents, a diverse group of employees who do everything from protecting state lands and property to issuing licenses and permits and conducting investigations. Some arrest people.

The across-the board raise takes effect July 1, 2015. Hospital police officers and peace officers working in state developmental centers get an additional 4.67 percent raise effective July 1, 2015 on top of general raise.

Unlike many contracts negotiated with the Brown administration, the raises come in the last year of the agreement, so there's no "trigger" provision for delaying the increase if the state's financial projections are down.

Like other agreements, the contract brings employees' pension contributions in line with new public pension law requiring workers split the normal costs of their retirements with their employers.

Police officer/fire fighter members will contribute 13 percent of their pensionable pay for wages earned July 1, 2014 and beyond, with workers in the state safety category contributing 11 percent starting the same date.

Miscellaneous and industrial workers will continue paying their current rate of 8 percent toward retirement.

The administration estimates the deal will add $32.1 million in total costs to the state budget, assuming the Legislature and union rank and file OK it.

Here's the Department of Human Resources summary:

August 26, 2013
Employment Development Department staff told to look for work

edd-office.jpgAs they grapple with a severe federal funding cutback, Employment Development Department staff have been told that they need to look for work.

The news came in an internal memo from EDD Chief Deputy Director Sharon Hilliard earlier this month that employees forwarded to The State Worker. A department spokeswoman verified the authenticity of the memo and said that downsizing will eventually affect some customer services.

Hilliard said the Congressional sequestration spending reductions and ongoing underfunding of the Unemployment Insurance program by the federal government translates into a more than $150 million budget shortfall for the department through June 2015.

"While we have been faced with such shortfalls before in the EDD's history, never has our shortfall been so large," Hilliard said in the memo. In response, the department is doing everything from cutting phone service hours and moving staff to more dependably-funded programs to squeezing operational spending and limiting overtime.

"With less federal money available to support staffing in UI programs, we strongly encourage staff to explore other employment opportunities within EDD that don't rely on UI funding," Hilliard's memo says, "such as Disability Insurance and Workforce Services, or with other state agencies."

With the economy recovering from the recession, demand for unemployment benefits is coming down, said EDD spokeswoman Patti Roberts. In the second quarter of 2013, UI claim numbers decreased 37 percent compared to the same three-month stretch at the height of the recession in 2010. (Demand is still 116 percent higher than the same period in pre-recession 2007.)

"And when you couple that with an unprecedented shortfall in our federal UI funding," Roberts said, "we have a situation where we cannot maintain staffing levels and services to the point needed to keep up with demand."

EDD's call center workers have been answering more calls and hold times have been declining, owing to a reorganization of the department's business operation, "however, over time we anticipate call center service levels to decrease given EDD continues to lose staff every day," she said in an email, "and will not be backfilling positions given the UI funding shortfall."

Here's Hilliard's memo:

August 24, 2013
California correctional officers' union reaches tentative contract

110520_Jimenez.JPGCaifornia's state prison officers will receive a 4 percent pay raise and earn overtime more easily under the terms of a tentative agreement reached with Gov. Jerry Brown.

The deal also allows the state to continue reassigning staff to cover vacancies and reduces the length of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's academy training.

"We feel that the deal that was agreed on was a fair and equitable deal that is reflective of the way the bargaining process should work," California Correctional Peace Officers Association spokesman JeVaughn Baker said in a telephone interview. "Both parties made some concessions, and both parties gained in the process as well."

CCPOA leadership met in Sacramento today and unanimously voted to send the deal to its 30,000 rank-and-file members for a ratification vote. The two-year contract would expire in July 2015 if approved by members and the Legislature.

Costs of the agreement aren't yet available. A phone message seeking comment from Brown's Department of Human Resources, which negotiates contracts with the unions representing state employees, was not immediately returned this afternoon.

Among the agreement's provisions, according to Baker:

August 23, 2013
Operating engineers union reaches labor deal with Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown and the International Union of Operating Engineers have reached a two-year tentative agreement that boosts the pay of workers in Bargaining Unit 12 by at least 3 percent.

The deal, which must be approved by The Legislature and voting union members among the 11,000 or so workers covered by it, provides a one-time $1,200 bonus on July 1, 2014 and a 3 percent raise on July 1, 2015 contingent on projected state revenues sufficient to cover it. If the Brown administration determines that revenues aren't sufficient for the bonus and the raise next year, then the pay his back one year and increased to 3.25 percent with no bonus.

The tentative contract doesn't apply to IUOE-represented workers in Bargaining Unit 13. It also doesn't address raises that the Brown administration gave to State Water Project workers such as water and power dispatchers who have been routinely picked off by better-paying utilities. (We've posted detailed breakdowns of those pay hikes below.)

Here's the summary of the Bargaining Unit 12 deal:

August 23, 2013
From the notebook: CalPERS dependent verification project data

Thumbnail image for CALPERS_COURTYARD_JAY_MATHER_2005.JPGOur story in today's fiber/cyber Bee looks at the particulars of CalPERS Dependent Eligibility Verification project, the massive two-year audit of the fund's health insurance rolls to weed out people incorrectly receiving benefits via state and local government plans.

During our reporting for the story we asked CalPERS for data showing the numbers, by state department, for subscribers who took advantage of the three-month amnesty period and voluntarily disenrolled ineligible dependents who were on their plans. You can view the data here.

The tables show the number of employees, retirees and survivors who switched from plans covering two people to plans covering one person, from family plans to two-person plans and so forth. The data does not include amnesty responses by local government agency or school district subscribers.

Thanks to CalPERS information officer Bill Madison III for quickly turning around our request.

CalPERS also has set up an extensive FAQ page covering who is and who isn't considered a dependent for purposes of health insurance coverage and why CalPERS is auditing the rolls.Click here to read it.

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

August 22, 2013
California high on list of highest-paid government employees

The U.S. Census Bureau has released its annual analysis of state- and local-government employee pay. California ranked near or at the top in 2011, depending on how you parse the numbers.

Dan Walters has more details on our sister blog, Capitol Alert. Here's the federal report below:

US Census Bureau 2011 Summary Report

August 20, 2013
Could Corrections, Caltrans move into infamous BOE tower?

JV STATE WINDOW WIDE.JPGSo let's all agree that the Board of Equalization needs a bigger building and should move out of its current downtown Sacramento headquarters, which has been plagued by bursting windows and mold. The state owns the building, widely recognized as a multi-million-dollar money pit, and is paying down bond debt for it.

It can't go empty indefinitely.

The Department of General Services has identified about a dozen departments, including DGS itself, that could need to find new digs and move into the 20-year-old, 500,000-square-foot office tower. Timing issues make make the list highly "speculative," according to a report prepared for a legislative hearing Tuesday.

And the prospective tenants are ...

August 20, 2013
Lawmakers to hold hearing on Board of Equalization move

An Assembly budget subcommittee is holding an informational hearing this afternoon to talk over what it will take to move Board of Equalization headquarters out of the troubled downtown Sacramento tower it currently occupies.

The 24-story building at 450 N St. has a long history of structural problems, from leaking windows and burst water pipes to toxic mold and faulty elevators. BOE, which collects and administers a variety of California taxes, has spent $65 million so far on repairs and has long argued to get out of the building.

A board representative is among the speakers scheduled for today's hearing, along with representatives from the Department of General Services, which acts as the property's landlord, and SEIU Local 1000.

We've embedded a DGS report laying out the relocation issues. You can watch the 1:30 p.m. Assembly Budget Subcommittee On State Administration hearing by clicking here.

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 16, 2013
Feds delay ruling to withhold California's mass-transit funding

130816_light-rail-bridge-rnady-pench.jpgWith billions of mass-transit dollars at stake, the U.S. Department of Labor said today that it will delay ruling on whether California's new pension law violates a 49-year-old federal statute that ties the funds to collective bargaining rights.

A spokesman for the Labor Department confirmed this morning that federal officials are holding off on making any decisions for now while they continue talks with strong Gov. Jerry Brown's office to resolve the thorny issue.

Brown spokesman Jim Evans said in an email that the administration is "gratified" federal authorities are giving the state more time and that state officials "will continue to work closely with the federal government in an effort to resolve this issue."

California has more than 100 regional mass-transit agencies in the pipeline, $1.6 billion for this year alone. Earlier this month, however, U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez warned Brown that the department would begin withholding the funds because the state's new public pension law likely violates the collective bargaining rights of some 20,000 mass transit employees.

Federal law requires that the Labor Department certify that mass-transit grant recipients preserve their employees' collective representation. Mass-transit unions contend the pension law that took effect Jan. 1 has imposed terms on their members that should be bargained.

In a letter to Brown earlier this month, Perez signaled that he agrees with the unions and that a series of decisions could have come down as early as today to decertify one transit agency after another, which would block their federal funds.

Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has said the pension law merely sets a new framework for public pension bargaining but that it doesn't weaken collective bargaining itself.

A message left this morning with mass-transit union spokesman Barry Broad wasn't immediately returned.

PHOTO: In this January 2013 view looking east, the Blue Line bridge - under construction - loops over Cosumnes River Blvd. near Bruceville Road. A conflict between California's public pension law and federal mass-transit grant law has put funding for the project in jeopardy. The Saramento Bee/Randy Pench

August 15, 2013
State officials blame payroll debacle on contractor, other agency

130815-state-paychecks.jpgOfficials with the California State Controller's Office spent the better part of a three-hour hearing this afternoon explaining how their now-defunct project to overhaul the state payroll system fell victim to contracted vendors' shoddy work, poor evaluation guidelines and, in one instance, another department's insistence that the company's credentials couldn't be more deeply scrutinized.

The Senate budget subcommittee hearing, chaired by Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, also underscored how term limits and employee turnover in the talent-starved information technology industry give officials a measure of cover when long-term, multimillion-dollar computer projects crash.

August 15, 2013
Hearing scheduled for failed California state payroll tech project

130815-john-chiang.jpgA Senate budget and fiscal review subcommittee will hear testimony about the failed 21st Century/MyCalPays project today after the upper chamber adjourns its floor session.

The hearing follows a scathing assessment by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes that State Controller John Chiang's office issued positive reports about the payroll overhaul effort while officials behind the scenes warned that the IT project was failing.

Chiang's office has disputed the report's conclusions and blames the demise of 10-year, quarter-billion-dollar, two-time bust on the project's contractor, global tech firm SAP.

Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, chairs the subcommittee. Click here for an agenda with attachments and a list of speakers. Chiang is not on the list.

The California Channel has tentatively scheduled its live broadcast of the hearing for 1 p.m. Click here to watch via the Internet.

Related links:
California payroll overhaul vexed by complexity, poor oversight
California Controller John Chiang's response to critical report

PHOTO: John Chiang, California state controller, meets with The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Bureau in downtown Sacramento on Wednesday, July 14, 2010. 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:

August 12, 2013
California Controller John Chiang's response to critical report

In a battle of dueling reports, State Controller John Chiang's office has released what it's calling "a preliminary internal review" of the twice-failed payroll overhaul program that shut down in February after 10 years and a quarter-million dollars spent.

The controller's assessment counters a damning review by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes that says the state couldn't manage the project, lacked the wherewithal to change an ossified bureaucratic culture and fed glowing reports to the Legislature even as the program was in crisis.

The report from Chiang's office blames the structure of the contract with the vendor, inadequate state procurement law at the time and a host of testing and communication failures by that vendor, SAP.

"The SCO believes SAP failed because it was not committed to the same objectives as the State," the report says.

Chiang spokesman Jacob Roper sent an email with the report, citing dozens of occasions in the last few years that department staff met with lawmakers and state oversight agencies about the project.

The Senate report's characterization that staff hid the project's struggles "appears to be driven by the report's over-reliance on the SCO quarterly reports," Roper said in the email, "without taking into account other forms of information sharing that were constantly and regularly taking place between the Legislature and the SCO."

Chiang has said he supports an independent review of the project.

August 12, 2013
California payroll overhaul vexed by complexity, poor oversight

20111102_ha_JoHN_CHIANG0365-AMEZCUA.JPGController John Chiang's office spun an upbeat message about efforts to overhaul the state's aging payroll system for years, while behind the scenes the massive IT project was in disarray, according to a new state analysis released this morning.

The report by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes this morning concludes that officials running the now-defunct 21st Century/MyCalPays project kept pouring money into the program despite clear and early warnings from insiders that the program was foundering on many levels:

"These basic, core problems included the state's payroll complexity, data conversion, staff vacancies, organizational change management (the process of teaching and selling the new system to existing staff), the absence of a quality assurance team, and an inability to stay on schedule ..."

The report is the first official public post-mortem on the 10-year, quarter-billion-dollar twice-failed effort to modernize the state's payroll system. Chiang inherited the project from his predecessor, former State Controller Steve Westly.

Senate investigators examined the program from the state management side and concluded that cultural resistance to change also hampered the project. For example, some departments -- "CalFire, the State Water Resources Control Board, Caltrans and, surprisingly, the California Technology Agency" - fell behind schedule for adopting the payroll management system, the report notes.

Meanwhile official updates to the Legislature "often lacked candor, sugar-coating some problems and ignoring others. This failure to be transparent compromised legislative oversight and stymied accountability."

A message left with Chiang's office was not immediately returned this morning.

The oversight report's release comes ahead of a Thursday hearing that Sen. Richard Roth's Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee will be conducting on the 21st Century Project.

August 9, 2013
California state health professionals union reaches labor deal

Jerry_Brown_HJA3698.JPGGov. Jerry Brown and the union representing state health and social services workers have reached a tentative agreement that includes an 8 percent raise for two job classifications, a 3 percent increase for the rest and assurances that the state will consider further hikes for a a handful of jobs.

The deal with AFSCME Local 2620, like contracts recently negotiated with SEIU Local 1000 and the state psychiatric technicians' union, covers three fiscal years ending July 2016.

And, like those agreements, the timing of the proposed pay hikes depends on the Brown administration's assessment of state government finances next year.

The Brown administration hasn't yet completed its cost analysis. A message left with AFSCME senior business agent Cliff Tillman wasn't immediately returned.

August 9, 2013
California IT snapshot: The big kahuna of tech projects? FI$Cal

When it comes to finances, California's vast state government often operates like dozens of smaller governments. Many use separate computer systems developed many years ago -- decades, even -- to handle everything from payroll and procurement to caseload management and document tracking. The systems aren't uniform, which can make even the most basic tasks such as paying employees and vendors complex and labor intensive.

Those limitations also slow big-picture budgeting and business planning. The state's big-picture solution:

Name: Financial Information System for California (FI$Cal)
Department: Department of Finance
Estimated total cost: $617 million
Amount spent to date: $122 million
Percent of project complete: 15 percent
Time frame: July 2005 - July 2017 (11.9 years)

What is it? A financial system for the entire state that will track all departments' purchases of goods and services as well as keeping track of all bids and grant processes.

The official line: "This project will replace the state's aging and non-integrated financial systems with a single comprehensive financial application supporting the state's fiscal and policy decision processes. The proposed solution is to implement an Enterprise Resource Planning application that will meet the state's budget, accounting, and some procurement needs. The solution will also address various fiscal information needs of the Legislature."

Current red flags reported: "106 out of 265 milestones were missed for the month of June. None of these were on the project's critical path."

This is the final installment in a series of posts looking at California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects as listed on the Department of Technology's website.

August 8, 2013
Personnel panel grills Corrections lawyer on services contract

100602 yolo county gavel.jpgIf the 50-minute spanking disguised as a State Personnel Board hearing Thursday was any indication, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will again be on the losing side of an outsourcing contract dispute.

And this may be just the beginning.

Members of the State Personnel Board spent nearly all of their time at the hearing grilling Scott Wyckoff, the supervising deputy attorney general who defended CDCR's $6 million, three-year contract with Williams & Associates to handle inmate lawsuits against the state. (Our Thursday column lays out the arguments for and against the contract.)

It didn't help Wyckoff's case that the agreement in question was entered into just weeks after the board deemed a similar $5 million deal to be illegal. That first contract, "Williams I," expired in mid-2012, and "Williams II" started the next day. Taken together, CDCR's deal with the firm runs up to six years and up to $11 million, despite the personnel board's earlier disapproval.

State law requires that whenever an agency determines it needs to contract for outside legal counsel, it must notify the state lawyer's union, California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges, and Hearing Officers in State Employment, also called CASE. It's a check on runaway contracting and a layer of protection for civil service.

During the back-and-forth with the panel, Wyckoff mentioned that the department had other contracts with other law firms. When asked by board member Lauri Shanahan for details -- how many other law firms are under contract or their cost -- Wyckoff couldn't say.

"I don't know the answer to that," Wyckoff said. "Perhaps CASE ..."

Board president Patricia Clarey then turned to CASE attorney Patrick Whalen and asked what was the toughest question posed to him during the hearing: "Can you offer some thought on that?"

"I was shocked to learn today of other cases out there beyond Williams & Associates," Whalen said. "There may well be future challenges if we can find out (more) about them."

The board is expected to render a decision in a month or so.

PHOTO: www.yolocourts.ca.gov

August 8, 2013
California IT snapshot: Tax agency going web-user friendly

Californians filed nearly 15.7 million personal income tax returns to the state Franchise Tax Board last year, translating into more $50 billion for the state's coffers.

Now the agency is working on a new IT system to streamline operations and make dealing with the agency more like handling an online bank account:

Name: Enterprise Data to Revenue Project
Department: Franchise Tax Board
Estimated total cost: $522 million
Amount spent to date: $153 million
Percent of project complete: 35 percent
Time frame: July 2008 - July 2017 (8 years)

What is it? A new system to file and electronically validate state tax documents. It will also allow filers to submit taxes online, make payments and view previous tax returns.

The official line: "This project is a major enterprise wide solution that will introduce a business process management system for the filing of tax returns in conjunction with expanded data capture of tax documents, enhanced validation of tax return information. The EDR will reduce the 'tax gap' and is anticipated to increase revenue up to $1 billion annually upon implementation."

Current red flags reported: None

This is the ninth in a series of daily posts looking at California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects as listed on the Department of Technology's website.

August 8, 2013
Column Extra: Rationales for and against prison legal contract

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

Today's State Worker column filters the debate over state outsourcing through a contract dispute scheduled for a hearing this morning before the State Personnel Board. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is asking the board to reverse its earlier ruling that a $6 million outsourcing agreement for legal services should be voided.

You can watch the 10 a.m. hearing via SPB's website. We expect the contract debate between CDCR and the state attorney's union to start around 11 a.m. or so. Here are the arguments filed with the board in advance of the hearing:

August 7, 2013
California IT snapshot: Los Angeles County's welfare project

For years, California has determined who qualifies for public assistance via three separate computer systems that each cover about one-third of the state's population base. State officials plan within the next four years to upgrade the one that handles Los Angeles County cases.

Another 39 mostly rural counties that provide benefits via the C4Yourself system will eventually migrate to the new Los Angeles Eligibility, Automated Determination, Evaluation and Reporting System, leaving the state with just two programs for managing government aid eligibility. (The other system, CalWIN, services 18 counties, most of them along populous coastal regions as well as Fresno, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties.)

Government officials have said that the old Los Angeles system is inadequate. A 2011 letter from federal welfare authorities said it "runs on unsupported hardware and is expensive to maintain." Changes in federal health care law add another layer of complexity.

A look at the new system in the works:

Name: Los Angeles Eligibility, Automated Determination, Evaluation and Reporting Replacement System
Department: Health and Human Services Agency
Estimated total cost: $476 million
Amount spent to date: $14 million
Percent of project complete: 8 percent
Time frame: July 2005 - July 2017 (11.3 years)

What is it? An updated IT system for Los Angeles County to manage public assistance services, including CalWORKs, the CalFresh food program and others.

The official line: "The CDSS proposes to replace the existing Los Angeles Eligibility, Automated Determination, Evaluation and Reporting automated welfare system with newer technology. The new system will determine eligibility and benefits for a variety of public assistance programs for Los Angeles County."

Current red flags reported: None.

This is the eighth in a series of daily posts highlighting California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects as listed on the Department of Technology's website.

August 6, 2013
California IT snapshot: Medi-Cal payment-system overhaul

The Department of Health Care Services, through a contract with Xerox. services more than 8.5 million Medi-Cal recipients. Each day it processes roughly 830,000 health provider claims. Weekly payments run at about $325 million for everything from doctors' exams to prescription refills.

Ronald Reagan was in his first presidential term when the department's current IT system launched. A look at what's coming to replace it and when:

Name: California Medicaid Management Information System
Department: Department of Health Care Services
Estimated total cost: $459 million (majority of cost covered by federal funds)
Budgeted for 2013-14: $193 million ($140 million is funded through federal financial participation, and the remaining $53 million is state General Funds).
Amount spent to date: $108 million
Project complete: 12 percent
Estimated time frame: July 2009 - July 2018 (7.6 years)

What is it? Replaces a 30-year-old system that sends out payments for goods and services rendered under Medi-Cal, the state's version of the federal Medicaid program.

The official line: "This service contract processes payments to health care providers of the Medi-Cal fee-for-service program, including physicians, pharmacies, hospitals and other providers under a new Fiscal Intermediary and includes replacement of the legacy system."

Current red flags reported: None

This is the seventh in a series of daily posts looking at California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects as listed on the Department of Technology's website.

August 5, 2013
California psych techs' contract adds a total $39 million in costs

mac_taylor.JPGCalifornia's state psychiatric technicians' new tentative contract, which includes an across-the-board pay raise, increases the state's cost for their service by a total $39 million over three years, according to Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor's office.

Assuming approval by the Legislature and the union rank-and-file, the agreement pushes nearly all of the increases into the last two years of the three-year deal. For example, the Brown administration has the option to split the proposed 4.25 percent pay hike between fiscal 2014-15 and fiscal 2015-16 or to defer the whole thing until fiscal 2015-16 if the state's finances warrant it.

Local 1000, the first union to reach a deal, is receiving a cumulative 4.5 percent raise with the same deferral terms.

The raises for about 5,000 employees represented by the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians will account for $15.4 million, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office report released Friday.

Increased employer contributions to health insurance will add another $14.1 million over the life of the agreement. Those contributions will roughly equal 80 percent of the premiums' cost. The contract also reduces waiting times to one year for employees to add dependents to medical coverage, a $200,000 state cost increase that starts in 2015-16, the analyst says.

The association's contract also calls for an increase in travel reimbursement rates and evening and night shift differentials. Neither add much to the state's employee costs -- about $400,000 over the life of the contract.

The shift differential money doesn't count toward pension calculations. Under the expired contract, it did. A new trend?

For context, salaries for state employees under the governor's authority will cost an estimated $15.3 billion this year. That figure doesn't include benefits.

Here's the LAO's review of the CAPT contract:

August 5, 2013
California IT snapshot: Case management for in-home care

Two departments in California's Health and Human Services Agency oversee programs that pay out $4 billion annually for in-home services to the elderly. The computer system they use for assigning those payments and tracking some 400,000 cases statewide is 25 years old.

Here's what the state is bringing in to replace it:

Name: Case Management, Information and Payrolling System II
Agency: Health and Human Services Agency
Estimated cost: $424 million
Amount spent to date: $222 million
Percent of project complete: 41 percent
Time frame: 1999-2000 to 2013-2014 (14 years)

What is it? A payroll- and case-tracking system for California's in-home care programs.

The official line:"The CDSS proposes to replace the existing legacy Case Management, Information and Payrolling System (CMIPS I) that handles case management and payrolling services for caregivers providing In-Home Supportive Services for qualified aged, blind, and disabled individuals. CMIPS II will employ newer technology, improve system stability and provide data integration with the California Medicaid Management Information System. The legacy CMIPS has been in production since 1973, utilizes outdated technology, and lacks adequate system documentation."

Current red flags reported: None

This is the sixth in a series of daily posts looking at California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects as listed on the Department of Technology's website.

August 2, 2013
California IT snapshot: The prison management system

California's far-flung prison and parole agency for decades has used dozens of separate computer and paper systems to do business, from tracking inmates to keeping records.

An overview of the new Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's computer system to streamline its operations:

Name: Strategic Offender Management System
Department: Corrections and Rehabilitation
Estimated total cost: $416 million
Amount spent to date: $243 million
Percent of project complete: 76.12 percent
Estimated time frame: 2007-2008 to 2012-2013 (5.7 years)

What is it? An electronic prison population management system that replaces multiple old electronic and paper database systems.

The official line:"The California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) proposes to replace or integrate almost all existing manual or automated offender management systems and extend system availability to 9,400 new users. The new consolidated system will provide one source for reliable and instant data to the CDCR staff who require it to manage the inmate population."

Current red flags reported: None

The Department expects incremental project schedule changes will be approved by the state in its latest report.

This is the fifth in a series of daily posts looking at California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects as listed on the Department of Technology's website.

July 31, 2013
California IT snapshot: The failed state payroll overhaul

After test runs failed miserably, state Controller John Chiang earlier this year suspended plans to shift the state's patchwork employee payroll system into a single, nimble program.

But the Human Resources Management System -- dubbed "MyCalPays" and, before that, the "21st Century Project" -- remains on the Department of Technology's tracking list, so we're including it as No. 8 on our list of California's 10 most-expensive IT projects:

Name: Human Resources Management System
Department: State Controller' s Office
Total estimated cost: $ 371 million
Amount spent: Roughly $250 million
Percent of project complete: NA
Estimated time frame: 2003-2004 to 2012-2013 (8.7 years)

What was it supposed to do? Replace the state payroll system that has been paying employees since the Vietnam War era.

The official line: "The State Controller's Office proposes to design, develop and implement an integrated HRMS/Payroll system, called MyCalPAYS in order to modernize the State of California payroll system that pays approximately 294,000 employees."

Red flags: Pilot program launch had numerous errors including under- and over-paying employees, taking incorrect deductions and making late payments.

This is the third installment in a series of daily posts looking at California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects as listed on the Department of Technology's website.

July 30, 2013
California IT snapshot: Board of Equalization's system upgrade

As the state's business tax and fee collector, the Board of Equalization takes in more than $53.7 billion annually. The agency recently put out a call for bids on a massive computer system overhaul, which ranks No. 9 on our list of California's 10 largest state government IT projects.

The tale of the tape:

Name: Centralized Revenue Opportunity System
Department: State Board of Equalization
Total Estimated Cost: $269 million
Amount spent to date: $7 million
Percent of project complete: Not available. The project is 45 percent through its procurement phase.
Time frame: July 2010 - July 2020 (10 years)

What is it? CROS will centralize the functions of old systems to make business registrations, filing and tax collections more efficient. It will also improve fraud detection.

The official line: "BOE proposes, using a benefit based procurement approach, to replace and combine the functions of the Integrated Revenue Information System (IRIS) and Automated Collection Management System (ACMS), implement data warehouse/reporting capabilities and expand e-services to tax and fee payers. The proposed system will increase tax and fee revenues by improving data collection, access to data and sharing of data for improved business efficiencies."

Red flags: The project is having trouble filling vacancies, which is why it is running under budget. State workers are performing much of the work.

Editor's Note, 3:35 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 2013: This post has been updated. The original story reflected numbers taken from the "Total Percent Complete" section of the California Department of Technology's Project Status Report as submitted by the State Board of Equalization. However, the report only reflected the total percentage complete for the procurement phase of the project, not for the entire project. The Department of Technology and the Board of Equalization are updating the project's status report to reflect the project's current total percent completed. The project's time frame was extended until fiscal year 2020 in the project's Request for Proposal on July 1.

This is the second in a series of daily posts looking at California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects according to the Department of Technology.

July 23, 2013
Two California state workers charged with taking bribes

Two state workers have been arrested for taking allegedly bribes -- including money orders and vacations -- in a office-supply fraud scheme that investigators say defrauded Caltrans and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A complaint by California Attorney General Kamala Harris claims that Michael Mathison, the 50-year-old owner of Veteran Toner Services, gave inflated office-supply quotes to the the departments along with ginned-up bids from bogus "competitors" at even higher rates.

The San Pedro-based company's website describes the business as "a small service toner organization driven to find the lowest price on quality product for our customers." A person who sounded like a man hung up without comment Tuesday afternoon when reached by telephone.

The attorney general's Bureau of Investigation launched its probe after receiving an anonymous tip in April 2012. It alleges Fish and Wildlife employee Stephanie Clark of Fair Oaks, 42, took bribes totaling $23,800 over the course of five years. including a Disneyland vacation trip and more than 50 postal money orders deposited to her bank account, in return for ordering overpriced supplies from Mathison.

It's not yet clear how much the alleged scam cost the department. Investigators sampled 13 of more than 200 Fish and Wildlife office supply purchase orders to Mathison's firm and found about $50,000 in inflated charges to the department, about $3,850 per invoice. If the average holds true as the state continues its review of Fish and Wildlife orders, the fraudulent charges could surpass three-quarters of a million dollars.

The complaint also alleges that Yuba City resident Danny Gray Compson, 62, submitted Caltrans invoices worth as much as $5,000 per week to be paid, but he never received the product from Mathison.

Clark was booked into Sacramento County Jail and Compson went to Sutter County Jail, with bail for each set at $75,000. Mathison was taken to the Los Angeles County Jail. His bail was set at $250,000. The charges against the trio include bribery, conspiracy and misappropriation of state funds.

Mathison and Clark could facing well over 20 years in prison, said attorney general spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill. Compson faces five years in prison on current charges, but the complaint will likely be amended based on further evidence.

Both state employees could be fined up to $10,000 each for taking bribes. All three will be ordered to pay restitution, an amount that officials have yet to tally while the investigation continues, Gledhill said.

California Attorney General's Complaint by jon_ortiz

July 17, 2013
Jay Leno previews CHP's Ford Explorer, drives vintage cruiser

"The Tonight Show" host and car enthusiast Jay Leno recently posted an online preview of the new CHP Ford Explorer and reviews of five classic cars the department has deployed over the years.

CHP Capt. Matt Guthrie goes through the Explorer's features with Leno while former Commissioner Spike Helmick talks about the old days and the old cars.

The Explorer's "police interceptor package" sports a 3.7-liter, V6 engine with 300 horsepower. It goes from zero to 60 in 7.8 seconds, and its top speed meets the CHP's specs in the 122 mph to 128 mph range. And no, Joe Citizen can't buy it.

Some of the current Crown Vics have 200,000 miles on them, Guthrie said, but the CHP is running the cars until the Explorer comes off production in the coming weeks.

Midway into the 12-minute mark, Leno and Helmick jump into a vintage Dodge Polara and take it for a spin.

July 16, 2013
University of California, AFSCME contract talks deadlocked

130716-AFSCME_UC_REGENTS_Protest.JPGDespite more than a year of bargaining, a two-day strike and union accusations that its medical facilities are understaffed and poorly managed, the University of California's contract talks for its 15,000 hospital workers remain deadlocked.

Now the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 says it's prepared to make concessions on pensions, including higher contributions from all workers and later retirement ages for future hires, but it wants the UC to hire more hospital employees and cap high-end pensions.

July 12, 2013
Blog Back: The CalPERS pension database

130711-blog-back.JPGBlog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

News this week that CalPERS planned to launch a retiree pension database on its website -- and then delay it -- drew hundreds of comments on this blog and on Thursday's more expansive news story. A sampling:

July 8 CalPERS to disclose retiree pensions on website

Shame on CalPERS Board and its executive staff for deciding it wasn't important to first notify its retirees. Posting online retiree names, pension amounts and their last employer is not the problem. CalPERS has decided to give out more information than what is released about active state employees. You are creating a serious security issue for elderly retirees.

Since CalPERS wants to be transparent, it should include in that online database 1) the employee names, positions and the amounts of the bonuses of those who receive those bonuses; 2) the names, positions, and pension amounts of those who received $10,000 or more final comp due to a bonus and/or a large leave credit when they retired; and 3) the names, positions, and pay of those employees who retire and are rehired as retired annuitants and consultants. Taxpayers should know that senior managers are the lucky recipients in all three groups.

At least one retiree group knew about the database. Check out page 7 in the July edition of the California State Retirees' newsletter.

July 9, 2013
Poll: Weigh in on CalPERS' online pension database plan

Our cyber/fiber report on the CalPERS plan to launch a searchable database of retiree pension information that is considered public information has prompted plenty of response, particularly from pensioners who object to the idea.

We've received several calls and emails today from outraged CalPERS members who are certain that their privacy will be violated, that they will be more vulnerable to predators who target the elderly.

The courts have determined that the information CalPERS said it will put online is public record. The fund has answered requests for the information for several years. The difference now is that it will be more easily accessed via the Internet. For those who advocate for government transparency, the CalPERS database is a step forward. But for the people who have contacted us during the last two days, it's a step or two backward.

What do you think?

July 2, 2013
What California state workers earn: Doctors and dentists

RDB090.JPG By Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

Licensed medical staff are generally among the highest paid state employees, so it's no surprise the members of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists earned more on average than any other group of rank-and-file employees in 2011 and 2012.

Last year, for example, UAPD members' median wage of $229,000 more than doubled the $106,000 median paid to the runner-up group, state legal employees such as attorneys and administrative law judges.

The numbers:

June 19, 2013
California Legislature approves money for state jobs website

130620-jobs-header.JPGDespite a slight procedural speed bump, lawmakers signed off on giving $821,000 to the Department of Human Resources to upgrade the state's jobs website.

Funding for the Examination and Certification Online System overhaul was included in Assembly Bill 110, the main budget bill, with the provision that the department make quarterly progress reports to the Legislature.

The department plans to absorb most of the $10 million project's cost by using in-house tech staff who will finish the work by mid-2017. Some lawmakers expressed skepticism at a May budget subcommittee hearing and voted against funding the program because it would come in at twice the cost and two years later than its original $4.7 million estimate with completion by August 2015.

RELATED:
The State Worker: Small project a big test for California's government tech skills

IMAGE: www.jobs.ca.gov. California Department of Human Resources/June 20, 2013

June 18, 2013
CalPERS committee unveils health premium rates for 2014

CALPERS_COURTYARD_JAY_MATHER_2005.JPGA CalPERS committee today recommended 2014 health insurance rates that collectively increase premiums by 3.03 percent, the lowest benefit increase since 1998.

The Pension and Health Benefits Committee's recommendations include an average increase of nearly 6 percent for some plans while lowering prices for some Medicare coverages by almost 9 percent.

Premiums for the fund's Basic HMO coverage will increase by a combined average 3.81 percent next year while Medicare HMO plans will see a 5.76 percent hike.

The cost of CalPERS' Basic preferred provider organization plans will increase by an average 2.51 percent next year. Medicare PPOrates will fall an average 8.7 percent.

Premiums for health plans covering Highway Patrol officers, correctional officers and other law enforcement personnel are set to increase by an average 5.98 percent for the basic plans and 2.22 percent for Medicare coverages.

The fund's full Board of Administration will vote on the 2014 premium schedules on Wednesday. If approved, the new rates take effect Jan. 1, 2014

The system spends $7 billion annually on health care and its 2013 premiums rose an average of 9.6 percent over last year, the biggest rate hike in years.

Earlier this year in an effort to hold down costs, CalPERS ended Blue Shield of California's virtual monopoly of the fund's HMO business. Next year, Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net, Sharp and United Health Care will get some of the 400,000 or so members who have HMO coverage through the fund.

These links provide more details about today's news:

June 17, 2013
California finance director will decide when state raises kick in

matosantos.jpgState workers, welcome to the back of the line.

The tentative agreement covering 95,000 state employees represented by SEIU Local 1000 includes a 4.5 percent raise spread over two years starting in mid-2014.

But the deal includes a contingency that puts employee pay raises below the state's other obligations and leaves it to the finance director, currently Ana Matosantos, to make the decision.

Here's the caveat in the Local 1000 tentative agreement posted online last week:

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:

June 13, 2013
Read Delaware court ruling ordering CalPERS to pay $52 million

CalPERS has lost a lawsuit over fees it owes a former real estate investment partner. A Delware court, The Bee's Dale Kasler reports, has ordered the fund pay $52 million.

Here's the court ruling for State Worker blog users who want to delve into the technical details. (We know who you are, Bargaining Unit 2 people!)

Senior Housing Capital, LLC v. SHP Senior Housing Fund, LLC 5 13 13

June 11, 2013
SEIU Local 1000 says tentative labor agreement includes raises

20120620_HA_WALKER0083.JPGThe state's largest public employees union says it bargained a new contract with Gov. Jerry Brown that includes an across-the-board pay raise of 4.5 percent over 3 years.

The contract, which must be ratified by voting members of the 95,000-employee of SEIU Local 1000, provides either a 2 percent raise July 1, 2014 and a 2.5 percent raise a year later if the state "achieves certain revenue targets," according to an early-morning union email announcing the deal.

If the state misses the revenue targets, the entire 4.5 percent increase would be effective July 1, 2015.

The announcement, emailed this morning around 5 a.m., doesn't detail the revenue thresholds for the pay increases. A spokeswoman for Brown's Department of Human Resources could not be immediately reached for comment.

The agreement falls short of the pay increases that local negotiators wanted: an across-the-board $2,500 bonus this year for all 95,000 state employees covered by Local 1000, followed by a 7 percent salary increase in 2014 and 9 percent boost the following year.

After talks stalled last week, Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker said "the fight is on" over money.

PHOTO: SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker. Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 10, 2013
California state government selling off Silicon Valley acreage

130610-3500-Zanker-Agnews-Campus-Slide1-940x360.jpgThe state has hung the "for sale" sign on an 81-acre parcel in San Jose once occupied by Agnews Developmental Center.

According to the Department of General Services, the 3500 Zanker Rd. property includes approximately 49 structures and 586 trees within a short distance of highways 101, 880 and 237.

Agnews opened in the 1888. California's 2003-04 budget called for closing the facility, and in 2009 the last residents moved out. The Agnews campus continued to provide outpatient clinic services until 2011, when it officially closed and was handed over to general services. Over the last few years, the state has sold two other campus parcels totaling nearly 400 acres.

PHOTO: An aerial view outlines the 82-acre parcel of the former Agnews Developmental Center now up for sale at 3500 Zanker Rd. in San Jose. Department of General Services/www.3500zanker.com

June 7, 2013
Event to highlight equal opportunity employment issues

Mark your calendars: The California Department of Human Resources and several employee groups are hosting a conference next week to focus on equal employment opportunity issues in state government.

The California Civil Rights Officers Council, the Statewide Disability Advisory Council in collaboration with the Civil Rights Coalition of the Asian Pacific State Employees Association are co-hosting the event Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1500 Capitol Ave. in Sacramento. Admission is free.

Scheduled speakers include Yvonne Walker, president of SEIU Local 1000; CalHR Director Julie Chapman; former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso; California NAACP President Alice Huffman and Democratic Assemblyman Roger Hernandez of West Covina.

CalHR EEO Conference Brochure

June 7, 2013
California board will audit executive jobs filled by retirees

130606-SPB-logo.jpegThe State Personnel Board has decided to begin auditing the practice of retired annuitants getting career executive assignments.

The decision, announced at the board's meeting this week, falls shy of what the Coalition of State Advocate Groups and Organizations wanted, namely a full hearing into the policy reported in an April investigation by The Bee.

The coalition says that appointing retired annuitants as CEAs breaches state policy, overpays the retirees for the work they actually perform and fosters cronyism. Since the personnel board exists to watchdog state government's civil-service merit system, the group asked the five-member panel to hold a hearing.

While the personnel board has a part in authorizing new career executive positions, it doesn't control retiree hiring policy. That's the California Department of Human Resource's job (and CalHR as of last month had two retirees appointed to CEA positions).

Board chairwoman Patricia Clarey read this statement into the record Tuesday:

June 3, 2013
States get into the mobile app game

130603-apple-samsung--phones.JPGStates are rolling out mobile applications that do everything from touting tourism to assisting with tax payments.

Stateline's Melissa Maynard recently reported on the phenomenon and linked to a National Association of State Chief Information Officers site that catalogs 160 or so apps from around the nation.

The most common mobile programs connect users with their state's motor vehicles agency or provide state parks' information. Many help voters locate polling places or look up contact information for their elected officials.

Other apps are more tourism- and business-minded. "Delaware Fresh," gives users an interactive map that shows more than 80 farm stands and markets in the state.

And New York promotes its lottery with the "Yo-Yolanda" app. The Apple App Store description:

Spin your yo-yo like a New Yorker with Yo-Yolanda Vega! This yo-yo application from The New York Lottery shows you how to perform iconic tricks like The Brooklyn Bridge, Lady Liberty, The Niagara Fall and The Perfect Slice. The more tricks you master, the more points you get. NY Lottery announcer Yolanda Vega will be there to cheer you on. And after you're an ace with the yo-yo, you can check the NY Lottery winning numbers to see if you've really hit it big.

Please play responsibly. You must be 18 years or older to purchase a Lottery ticket.

PHOTO CREDIT: An Apple iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy. 2012 AP Photo / Ahn Young-joon

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

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

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

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

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

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

What impact will this have on the speed of negotiations?


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 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
New CalPERS letters detail long-term care rate hikes, options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

California Department of Human Resources Additional Appointments Memo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 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 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."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 5, 2013
California DMV recognized for social media innovation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 5, 2013
Read the Stockton bankruptcy hearing transcript

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

Click here to read Dan's column.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Maynard's story and then take our poll:


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

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

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

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

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

March 22, 2013
From the notebook: The State Athletic Commission's woes

NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgAs we reported in this post, the California State Athletic Commission is struggling financially after a long history of management miscues and other lapses. The problems are so long-lasting and severe that State Auditor Elaine Howle says lawmakers should consider winding it down and transferring its duties to the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Click here to read the auditor's report. This link will download a 2011 background paper prepared for the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development. The committee meets again on April 8 for another review.

We can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details, notes and quotes behind the news.

ILLUSTRATION CREDIT: Gabi Campanario / Seattle Times 2007

March 22, 2013
Cal EMA responds to State Worker report, changes postal policy

130322-calema-logo-horizontal-large1.jpgFollowing Thursday's State Worker column that the state's emergency management agency spent more to mail a collection letter to a former employee than the amount she owed, the agency is changing its certified mail policy immediately.

Kelly Huston, Cal EMA's assistant secretary of media relations, said spending $6.51 to certify a letter to Deena Mount for a $5 debt was "ridiculous."

From now on, the agency won't send certified letters for collections under $100, he said.

Mount, a Cal EMA employee until 2010 who now works for the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, received notice last week that she owed the money for a 2007 travel-expense overpayment.

It's not clear why the agency took six years to catch up with the debt. Agency officials on Wednesday couldn't find any records of prior correspondence to Mount about the matter.

"There's a reasonable way to handle these things," Huston said. "The way we did it in her case was not reasonable."

IMAGE CREDIT: www.calema.ca.gov

March 21, 2013
Auditor says CA athletic commission needs to change or go

PK_GLADIATOR 416.JPGThe commission that regulates boxing, mixed martial arts and similar sporting events has been so badly managed for so long that it's time to think about axing it, a new audit released this morning says.

The State Athletic Commission has mismanaged its finances, failed to document facility and equipment safety inspections, mishandled revenue collections from promoters and bungled boxers' pension payments. according to State Auditor Elaine Howle.

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 19, 2013
Audit: California courts' statewide financial report incomplete

130319-elaine-howle-2011-autumn-cruz.JPGA sampling of the business reports by the California court system's administrative body reveals some flaws in how local courts assigned contracts last year and reporting gaps in goods or services purchases, according to a report released this morning.

State Auditor Elaine Howle found that the Administrative Office of the Courts' financial report to the Legislature for the first half of 2012 contained "several instances where data in (the report) was inaccurate,"

The AOC is the business arm of the Judicial Counsel, which sets policy for the California's network of 58 county courts. By law, it gives lawmakers a financial report twice each year.

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 18, 2013
Assembly to vote on more money for Secretary of State staffing

130312_Perez_2010_amezcua.JPGThe Assembly will vote today on a measure that would give $2 million to Secretary of State Debra Bowen to quickly work down a backlog of business filings literally stacked up at her offices.

The money would pay for staff overtime and temporary help to handle the 122,000 or so documents -- most with filing-fee checks attached -- that are in a processing queue that averages six weeks. Other states take far less time, but they exploit online automation. California's system still uses paper and index cards.

After The Bee reported the delays, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said his chamber would move quickly to release more money for Bowen to hire and pay overtime and has encouraged the Senate to move just as expeditiously once the measure moves there.

Pérez also wants lawmakers to give Bowen an extra $8.9 million in 2013-14 to hire business filing staff with the goal of reducing the backlog to 5 business days by November. The secretary would then maintain that standard until a new computer system comes online in 2016.

Correction, 3:30 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the number of business documents awaiting action by the secretary of state's office.

PHOTO CREDIT: John A. Pérez during an Assembly floor discussion in 2010. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

March 14, 2013
From the notebook: Read Debra Bowen's letter to John A. Pérez

NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgThis week's Assembly budget subcommittee hearing into backlogged filings at Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office touched on whether the secretary has asked lawmakers for more money. Her office runs on fees it collects, but the money has to be allocated by the Legislature. Last year Bowen collected $75 million and lawmakers returned about $50 million. The balance going to the general fund.

Severe backlogs in fiscal 2011-12 prompted Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to transfer $1.2 million from the lower chamber's budget to the secretary of state. He gave Bowen the money specifically to work down business filing backlogs that in some instances had reached 80 days or more. Filing wait times currently run about six weeks.

Here's Bowen's July 2012 letter to Pérez, accounting for how the department spent the money and predicting that her office would get filing delays below 32 calendar days. Bowen spokeswoman Shannan Velayas provided the letter to The State Worker.

We can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

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 12, 2013
Assembly committee to discuss business filing backlog today

130312_Bowen_2010_Amezcua.JPGA legislative budget panel this afternoon will delve into the six-week backlog of work at the secretary of state's office, which was first reported by The Bee last week.

The Assembly's Budget Subcommittee No. 4, which focuses on state administration, put the issue at the top of its agenda for today's 1:30 p.m. hearing at the Capitol. You can listen to an audio feed of the hearing by clicking here.

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.

March 7, 2013
Departments grinding through dual-state-jobs investigation

MAJ_STATE_CAPITOL_2008.JPGOfficials from California's Department of Human Resources and the State Personnel Board told lawmakers today that they are analyzing how departments applied an obscure, controversial policy that allows salaried state employees to take a second part-time job in their same department and earn an hourly wage.

In testimony before a Senate Budget and Fiscal Review subcommittee, human resources Director Julie Chapman said her department has dedicated five employees to work through 25 boxes of employee time sheets, payroll records and other information. Eleven departments turned over the documents after The Bee reported that they had at least one exempt employee appointed to a second job that pays an hourly wage.

"We hope in the next month to have all the analysis done," Chapman said.

March 7, 2013
Committee agenda includes update on dual state-jobs policy

A policy that allows salaried state workers to take second positions within their departments is on a legislative committee's agenda this morning.

The Senate Budget and Fiscal Review subcommittee chaired by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, will hear from the California Department of Human Resources about "additional appointments" for exempt employees.

Many state workers hold more than one job; Brown administration puts a brake on the practice

A staff report in advance of today's scheduled 9:30 a.m. hearing says there's no uniform standard for the practice and that it "appears in many ways to be an 'underground' human resources policy. ... The lack of a clear, updated policy is effectively a non-policy, and creates an atmosphere ripe for abuse and misunderstanding."

Scroll down to page 11 of the embedded document for more of the committee's staff analysis.

Senate Budget and Fiscal Review agenda by

March 6, 2013
Report: State payroll system upgrade may not be feasible

RB_State_Checks_Machine.JPGAfter nine years and $262 million spent on a twice-failed project to upgrade California's employee pay system, the Legislative Analyst's Office says an overhaul of the current system may not be possible.

A report released today lays out the ugly details of the 21st Century / MyCalPays project: The 2004 launch with an optimistic $130 million price tag, the escalating cost estimates that reached $373 million; the contractors hired and fired when the job wasn't done.

Last month State Controller John Chiang terminated a contract with global tech firm SAP after a test run of 1,300 paychecks was riddled with errors. For now, the state continues to process payroll with the 30-year-old system it had hoped to discard.

"Due to recent events, it is unclear to our office that integrating the state's payroll systems, in their current structure, is feasible," the analyst's office wrote.

February 26, 2013
Unfunded California state retiree health costs reach $64 billion

Retiree medical costs rise to $64 billion over 30 years

Storified by Jon Ortiz· Tue, Feb 26 2013 07:10:42

California controller pegs state retiree medical costs at $64 billion - The Sacramento BeeCalifornia faces a $63.84 billion obligation to cover state retirees' medical expenses over the next three decades, according to state Co...
Here's the report commissioned by Controller John Chiang:

February 25, 2013
California state workers: The root of all evil?

Thumbnail image for 110906 email.JPGOur state worker columns about government IT prompted more than the usual number of angry emails and phone calls the last couple weeks. The first column zeroed in on Controller John Chiang's decision to ax the MyCalPays payroll system. The second considered a broader question: Why is tech such a huge problem for the state?

Here are the most common criticisms and our responses:

February 21, 2013
Brown aide defends pension reform for mass-transit workers

Thumbnail image for 130221 Morgenstern.JPGA top administration official has weighed in on a federal fight over the public pension law Gov. Jerry Brown signed last year law and whether it puts at risk billions of federal grant dollars.

In a letter last week, Brown's Labor Secretary Marty Morgenstern told the U.S. Department of Labor that the new pension law doesn't diminish mass-transit workers' collective bargaining rights, a prerequisite of the federal money.

"My legal staff and I have reviewed this matter carefully," Morgenstern wrote, concluding the law "merely modifies" the public pension plans that state and local government employers can offer.

The Public Employee Pension Reform Act caps benefits, hikes employee contributions and offers less generous formulas for employees hired Jan. 1 and later. Unions representing roughly 20,000 mass-transit workers in California contend the benefit terms that must be negotiated, not imposed.

February 21, 2013
Column Extra: CA Health Care Services IT chief to talk tech

130221 Flynn.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Today's column takes a look at government culture and a few ways that it clashes with information technology. The piece quotes John Thomas Flynn, who was California's first chief information officer in the Pete Wilson administration.

A registered Republican, Flynn ran last year for the Assembly District 8 seat. He finished fourth in a primary field of six candidates. Democrat Steve Cooley won the November general election.

Flynn follows state government tech like the Bee's Matt Barrows follows 49ers football. Flynn's blog, TechLeader.TV, regularly features IT types from various departments.

Today at 11:30 a.m, Flynn's scheduled guest is Chris Cruz, chief information officer for the California Department of Health Care Services. You can watch the webcast live by clicking here.

PHOTO: John Thomas Flynn / Sacramento Bee file, courtesy John Thomas Flynn

February 19, 2013
California treasurer proposing CalPERS dump gun holdings

Thumbnail image for 090522 Lockyer before Leg_Amezcua.jpgState Treasurer Bill Lockyer plans to ask the CalPERS' board today to purge the fund's investments in two companies that make firearms that are illegal in California.

If the board agrees to Lockyer's motion, the nation's biggest public employees' retirement system would divest of a total $5 million invested in Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger.

Last month Lockyer made a similar proposal to the California teachers' retirement system, the second-largest U.S. public pension fund after reports that the fund had a stake in the manufacturer of the rifle used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

Here's the text of Lockyer's motion to the CalPERS board:

February 14, 2013
From the notebook: Fighting heats up over pension reform law

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 examines union lawsuits against a handful of pension fund boards in the so-called "1937 Act Counties" that aren't in the CalPERS system. It's difficult to draw any sweeping conclusions from the lawsuits because the details of each vary and the 20 counties with their own pension boards have different rules when counting pensionable income.

Labor unions aren't sitting still for trimming what types of compensation go into the pension calculations for members who were in the system before the Public Employees' Pension Reform Act kicked in on Jan. 1 (specifically Assembly Bill 197, which defines pension reform rules for employees in the funds before the law took effect.)

This week California Attorney General Kamala Harris, at the direction of Gov. Jerry Brown, filed this Notice of Intent to Intervene in litigation against Alameda County's pension system, and she'll likely file similar papers soon in Contra Costa, Marin and Merced county courts, spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill said, where unions sued those counties' pension boards for how they've interpreted the pension law.

To get a taste of the unions' arguments, check out this complaint against the Merced County Employees' Retirement Association:

February 14, 2013
Column Extra: California's new IT task force, explained

20111102_ha_JOHN_CHIANG_0341.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column today takes a look at Controller John Chiang's decision to ax a $250 million payroll system upgrade program. We wondered what it says about the MyCalPays project and California's 30-year trail of information technology failures, a path paved with hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money.

So we asked Chiang spokesman Jacob Roper what lessons have been learned from the payroll system saga, a project inherited from former Controller Steve Westly. Here's Roper's emailed response and more info about a new state IT task force commissioned by the controller and Gov. Jerry Brown:

February 12, 2013
California state HR department sets contract 'sunshine' dates

130212 CalHR logo.JPGThe California Department of Human Resources has announced three dates for unions to deliver their initial labor contract proposals and to allow public comment on them.

The so-called "sunshine meetings" are required by state law, but often offer little insight into contract negotiations. Union leaders and the administration often informally work out the broad parameters of a deal. Bargaining teams then hammer out the fine details at the table.

Contracts for 19 of the state's 21 bargaining units expire on July 1, 2, or 3 this year. Unions representing state fire fighters and Highway Patrol officers extended their current pacts until 2017 and 2018, respectively.

If a union fails to reach an new agreement before its contract expires, the terms of the expired deal remain in force (with some notable exceptions) until a new contract is in place.

CalHR has set 1 p.m. on Feb. 28, Mar. 7 and Mar. 14 for the first round of presentations and will schedule additional meetings as needed.

February 7, 2013
Department of Corrections: New budget climate equals better accounting

130207 Pelican Bay.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's Bee about the state's struggle with big-picture data, included a reference to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's trouble with producing spending reports to the Legislature.

As we noted, Corrections produced the numbers on time this year. A shift in political winds helped.

January 23, 2013
New round of repairs for California's state money pit

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 110829 BOE HQ.JPGA $4 million repair project will start soon on the state Board of Equalization headquarters in Sacramento, even as the agency continues its push to get out of its high-rise money pit.

BOE, which collects California business taxes, has spent $65 million so far on repairs to the 22-year-old building at 450 N St. The problems have ranged from leaking windows and burst water pipes to toxic mold and faulty elevators.

And that doesn't count pending repairs to the building's corroded wastewater pipes.

January 21, 2013
Read interview transcripts from the parks budget investigation

Today's report by The Bee's Matt Wieser asks an important question about state parks officials who hid $20.5 million in surplus funds:

Were any crimes committed, and if so, will anyone be held to answer?

130107 natural_resources_logo.jpgAs a supplement to Matt's reporting on parks, The State Worker is posting interview transcripts and other documents that trace the state attorney general's investigation of the matter. More than 2,000 pages of investigation documents have been made public by the California Natural Resources Agency.

Click here to see the first batch of interview transcripts. Here's the second:

January 18, 2013
California board apologizes for WWII discrimination against Japanese Americans

130118 SPB logo.jpegThe State Personnel Board has issued a formal apology for a 71-year-old resolution that essentially kicked 265 Japanese Americans out of state service and prevented countless others from taking state government work during World War II.

The apology, laid out in a resolution adopted last week, has no legal consequences. Many years ago the state rescinded its discriminatory resolutions and awarded back pay to 88 Japanese Americans who challenged their terminations. A 1983 state law awarded up to $5,000 to Japanese American employees who lost their state jobs.

But until last week the board had never said it was sorry for its part in the institutionalized discrimination.

"I applaud the State Personnel Board for its resolution," said David Unruhe, spokesman for the Japanese American Citizens League. "This apology was a long time coming, but it is a sincere apology nevertheless."

January 17, 2013
DMV says it spoke too soon about employees with two jobs

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is doing a U-turn.

After asserting otherwise this afternoon, officials at the high-profile agency now say they may have spoken too soon when they denied hiring any of their own employees for two jobs within the same department.

CalPERS suggested that DMV and three other departments may have used "additional appointments," a practice at the pension fund reported today by The Bee. DMV previously said it hasn't employed the double appointments, then it pulled back.

"Our previous statement may have been premature," DMV spokesman Armando E. Botello said in an email received by The Bee at 4 p.m.. "We are conducting a more thorough review of our records to determine whether the situation has occurred."

While state policy allows state workers paid an hourly wage to hold two state jobs at once, it's not clear whether CalPERS' decision to give salaried managers additional hourly jobs and pay is proper. The fund said it began the practice in 2011 to cope with crushing workloads created by the launch of a $514 million computer system.

January 17, 2013
Lawmakers to investigate CalPERS' hourly jobs for managers

MC_PEREZ_03.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Assemblyman Rob Bonta called news of CalPERS paying salaried employees additional hourly wages "disturbing" in a joint press statement released this afternoon and promised to look further into the practice.

January 17, 2013
DMV says it hasn't given employees second paid positions

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100607 CALPERS HQ.JPGUPDATE 5:28 p.m.: DMV says it spoke too soon about employees with two jobs

Although CalPERS thought otherwise, a Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman said today that DMV doesn't give its employees dual positions in the department to ease workloads.

During interviews and email exchanges with The Bee for today's report on CalPERS salaried managers earning extra money for hourly work, a fund spokesman said officials there believed that the practice is "relatively common" among state employers.

January 17, 2013
From the notebook: Can state managers take a second state job?

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 news story in today's Bee looks at CalPERS' use of "additional appointments." The practice, which allows state workers to be placed in a second state job, is authorized by Section 350 of the state Personnel Management Policy and Procedures Manual.

But the 27-year-old document doesn't directly answer the question raised by CalPERS' application of it: Does a state agency or department have the authority to give salaried managers they employ a second rank-and-file position that pays an hourly wage?

January 14, 2013
Columnist, CalPERS lock horns over implementing pension law

Columnist, CalPERS lock horns over implementing pension law

Storified by Jon Ortiz· Mon, Jan 14 2013 08:42:39

Over the weekend, Bay Area News Group columnist Dan Borenstein went bonkers over a Dec. 27 CalPERS memo to employer members that delineates nearly 100 varieties of pay that the fund's staff concluded fall under the definition of "normal compensation" for purposes of calculating pensionable income. 

The definition matters because it's key to implementing the state and local pension reform measure that took effect on Jan. 1. Borenstein says including all those pay extras leaves the door open to pension spiking. 

CalPERS' three-day Board of Administration meeting in Monterey starts today and implementing the new law is on the three-day agenda.
Daniel Borenstein: CalPERS planning to gut a key cost-control provision of new pension lawBy administrative fiat, the California Public Employees' Retirement System has undermined a key anti-spiking provision of the new state p...
CalPERS response: It's a preliminary interpretation based on consultation with lawmakers who wrote and supported the legislation. CalPERS already has stiff anti-spiking rules in place and the new law's cap on pensionable income adds another layer.

Borenstein's "personal bias and crusade against public employee pensions once again got the best of him," the fund said in this letter to the editor and published on CalPERS' website.
Dan Borenstein's Crusade Against Public Pensions Gets the Best of Him and Misleads ReadersDan Borenstein is one of the few columnists that understands many of the complexities of public pensions but his personal bias and crusad...
Here's the list:
Here's the letter to employers:
Here's the board's agenda. The pension matter is set for discussion on Wednesday:

January 11, 2013
Top 10 posts of 2012: Jerry Brown tells unions to brace for cuts

countdown 2.JPGThis is the latest in a series counting down this year's most-viewed State Worker blog posts, with a little hindsight analysis.

With California's economy slow to rebound, the Brown administration held a series of secret meetings in the warming days of May to tell state employee union leaders that cuts in his 2012-13 budget revision would include about $800 million from compensation costs.

Brown was confronting converging issues: The state budget deficit had grown since his January budget draft, which didn't include the payroll cuts. He wanted to voters to approve a tax hike measure and the effort would be made tougher if state employees were spared from the same fiscal ax he was applying to social services and schools.

Some state workers thought Brown's whispers to the unions were treasonous. Isn't he a Democrat? Hasn't he said that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's furloughs were a bad idea? And now he's leaning on furloughs???

But eventually, 19 of 21 bargaining units negotiated a monthly furlough day with the administration. Lawmakers imposed the unpaid time off on two bargaining units that held out.

Furloughs are scheduled to end June 30 of this year and, since voters approved Brown's tax measure, the 2013-14 budget is in better shape. (Brown says there's no deficit. Others disagree.) The governor's new budget plan avoids extending any state employee compensation cuts into the next fiscal year.

Here's the post that some state workers thought they'd never see: Jerry Brown tells unions to brace for California state worker pay cuts

January 9, 2013
Read the legal arguments for ending prison oversight by feds

Gov. Jerry Brown wants the federal court to end its control of California's prisons, arguing Tuesday that the state has solved problems with inmate health care and prison overcrowding that prompted the intervention.

Bee reporters Sam Stanton, David Siders and Denny Walsh teamed up on this story about Brown's position and the coming legal battle it will assuredly provoke. Dan Walters' column today weighs in with historical perspective on Brown's prison politics.

Here's the state's request to the federal courts, which lays out the administration's rationale for the state resuming full control of the penal system. The main points are distilled in the table of contents.

Motion to Vacate by jon_ortiz

December 31, 2012
Airtime window closes today; higher taxes on Jan. 1 checks

An era ends today when CalPERS stops taking applications for additional retirement service credit purchases. Meanwhile, Jan. 1 state paychecks for workers paying into Social Security will reflect a new 2 percent tax increase on wages .

Starting tomorrow, CalPERS members can no longer buy up to five years of additional service time for purposes of pension calculations. Applications for airtime must be time-stamped by CalPERS' mail room by 5 p.m. today.

It's an expensive benefit, but a pretty good deal for those who can afford it, since the money is guaranteed by the fund to give the same return on investment that CalPERS assumed on its investments when the purchase was made.

For members who have applied for a cost estimate since Mar. 15, the guaranteed rate of return is 7.5 percent.

Few state workers will be hit by airtime's end, but most state workers who received their pay via direct deposit today have already noticed that their Social Security tax has gone from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent.

The increase anticipated the end on New Year's Day of a 2 percent payroll tax cut for Social Security. Even though the Jan. 1 paychecks are for the December pay period, IRS instructions say the rate change affects state paychecks issued on Jan. 1.

Here's the memo from State Controller John Chiang's office that explains the situation in more detail:

December 26, 2012
The holidays: A blessing or a curse for state workers?

This morning's light freeway traffic and no-hassle parking were testament to how many people in Sacramento aren't working between Christmas and New Year's Day. The Legislature and their 1,100 or so staff are off. Sacramento State's fall semester ended. Many private businesses also close for the holidays.

But what about the region's biggest employer, the vast state bureaucracy? From Caltrans engineers to Franchise Tax Board accountants to Employment Development Department staff, Sacramento County is Workplace Central to about 61,000 of state workers, many of those jobs within walking distance of the Capitol.

Our sense from our drive in is that like everywhere else, many state employees take leave during the holidays. Is that what you're seeing? And is the week from Christmas through New Year's Day a reprieve or a hassle compared with the rest of the year?


December 20, 2012
Column Extra: CalPERS weighs in on investments, social good

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.

Today's column chips off a small piece of the tension that exists between public pension funds' obligation to transparency and their marriage with less-than-open Wall Street partners to achieve the shared mission of hitting their investment targets.

We contacted several sources as we reported the column. One was CalPERS, which sent us the following statement. Since we couldn't get it into the column, we wanted to give spokesman Joe DeAnda's comments an airing, along with more thoughts from a few other sources we interviewed on Wednesday:

December 19, 2012
Jerry Brown appoints new Department of Corrections secretary

From Bee Capitol Bureau colleague David Siders:

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a former Pennsylvania prison chief secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Brown's office announced this morning.

Click here for more information on Brown's appointee, Jeffrey Beard.

December 13, 2012
Column Extra: CalPERS rationale for adding 86 staff jobs

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.

Today's State Worker column takes a look at CalPERS decision this week to add 86 new positions, mostly in its investments and information technology divisions.

Here's the Board of Administration agenda item that piqued our interest in the issue:
CalPERS Finance and Administration Agenda Item 5a