The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

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

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

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 1, 2013
Website features leadership tips from California state execs

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

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

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

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

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

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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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.

January 24, 2013
Assembly PERS panel to discuss dual state job appointments

AD18-Bonta.jpgAssemblyman Rob Bonta's office says the Alameda Democrat's committee will soon discuss CalPERS and other departments using "additional appointments" for salaried employees.

CalPERS says the practice is legal, above-board and saved $1.6 million by avoiding more expensive options such as hiring and training new employees or contracting outside consultants. The fund gave the hourly positions to salaried employees, including managers, who could lend a hand with severe customer service and computer system backlogs.

The fund suspended the policy last week, saying that sensationalized media coverage had created a distraction from its work and that it planned to phase the program out in June anyway.

Bonta chairs the Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security. His office sent this email after we asked for a follow up on his joint statement with Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez about the dual appointments.

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.

October 12, 2012
Court overturns raises for SEIU Local 1000-represented medical staff

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgSacramento's 3rd District Court of Appeal today ruled for the state and against SEIU Local 1000 in a dispute over pay raises for Corrections Department medical staff.

An arbitrator and a superior court judge had ruled that the negotiated raises were valid. The appellate court said today that the raises weren't valid because the Legislature didn't sign off on them.

SEIU Local 1000 declined to comment on the ruling.

The case dates back to 2006 and agreements negotiated between then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Local 1000.

August 31, 2012
California Legislature sends public pension overhaul bill to Jerry Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 18, 2012
California Senate freezes wages following pay raise

From Bee Capitol Bureau colleague Jim Sanders:

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg announced plans Wednesday for a one-year pay freeze for Senate employees, but the move comes in the wake of a recent pay hike for hundreds of the chamber's aides.

Read the rest of Jim's report on our sister blog, Capitol Alert.

July 13, 2012
A look back at Jerry Brown's furlough history
July 13, 2012
Column Extra Part 2: How Gov. Jerry Brown would counter a furlough lawsuit

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgWith 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 each Thursday.

On Thursday, we looked at one way Professional Engineers in California Government might sue the state for imposing furloughs on its members and violating state and federal contract laws. The union hasn't committed to suing and has said it still hopes to work out an agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown for wage reductions.

But how would the state, specifically the Brown administration, defend the imposed furloughs?

July 12, 2012
Column Extra Part 1: Inside the legal argument against California state worker furloughs

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgWith 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 each Thursday.

Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee notes that for the first time since furloughs became a regular feature in state budgets three years ago, the government has imposed them on employees who are under contract.

Although Gov. Jerry Brown negotiated furloughs with 19 of the 21 bargaining units representing state workers, two haven't gone along: Professional Engineers in California Government (Unit 9) and International Union of Operating Engineers (Unit 13).

The governor has used authority bestowed on him by the Legislature to impose a one-day-per-month furlough on the holdouts. Now the questions are whether the either union will sue and what the basis of a lawsuit might be.

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

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

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

This time around, however, things are different.

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


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

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

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

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

120605 Costa Grove Kitagaki.JPG

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

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

Click here for more details.

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

May 31, 2012
Breaking news: California state officials' pay will be cut

111111 axe.jpgFrom our sister blog, Capitol Alert:

Pay for California Gov. Jerry Brown, legislators and all statewide officeholders will be cut by 5 percent from current levels, the state's independent salary-setting commission decided today.

Read more by clicking here.

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

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

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

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

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

House Speaker Mike Madigan dropped his proposal late Wednesday night.

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

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

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

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

Click here to read more.



About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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