The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

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 5, 2013
When should government ask job seekers about criminal past?

job-seekers.jpgOur State Worker column in today's fiber/cyber Bee looks at government hiring policies in California and laws in other states that de-emphasize asking whether job applicants have criminal histories.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson's Assembly Bill 218 would make California's policy a law with a few more restrictions on employers and apply it to all state and local governments. (Dickinson's bill makes some exceptions for law enforcement officers and the like, although some opponents say those exceptions need to be braodend and better defined.)

The National Employment Law Project -- which describes itself as partnering with "grassroots groups and national organizations, worker centers and unions, policymakers and think tanks" to promote middle-class jobs -- tracks state and local governments that aren't giving as much prominence as they once did to criminal history questions. Click here to view the group's thoroughly linked list of entities that "ban the box," a phrase referring to the check-box lines that many job applications use to ask about criminal history.

The column also refers to two lawsuits that the Obama administration filed against private-sector employers that allegedly screened applicants and fired employees using criminal background checks. Here's the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's June press release about those two cases and why the commission says their practice discriminated against minorities.

PHOTO: Job seekers crowd around a table to get information on available jobs during the California Job Journal HIREvent on Feb. 10, 2009, in San Francisco. Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

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 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 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 2, 2013
Unusual California state government jobs: Psychiatric technician

Susan_LePage.JPGThis is the fifth installment in our series on California state employees whose jobs don't immediately come to mind when you think of government work.

State worker: Susan LePage

Job Title: Senior psychiatric technician, Substance Abuse Unit, Napa State Hospital

Number of years with the state: 24

What does a typical week in the life of a psychiatric technician look like?
"A typical week would be, really, getting 44 adult patients to go where they got to go. We've got appointments, medical appointments, groups, work ... feeding them, caring for them, (and) giving them medications. Also listening to them, ... (being a) peacekeeper (and) just providing them with activities. I work with the substance recovery unit (and) boredom is a big trigger, (so) just trying to keep them busy, that is all mushed into a week."

What is the most extraordinary or interesting thing that has happened while you were on the job?
"(I was) given the opportunity to come to this new unit that we are spearheading at Napa State Hospital. That is the substance recovery unit. It is interesting because I worked with some of these guys before and now to really see these guys open up, to see them now waking up and talking and confiding in others and to see this whole brotherhood that takes place in the unit ... it puts things in perspective. "

How did you come to be a psychiatric technician?
"I was living in Los Angeles and I really felt that I wanted to work with the homeless population. My mom ran a medical school and really persuaded me to go into this profession. I really felt a calling to go work with people."

Is there anything you want people to know about your job?
"It is somebody's son, or daughter or mother that we are working with, and sometimes they don't have families and we are their families. You are also there to give these people hope and that there can be a life out there if they make the commitment to go out there and pursue that, that there is hope."

RELATED LINKS:
Helicopter fire pilot
Seed botanist
Gunsmith
Coho recovery coordinator

PHOTO: Susan LePage. Courtesy of Napa State Hospital

August 1, 2013
Unusual California state government jobs: Coho recovery coordinator

fall2010_030.JPGThis is the fourth installment in our series on California state employees whose jobs don't immediately come to mind when you think of government work.

Name: Scott Bauer

Job Title: Staff environmental scientist, Coho recovery coordinator, Department of Fish and Wildlife

Number of years working with state: 14

What does a typical week in the life of a environmental scientist look like?
Well, I am supposed to do things like help people apply for permits because salmon are an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act. ... What I am really doing is research is on marijuana cultivation and what they are doing to Coho salmon. There are possible 8,000 (marijuana) sites (in Northern California) which means there are a million or more marijuana plants and they are diverting waters from streams, (so) ... I am trying to tell people that this fish is going to go extinct due to marijuana cultivation. ... There are only a few of us in the state who are working on this really huge issue.

What is the most extraordinary or interesting thing that has happened while you were on the job?
I was almost attacked by a mountain lion. I had a mountain lion come within 20 feet and was going to pounce on me. I did what I was supposed to do -- I got big and shouted at it and then it just calmly walked away. ... It was so close that I could pet it. That is probably the most interesting thing that happened to me on the job.

How did you come to be an environmental scientist?
I started working with the California Conservation Corp in 1998, 1999, doing fish habitat restoration, and I got hired by Fish and Game in 2005 to do timber harvest review. Then this job came up and I had a lot of experience doing fish habit restoration and permitting ... and here I am at a great job.

Is there anything you want people to know about your job?
I think I would like people to know we (state scientists) are all hard-working and dedicated people who do our best to serve the public (and) ... give the people their money's worth.

RELATED LINKS:
Helicopter Fire Pilot
Seed Botanist
Gunsmith

PHOTO: Scott Bauer. Courtesy of Department of Fish and Wildlife/Trevor Tollefson.

July 31, 2013
Unusual California state government jobs: Gunsmith

_DSC1142.jpgThis is the third installment in our series of interviews with California state employees with unusual jobs.

State worker: Frank Higginson

Job Title: Lead gunsmith for the California Highway Patrol

Number of years with the state: 23

What does a typical week in the life of a gunsmith look like?

July 30, 2013
Unusual California state government jobs: Seed botanist

rprice.jpgThis is the second installment in our series on California state employees whose jobs don't immediately come to mind when you think of government work.

Name: Robert Price

Job Title: Associate seed botanist, Department of Food and Agriculture

Number of years working with state: four

What does a typical week in the life of a seed botanist look like?
"All sorts of things come to our offices (via the mail). Basically, we are sitting at our microscopes. ... The people who have my job are looking for seed purity, looking at seed and plant material to see what is there and analyzing them according the state and federal law. We do both standard kinds of samples, to see that labels are accurate in the state of California, or we do things for companies, certificates for export. ... Farmers ask us to do specific tests on types of products. ... It is very diverse. That is one of the fun aspects of the job, you never know what will happen on any given day of the week."

What is the most extraordinary or interesting thing that has happened while you were on the job?
"People sometimes try to ship in various types of fruits and vegetables that they have not declared in customs. They have dog teams that look for vegetable matter that is not declared. Particularly, they are looking for insects that could damage the state's agriculture (and) we just get all sorts of strange things that we try to figure out what they are. ... (We had) this big shipment of poppy seeds that was flagged by the border agency. They (poppy seeds) have to be non-living for commerce in the United States, but the ones we found were all alive. We were not sure what someone was intending to do with them."

How did you come to be a seed botanist?
"Friends of mine told me that were was an opening in the Department of Agriculture. I have a broad background in botany. I've been a university teacher and I have been a scientific editor and it just seemed like a really interesting job to do."

Is there anything you want people to know about your job?
"It's a very rewarding job to know that we are protecting the field of agriculture in California, which is a billion-dollar industry. We especially ... try to prevent (invasive species) from getting established because they are very hard and offensive to get rid of, so if we can, we keep them out in the first place."

RELATED LINKS:
Helicopter Fire Pilot

Do you have an interesting state government job or know someone who does? Think people would like to read about it? Send a note to agebert@sacbee.com.

PHOTO: Robert Price, associate seed botanist, Department of Food and Agriculture. Courtesy of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

July 29, 2013
Unusual California state government job: Helicopter fire pilot

Humann_cockpit.JPGWhat do a gunsmith, a seed botanist, and a fire helicopter pilot all have in common? Each one is someone who may hold a California state government job.

We interviewed state workers holding down those jobs to find out what they do, how they got there and what they think you should know about their work.

Here's the first installment in our series on unusual state employee jobs:

Name: Thomas Humann

Job title: Fire pilot, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

Number of years with the state: eight

How did you come to be a fire pilot?
"I did have a fairly decent foundation of helicopter flying. I flew attack helicopters in the Marine Corps and then I was flying Marine One for President George W. Bush. ... In 2003 during the fire siege that occurred in Southern California I had a chance to meet with a bunch of guys from (Cal Fire). ... Then when I got out in 2005 I had the opportunity to move to Sacramento, worked as a department aviation safety officer for four years and then moved out to my current location as a field fire pilot."

What does a typical week in the life of a fire pilot look like?
"It is fairly diverse. We don't know what any given day is going to bring. It is mostly going to be fire response, but we could also get any number of types of rescue calls. Most of what we do is fire firefighting itself. ... We try to capture and contain the fire before it becomes something significant. ... For me, that was a real natural transition (from the Marine Corps)...there was the same type of unit cohesion and camaraderie...they want to save homes and help people."

What is the most extraordinary or interesting thing that has happened while you were on the job?
"I'll mention two things. One was the eye opening experience in 2007 of getting dispatched to the fires in Southern California, where frankly it looked like Armageddon down there. ... We do rescues as well. We went out and got a call fairly late in the day for two little lost girls. Just as it was getting too dark to see, we were able to locate the girls, a couple of guys were able to jump out of the helicopter ... and I was able to pick them up."

Is there anything you want people to know about your job?
"The best thing for people to know is that we are able to contain 90 percent of fires that are 10 acres or less. On a day to day basis, most of time in California, most of these fires amount to basically nothing because of the quick response we are able to provide."


Do you have an interesting state government job or know someone who does? Think people would like to read about it? Send a note to agebert@sacbee.com.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Thomas Humann/Victor Acosta.

July 3, 2013
What California state workers earn: Psychiatric technicians

RCB_SHARON_VISITS_NAPA_ID.JPGBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

Although Ken Murch retired in 2012 after decades as the executive director of the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians, he returned this year to bargain for the union. It's a plus for CAPT. Murch and Gov. Jerry Brown have a relationship that dates back to the governor's first go-round in office.

Meanwhile, California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Diana Dooley has established a task force that will consider the future of state's developmental center system. Many of California's psychiatric technicians work at the four large developmental centers and one small community facility that serve roughly 1,500 residents with an annual budget of $545 million.

Number of employees in 2012: 5,484
2012 average pay: $48,525
2012 median pay: $56,430

Number of employees in 2011: 5,627
2011 average pay: $46,833
2011 median pay: $53,418

2012 Largest job class: Psychiatric Technician (Safety) (2,858)
Highest paid job class (2012 average): Psychiatric Technician Instructor ($64,742)
Lowest paid job class (2012 average): Psychiatric Technician Training Candidate ($811)

This chart shows the average and median pay for Bargaining Unit 18 in 2011 and 2012.

With talks and ratification votes for new state employee contracts on the agenda over the next few weeks, The State Worker is taking a first-ever look at what unionized workers earned over the last two years by bargaining unit.

The numbers feeding the series come from the State Controller's payroll database. The figures include only regular pay issued to full-time employees represented by the 21 bargaining units that negotiate contracts with the state. The number of employees includes only full-time workers who were paid during the calendar year. University of California and California State University employee earnings are not included in these figures. The data covers calendar 2011 and 2012.

Check out The Bee's state worker pay database here.

PHOTO: Sharon Benda shows her license as ID to gain entry to visit her mentally ill son at the Napa State Hospital in Napa on Saturday September 4, 2004. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer.

June 27, 2013
What California state workers earn: Highway Patrol officers

RB_Cellphone_0001.JPGBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

In a move underscoring its emphasis on long-term security, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen accepted furloughs last year in exchange for a five-year extension of the contract that would have expired next month.

Although the officers' union contract isn't up for negotiation until 2018, we thought it only fair to run the numbers on what they earn:

June 26, 2013
What California state workers earn: State lawyers

LS_ALBERTA_LEE_UC_Davis_Law_Library.JPGBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

California's state attorneys are paid far less than their counterparts in local governments and the private sector. The union, one of the smallest bargaining units in the state, for years has argued for pay parity with little success.

In the last few years the union has taken a different tack by aggressively fighting contracts that outsource legal work it says should go to its members.

Here are pay numbers for California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment , Bargaining Unit 2:

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:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


April 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.

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

January 30, 2013
Bill would end California state employees' moonlighting

20121203_HA_JEFF_GORELL.JPGRepublican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell of Camarillo, as promised, has introduced legislation to virtually eliminate state "additional appointments," an obscure and controversial personnel practice that allows employees to take a second state job.

We've embedded below a copy of the measure, Assembly Bill 208.

Meanwhile, CalPERS' CEO, Anne Stausboll and Julie Chapman, the state's top labor relations administrator, both told a legislative joint committee concerned with public employee issues they are examining the state's additional appointments policy.

Revelations two weeks ago that CalPERS used additional appointments for some computer and customer service jobs raised questions about the practice and caught the attention of lawmakers. The story broadened this week when State Controller's Office revealed that at least 11 departments have non-union employees -- including salaried managers and high-level administrators -- with at least two job titles.

The Brown administration on Tuesday said it was ending the practice immediately for all but "rare cases where it might save money or be necessary under law."

Asked this morning by committee co-chair Jim Beall what prompted the administration's action, Chapman said, "There are many different departments using additional positions. ... We thought it best to suspend (the practice) until we can develop a statewide policy."

Gorell said this morning that his proposal will evolve. For example, he's considering a change that would allow additional appointments with approval from the Finance Department or other administrative authority.

"The idea," Gorell said, "is to move accountability closer to elected officials, in this case, the governor."

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

Assembly Bill 208 by

January 29, 2013
Hundreds of salaried state workers moonlight in-house

California state workers in nearly a dozen departments hold both a salaried position and another hourly-wage position in-house, according to new government payroll data.

Several hundred managers, supervisors and others in non-hourly jobs also have a rank-and-file position, according to the State Controller's Office. The numbers confirm CalPERS officials' assertion that it wasn't the only department using "additional appointments."

The $265 billion fund came under criticism for the practice after a Bee report that 50 managers and other salaried workers with technical skills had been tapped by CalPERS to receive extra pay for handling computer system and customer service backlogs.

After lawmakers said they were concerned about CalPERS' policy, the fund suspended it, saying that sensationalized media coverage about its business decision was a distraction from its mission. CalPERS says the program was its cheapest option and had saved an estimated $1.6 million in costs since it started in June 2011.

The Bee has called several departments on the controller's list and the California Department of Human Resources, which acts as the state's labor relations branch. None have spoken on the record yet. Watch the print edition of The Bee and The State Worker blog for more details.

January 23, 2013
Poll: What do you think about CalPERS' dual-appointments?

Now that CalPERS has suspended its practice of appointing some managers to second rank-and-file jobs that pay hourly wages, we'd like to know what you think of the policy.

If you missed the story, you can catch up here:
Jan. 17: Some CalPERS managers given second jobs, extra money
Jan. 18: Lawmakers say they will probe dual jobs of California state workers
Jan. 19: CalPERS suspends extra pay program for managers


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 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 10, 2013
California state workforce to remain flat, cost more in fiscal 2013-14

Jerry Brown 2012 amezcua.jpgEditors note, 3:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this story used state job estimates from the 2012-13 enacted budget summary. This post has been modified using revised job figures in Brown's 2013-14 budget proposal that indicate a smaller number of current state positions.

California state government will pay about $501 million more for its employees in the next fiscal year, according to the budget proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown this morning, while the number of government positions remain essentially flat.

Brown's 2013-14 budget envisions 216,000 positions in the executive branch, the area of state government under his direct authority, at a cost of $15.7 billion. Government overall will grow slightly by adding about 6,300 positions, mostly in higher educaton.

The $97.7 billion budget plan doesn't call for extending the one-day-per-month furloughs set to expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Nor does it contain money for other raises for new contracts.

Brown declined to go into details about upcoming contract talks, citing his obligation to collectively bargain with the unions in good faith.

"We have to enter those negotiations with an open mind, but we have to live within our means. So I don't want to put too many of my cards on the table," Brown told reporters this morning, "Although everything's in the budget, so you can figure out sort of what the outside parameters are."

December 27, 2012
Column Extra video: Roger Dickinson cautions prospective public employees

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.

This week's column springs from Assemblyman Roger Dickinson's hour-long visit with the Bee Capitol Bureau's reporters last week. During the discussion we asked the Sacramento Democrat what advice he would give to someone considering a career in state service.

We expected he would focus on the usual "P-words" that come up in government job discussions: "pensions" or "pay." Instead he surprised us with a different word: "privacy."

Here's a snippet of what Dickinson said:

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

November 14, 2012
Revamped California public pay site offers more data and utility

121114 govt pay database1.jpgA California state-run website that tracks state and local government employee compensation relaunched this week with major upgrades that aim to make the data more accessible to the public.

The refurbished site, publicpay.ca.gov, includes maps, simple search engines and even allows users to build their own custom reports, compare pay rates and download raw numbers for their own research. The State Controller's Office, which maintains the site, says it includes the latest state and local compensation data available -- 2011 for state and higher education, 2010 for cities, counties and special districts.

It's the first time that the numbers include wages and benefit data for 69 of the state's 72 community college districts.

Unlike The Bee's state pay database, however, the SCO's data doesn't include the names of individual employees.

The site "does remain a work in progress, and my office will continue to improve and expand this public pay project," Controller John Chiang said in a news release marking the relaunch.

Click here to open publicpay.ca.gov. You can view a menu of video tutorials about how to use the site by clicking here.

IMAGE: The report-building page on the state controller's revamped government employee compensation website. / www.publicpay.ca.gov

November 13, 2012
California ranks 41st in processing initial unemployment claims

California takes more time to process initial unemployment claims than 40 other states, according to a new state audit of the Employment Development Department, as high-tech and telephone problems continue to plague the system.

For the quarter ending June 30, 2012, the department made 78 percent of initial payments within 14 days. The federal government considers 87 percent of initial benefits issued within 14 days to be acceptable.

The audit notes that unemployment fell in California from 12.3 percent in June 2010 to 10.4 percent in August 2012 and that initial claims dropped from 296,000 to 209,000.

"Although the State's unemployment rate has declined since 2010, the department still faces challenges in meeting acceptable timeliness levels," State Auditor Elaine Howle said in the report.

July 26, 2012
From the notebook: Read the California state scientists' request to retain some student assistants

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 recent story on student assistants losing their state jobs mentioned that the California Association of Professional Scientists has taken issue with the decision to ax students who work with its members.

The terminations will hit Sept. 1 in keeping with terms reached between Gov. Jerry Brown and SEIU Local 1000. The agreement also says that the state won't hire any more student assistants as long as Local 1000-represented employees are on furlough through June 30, 2013.

Here's a July 12 letter from CAPS President David Miller to the Brown administration that lays out the union's concerns:

David Miller letter to Julie Chapman

July 23, 2012
From the notebook: A student assistant comments on her impending layoff, tuition hikes and job prospects

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our story in today's Bee takes a closer look at the state's plan to ax hundreds of its student assistants at the end of next month, in keeping with a furlough agreement Gov. Jerry Brown reached with SEIU Local 1000 lastt month.

In the course of reporting, we talked to about a dozen students and corresponded via email with about the same number.

Here's one of those emails from Sacramento State student Heidi Temple. We're posting her words here unedited and with her permission. She was speaking for herself, not her colleagues, supervisors or her employer:

July 20, 2012
Read Parks Director Ruth Coleman's resignation letter

As reported by The Bee today, Parks and Recreation Director Ruth Coleman resigned this morning after revelations that the department has held on to tens of millions of dollars while threatening to close facilities and curb services.

The scandal broke after The Bee made inquiries into the Parks Department's finances, prompted by an investigation into a secret leave buyout program fostered by one of Coleman's lieutenants.

Here's Coleman's resignation letter to Gov. Jerry Brown:
120720 Coleman Resignation Letter

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 12, 2012
Live chat at noon: Jon Ortiz hosts discussion of furloughs, personal leave

Join Jon Ortiz at noon for a live discussion of new state furloughs and personal leave programs.

June 23, 2012
SEIU Local 1000 reaches tentative furlough agreement with Jerry Brown

California's largest public employees' union has tentatively agreed to accept furlough terms that will reduce employee pay by 5 percent starting July 1, but Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to accomplish the savings with a shortened workweek isn't part of the deal.

Service Employees International Union Local 1000's deal with Brown, announced just a few minutes ago, accepts 12 unpaid leave days over the next 12 months. Although employees' paychecks will show the monthly hit on their wages, they have some flexibility to schedule the time off.

The agreement doesn't affect any other aspect of Local 1000's current contract, including a scheduled 3 percent raise for top-step employees scheduled for July 1, 2013.

The union said members will have a chance to vote on the agreement on Wednesday at one of about 100 polling places set up around the state. The results of the vote will be announced July 2.

Brown also gave Local 1000 two items on its wish list, agreeing to terminate all but the most essential state retired annuitants and student assistants and to set up a task force on state outsourcing.

Departments will have until Sept. 1 to purge retirees and students from their payrolls, with exemptions only for those whose jobs are deemed "mission critical." The state won't hire either during the 12-month furlough period for SEIU-covered workers.

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

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

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

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

June 4, 2012
Former California prison dentist loses bid to reclaim his job

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgJames Ward, who has been fighting for the state job he lost three years ago, has lost his case before the State Personnel Board.

The five-member panel's decision last month was a rarity because it overturned an administrative law judge's proposed ruling. Most of the time the board goes along with what SPB judges decide.

Wendell Phillips, Ward's attorney, said today that his client wants to continue the fight in civil court. He will seek back pay with interest well in excess of $1 million in addition to being restored to his former job.

Ward learned of the SPB ruling last week, which says the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation didn't violate civil service rules when staff mistakenly promised him a full-time permanent position then changed his status to temporary.

Related post: The State Worker: Personnel case takes on how the state handles hiring

Ward sold his San Diego practice to take the dentist job at Ironwood State Prison in Blythe and hasn't worked since his release in 2009. He contends that the department should have stuck to its original offer, even though he signed papers acknowledging the change in employment terms after receiving assurances the job would eventually become permanent.

An SPB judge sided with Ward, but the board itself decided to set aside the proposed decision and hear the case on Feb. 7. The panel concluded that Ward lost the right to challenge the matter when he signed off on the change and didn't challenge it in writing within 30 days.

Here's the ruling:

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

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

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

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

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

May 18, 2012
Legislative Analyst says 4-day week for California workers 'problematic'

The Legislative Analyst's Office said today that Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to move state workers into a 4-day, 9.5-hour-per-day schedule would create some serious problems.

The criticisms conclude a lengthy analysis of Brown's state budget proposal to close what the administration estimates is a $15.7 billion budget deficit (the LAO says it's more than that). Among the issues raised with Brown's furlough plan:

• Employees won't use as much leave, which will increase the state's deferred costs.
• It will hinder interaction with government agencies that operate on regular schedules.
• It may not reduce energy costs.

Then the analyst makes this comment about cutting employee costs:

Employee compensation, including salaries and benefits, will cost the state's General Fund $10.5 billion in 2012-13. Given the severity of the state's budget shortfall, we think the Legislature will need to consider reductions in these costs. There are, however, no ideal ways to achieve such reductions.

Why? Bargaining, the analyst said, usually means some sort of trade-off that negates savings. Layoffs take a long time and can adversely affect services. Furloughs and leave programs carry deferred costs (see above). The Legislature could impose pay cuts, but that "could require the administration to negotiate with unions for new contracts under the terms of the Dills Act. Unilateral state actions of this type may produce significant state savings, but pose many concerns. Such concerns include negative effects on employee-management relations."

The report also discusses the state's job vacancies and changes that Brown is proposing to the way the state budgets for positions, including eliminating vacant positions.

Click here to open the LAO's report. Scroll down to the "Employee Compensation" section for more analysis about Brown's plan for the 4-day workweek and vacant positions.

May 17, 2012
Jerry Brown's furlough plan would drain Sacramento economy

The Bee's state pay database guru Phillip Reese has run the numbers on what Gov. Jerry Brown's four-day, 9.5-hours-per-day workweek would do to the Sacramento region's economy.

The annual impact: $230 million in wages taken out of circulation.

Click here to read the entire story.

May 16, 2012
Darrell Steinberg: SEIU appreciates consultation on furloughs

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 110701 Steinberg Cap Bureau.JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, met with reporters today and talked about Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to furlough state workers two hours per week.

Brown's plan also lengthens the state workday to 9.5 hours and shortens the workweek to four days. The changes would reduce employees' hours and pay by 5 percent and save the general fund some $401 million ($839 million all funds).

On cooperation between the unions and the governor to come up with a plan:

Just look at the experience in the Schwarzenegger years. ... When they tried to do it unilaterally, what was the end result? Lawsuits, a lot of uncertainty. The better and best way to accomplish the needed savings is to work with the people affected, and that's already going on."

On SEIU Local 1000's position:

"It would be one thing if SEIU Local 1000 was saying hell no and fighting the governor, but they're not doing that. They're actually appreciating the fact that the administration has reached out to them and that they are being brought in."

On the impact to his district and his assessment of the governor's moves:

"It's certainly hard on a lot of my constituents, The process by which the administration is trying to get to that goal, the money goal, I think has been very constructive so far."

On how the issue will play for the November election:

"You want to go into November with as much solidarity as possible."

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

May 16, 2012
Poll: Should unionized California state workers get a vote on Jerry Brown's furlough plan?

As our story in today's Bee notes, it's not clear whether rank-and-file state workers will be able to vote on any scheduling changes or other concessions that their representatives bargain to reach the payroll savings target in Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal.

Brown wants unions to take a 5-percent pay reduction with a commensurate cut in work hours each month to trim $401 million from the general fund's employee costs and $839 million from all funds in fiscal 2012-13. The governor's plan includes putting most employees on a 4-day, 9.5 hours-per-day workweek.

State law doesn't require a membership vote if a union reaches a side agreement with Brown. The associations' various bylaws, practices and processes determine whether they would issue ballots. Some union leaders also could seek guidance by surveying their members without a formal vote.

May 14, 2012
Jerry Brown says workweek changes will be bargained

Gov. Jerry Brown said today that his administration will bargain with labor to get the 5 percent, $839.1 million savings from employee compensation costs that his May budget revision proposes.

Here's what the governor said during this morning's press conference when asked how he would hit the savings target:

"Negotiations. We have contracts and we'll look at a variety of ways (to make savings). The state employees particularly have come forward some very imaginative ideas. They've been helpful. They've been willing to step up to the plate even though they represent some people who are not paid all that much. So we will work for a 5 percent cut. And we're going to figure it out. But that will be the financial value of the changes we make and it will be mutually arrived at."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown / Sacramento Bee file

May 10, 2012
Poll: Will California state workers' pay be cut?

Our story in today's Bee fleshes out Wednesday's news that Gov. Jerry Brown has told labor leaders that his May budget revision on Monday will include a cut to state workers' compensation. He's asked the unions to help figure out how to get the savings.

If you haven't read the story already, check it out and then participate in our poll:

April 23, 2012
California state insurance agency cancels layoff plans

Thumbnail image for 100727 rowe.JPGHundreds of state jobs that were on the chopping block have been spared, according to an e-mail sent to State Compensation Insurance Fund employees this morning.

State Fund President and CEO Tom Rowe's message to staff said that 1,300 workers have left since last fall's announcement that the quasi-public agency would shed between 1,500 and 1,800 jobs.

"The number of positions that remain in the restructure plan is now small enough that we have decided to cancel the layoff," Rowe wrote in the e-mail that went out this morning.

April 18, 2012
Bill allows big pay hike for two CalSTRS executive jobs

A bill scheduled for a committee hearing today would cap the compensation for two jobs at the California State Teachers' Retirement System at 150 percent of what the governor earns, but the new ceiling is twice what the positions currently earn.

Assembly Bill 1735, which is sponsored by CalSTRS, is in front of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The measure expands the list of jobs for which the fund's board can set compensation to include chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

The fund says it needs the flexibility to compete for candidates outside of government. The bill caps what CalSTRS board could pay at one-and-a-half times the govenor's salary, currently about $174,000 per year.

"Given the new ceiling of $260,000 per annum, this bill allows CalSTRS to double existing salaries," an Appropriations staff analysis says. "The actual costs will depend on the compensation packages developed by the Teachers' Retirement Board."

CalSTRS says that paying more to get the most-skilled executives will save big bucks because it will be able to hire and hold better-qualified managers who make key business decisions.

The fund has said that it needs an infusion of money to meet its long-term pension obligations. In February, it reported assets of $152 billion, sustaining its pension fund for 856,000 public school teachers and their families in California's 1,600 school districts, county education offices and community college districts.

April 9, 2012
From the notebook: California's government hiring trends under Jerry Brown

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

Our report in today's Bee looks at how many first-time state workers the state has hired during Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's return to the executive branch. We also compare those figures with how many workers the state hired during GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's final year.

What follows are hiring tallies by job class and department from data provided to us by the State Controller's Office. The numbers show how many individuals were hired from January 2011 through last February, two more months than the hiring tables published with today's report:

April 3, 2012
Are American state workers scourges or scapegoats?

Are state workers dragging down state budgets around the nation? Or have public employees and their compensation packages become convenient political scapegoats?

A year ago the PBS news show "Need to Know" took on what it calls "one of the most contentious arguments in the news today." We ran across the report this morning while surveying state worker news. Although the item ran on March 11, 2011, the topic remains relevant today.

Watch Union Salaries and State Budgets on PBS. See more from Need to Know.

March 30, 2012
Jerry Brown starts clock on sweeping government overhaul

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 080811 Jerry Brown.JPGA three-month countdown started today on Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to downsize state government.

The administration delivered an eight-page proposal to the Little Hoover Commission that would, among other things, reduce the number of state agencies from 12 to 10, consolidate some departments and eliminate others.

"The state's bureaucracy is a labyrinth of disjointed boards, commissions, agencies and departments," said Brown said in a press release this afternoon. "This common sense plan makes government more efficient, responsive and coordinated and will ultimately save taxpayer dollars."

Brown made the sweeping changes part of his state budget draft in January. Now Little Hoover has 30 days to review the plan and issue recommendations to the Governor and Legislature. The plan goes into effect unless a majority in either the Assembly or the Senate reject it within 60 days of receiving the commission's report.

Click here for the governor's letter to The Little Hoover Commission and summary of the consolidation plan. You can see the reorganization plan delivered to the commission by clicking the link below.

March 30, 2012
Poll: How much does money matter?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Related posts:

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

March 19, 2012
From the notebook: A closer look at California state government jobs

Thumbnail image for notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpg
We never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our story in today's Bee looks at which state jobs are drawing the most applicants from outside government and why, using data compiled by the State Personnel Board, which administers eligibility examinations for state civil service positions.

Below you'll find the list of all 1,390 jobs for which at least one applicant was deemed eligible when SPB made its first data run for our story on Mar. 2. This is not a help-wanted list, but an accounting of how many people have been deemed eligible for consideration when a job on the list opens.

Want more details? Check out the state's one-stop, everything-you-need-to-know website, www.jobs.ca.gov, where you can put a job title in a search engine and then click through to find out about pay ranges, tests, duties and minimum qualifications.

The state also keeps job eligibility lists totals online. Click here to look up the info, which can be sorted by job class and department. The figures are updated daily.

March 15, 2012
Poll: Weigh in on Ward v. California Department of Corrections

We've heard some strong sentiments from phone callers and email correspondents today about the James Ward case covered in today's State Worker column and companion blog post.

By that (extremely unscientific) measure, opinions are split 50-50.

If you haven't yet, check out the reporting and documentation about the prison chief dentist's fight to get his job back, then take our (extremely unscientific) poll:

March 15, 2012
Column Extra: Read the judge's rejected ruling in the James Ward complaint against CDCR

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

Our State Worker column in today's Bee examines the dispute between James Ward, who worked as chief dentist at Ironwood State Prison until July 2009, and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Ward says he accepted in good faith a permanent position that was illegally voided when the state said the job was really temporary and eventually let him go.

The department says its employees were mistaken when they assured Ward the job was permanent. Returning him to a permanent state job now would bind departments to the erroneous actions of their lowest-level staff and managers, CDCR lawyers have argued.

SPB Judge Jeanne Wolfe heard arguments in the case and issued a decision last September in favor of Ward. As is its prerogative, the board rejected Wolfe's ruling and heard the case for itself last month. We expect a ruling within a few weeks.

Here's Wolfe's decision, which includes many more details about the matter than we could jam into our column:
James Ward v. CDCR

February 29, 2012
California game wardens reality show to launch second season

The National Geographic Channel's "Wild Justice," a reality TV show about California game wardens, has wrapped up shooting its second season and has the network's commitment for a third, according to a post on The Outdoor Wire.

The new season debuts Mar. 11. We've embedded a clip from Season 1. For others, click here.

February 15, 2012
Survey: Nearly 6 percent of California workers employed by state

map.jpgAbout six in 100 workers in California are employed by the state, according to a new Gallup Daily Tracking survey. The ratio more than doubles when federal and local government workers are included.

Some 5.6 percent of Golden State workers surveyed said they work for state government, the same percentage as Colorado. Thirty-six states had a higher percentage of workers who said they receive a state paycheck, led by Hawaii (12.6 percent), Alaska (11.5 percent) and West Virginia (11.2 percent).

On the other end of the spectrum, 4.8 percent of workers in Ohio and Maryland said they were state employees, followed by 4.4 percent in Pennsylvania and 4.3 percent in New Hampshire.

Nationally, 6.5 percent of the more than 129,000 American workers Gallup surveyed (including those in the District of Columbia) work for state government.

The statistic is somewhat misleading, however, because states distribute programs differently between federal, state and local governments.

By the larger measure, California ranked 33rd among the states with 15.3 percent of surveyed respondents saying they were government employees.

Nearly a third of workers in Hawaii, Alaska and the Maryland are in employed by government, the highest percentages in the nation.The lowest: Vermont, Michigan and Pennsylvania, which all hovered around 12 percent.

Nationally, 16.3 percent of American workers drew a government paycheck in 2011, a 1 percent decline from 2009. The job losses in the 50 states and the District of Columbia were spread equally over federal, state, and local governments and are consistent with Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Gallup said. Still, government employs at least 1 in 10 workers in every state.

Click here to see the government employment percentages for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This link opens Gallup's take on the numbers.

MAP: Courtesy Gallup

January 26, 2012
Read the agreement that 'unfires' Caltrans worker Duane Wiles, allows him to retire

From reporter Charles Piller's story in today's Bee:

Duane Wiles, recently fired by the California Department of Transportation for fabricating bridge tests, has been allowed to resign instead.

This marks the second time Wiles has been "unfired" by Caltrans. The first was in 1998 for incompetence, insubordination, dishonesty and other problems, but the agency was overruled by the State Personnel Board.

This week's settlement agreement with Caltrans prevents a public airing of Wiles' admitted fraud and errors, and removes a public forum for examining whether agency higher-ups responsibly addressed the problem.

Here's the stipulated settlement agreement signed by Wiles, his attorney and Caltrans representatives.
Duane Wiles Settlement Agreement with Caltrans

January 23, 2012
California special agents seek halt to Jerry Brown's layoffs

The Association of Special Agents has filed for a temporary restraining order against Gov. Jerry Brown to stop the layoffs of its members at the Department of Justice.

The court filing, submitted Thursday in Sacramento Superior Court, is a new phase of the association's litigation against Brown. The group says that Brown targeted about 300 of its members for layoff in retaliation for their union's 2010 endorsement of Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.

The agents are a subset of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association.

The Brown administration has denied the ASA charge, saying that legislative Republicans' refusal to extend higher taxes triggered the cuts to Department of Justice jobs.

Here's the 329-page filing by ASA President Mike Loyd:
120123 ASA TRO

January 6, 2012
Chat live with Jon Ortiz: Brown budget would cut 3,000 jobs

December 21, 2011
Engineers group says Bay Bridge concerns argue for privatizing

The American Council of Engineering Companies of California has put up a You Tube post to promote its take on questions raised by The Bee concerning structural tests of the Bay Bridge's new span.

The interview ACEC California's Executive Director, Paul J. Meyer and ACEC California's President, Eddie W. Kho is the latest shot in the long-running battle over privatizing public infrastructure projects between ACEC, which represents private engineering firms, and Professional Engineers in California Government, the union that represents state engineers in Caltrans.

ACEC says Caltrans is too big to manage. Privatization, the group contends, forces market discipline on contract engineers who can deliver projects quicker and more cheaply than public-sector engineers. PECG says that privatizing isn't cheaper and that the profit motive in private industry can entice contractors to take shortcuts that compromise public safety.

Worth noting: The Caltrans employee at the center of the Bay Bridge controversy, Duane Wiles, wasn't a state engineer before he was fired in November. Wiles was a transportation technician represented by SEIU Local 1000. He is appealing his dismissal.

December 20, 2011
Number of California public-sector jobs up slightly in November

Thumbnail image for 100831 calculator.JPGNew employment numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning show that the number of government jobs at all levels in California last month rose very slightly from the same period one year ago.

The preliminary figures show that 2.43 million Californians worked for a public body last month, up 1 percent from a year ago.

Nationwide, the public sector had 238,000 fewer public-sector jobs last month than in November 2010.

Click here for the BLS news release. This link opens the BLS tables. Click this link to download a spreadsheet culled from the government employment numbers.

PHOTO: www.freefoto.com

December 5, 2011
State Compensation Insurance Fund: RAND idea; the boss's pay

Thumbnail image for 100727 rowe.JPGAs the quasi-public State Compensation Insurance Fund continues its plan to downsize, several of its employees have contacted The State Worker to point out a section of a 2009 RAND Institute for Civil Justice study that recommends reducing the number of the fund's permanent staff to remove incentives for it to maintain market share to justify State Fund's staffing.

Here's the pertinent paragraph from "California's Volatile Workers' Compensation Insurance Market: Problems and Recommendations for Change," by Lloyd Dixon, James W. Macdonald, William Barbagallo.

November 23, 2011
Drug agents sue Jerry Brown over impending layoffs

Thumbnail image for 100609 gavel.jpgThe Association of Special Agents is suing Gov. Jerry Brown and Department of Finance Director Ana Matosantos over targeted Department of Justice layoffs that the agents contend are politically motivated. The agents group is an affiliate of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association.

Click here for Kevin Yamamura's report on Capitol Alert. Read our recent story about the political history that prompted the association's complaint by clicking here.

And here's the complaint filed in Sacramento Superior Court today:
Association of Special Agents v. Jerry Brown

November 22, 2011
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation updates jobs lists

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has posted a new list that shows where the agency is overstaffed and cutting jobs and where it is understaffed and is looking to fill positions.

The new "Over/Under Report" put up online late Monday afternoon replaces two earlier lists that were on CDCR's Layoff Resources page one that purported to list spots CDCR wants to fill at unstaffed facilities and another that registered overstaffing at facilities around the state.

The lists conflicted, however, and CDCR pulled them down three weeks ago.

To fully understand the new chart, which you can view by clicking here, you should read this explanation of the data.

November 18, 2011
State Fund 'transition' contract details jobs targeted for lay offs

As we reported earlier today, State Compensation Insurance Fund employees targeted for lay off can receive what amounts to severance pay if they volunteer to leave by Dec. 31.

Here's the 'transition package' State Fund negotiated with SEIU Local 1000:

October 31, 2011
From the notebook: Corrections has cut a fifth of executive jobs

Thumbnail image for notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Prior to our Saturday Q&A with Matt Cate, secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, we conducted several interviews with CDCR management. One of the questions that we asked during those discussions: With all of the job cutting at CDCR, how many Career Executive Assignments and exempt employee jobs has the department cut?

The department checked and got back to us. Here's the answer from part of an email sent last week by CDCR spokesman Paul Verke:

October 22, 2011
From the notebook: Parole staff got heads up about layoffs

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our story in today's Bee expands on the news The State Worker broke on Friday that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is issuing 26,000 layoff warnings -- the so-called "State Restriction of Appointments" notice -- although it's not clear how many workers will be ultimately affected.

Word that notices would be going out started moving through the department earlier this week. Here's the text of an email that went out to some parole staff on Thursday:

September 30, 2011
How California's hiring freeze forces creative solutions

The hiring requests submitted to Gov. Jerry Brown's administration often show how thinking at the agency or department level conflicted with what decision makers in the governor's office defined "essential" jobs or how vacancies could be filled.

The Department of Transportation, for example, asked to hire an administrative assistant II who would work for the director of Caltrans. The position would have cost the department about $64,000 per year.

Failing to fill it would mean "the Director's ability to respond to urgent requests ... may be impaired. Responses to the Governor's Office and External Agencies may be delayed if the Director is not apprised of the priority," the department said. "Actions at this level affect the Department and Director's image and the ability to produce desired results."

Transportation couldn't transfer internally to fill the job, it said, because the vacant position "is the only Administrative Assistant II position in the Department."

The Brown administration gave the hire a thumbs down and offered an outside-the-org-chart solution:

September 29, 2011
California hiring freeze shows 'critical' in the eye of the beholder

Gov. Jerry Brown's hiring freeze order is pretty darn explicit: No hiring for jobs that aren't "critical" functions of a department's "core" mission. No hiring for positions that aren't front-line jobs providing essential front-line services, such as public safety jobs.

Toxic Substances' request No. I-0008, which we've posted below, said the department needed to hire a chief of its Office of Criminal Investigations (cost: $138,000 per year), to supervise its investigators and scientists. The public safety duties of the job made it a candidate for a freeze exemption, the department said, and leaving it empty would, "result in reduced law enforcement field presence in California."

That's not all. Leave the job unfilled, the department said, and you're weakening the deterrent for illegal hazardous waste dumping and you're hampering fair competition between businesses that follow hazardous waste handling and disposal rules and those businesses that don't.

Despite those dire predictions, the Brown administration slammed the request with three terse sentences:

September 28, 2011
State manufacturer, utilities commission sought hiring OKs

We're approaching the finish line of our project to post hiring request forms submitted by dozens of state departments, agencies, commissions and offices seeking exemptions from Gov. Jerry Brown's executive order. The documents were the foundation for a recent story on how the administration is enforcing Brown's hiring freeze.

110919 begging.JPGClick the following links to download hiring freeze exemptions filed by the Prison Industry Authority, the Public Utilities Commission, the Office of Real Estate Appraisers and the River-Mountains Conservancy. (To see what Parks & Recreation requested, click here.)

September 27, 2011
Mental Health Department got OK to hire for 131 jobs

We're continuing our project to post hiring request forms submitted by dozens of state departments, agencies and offices seeking exemptions from Gov. Jerry Brown's executive order. The documents were the foundation for a recent story on how the administration is enforcing Brown's hiring freeze.

Next up: Hiring freeze exemptions filed by the Department of Managed Health Care, which received permission to hire for three of the 15 jobs it wanted to fill, the Department of Mental Health (approved for 131 of 171 requests) and the Office of Planning and Research (got the OK to hire for the one position it wanted to fill).

September 26, 2011
Hiring request highlights one department's knowledge problem

The state's reliance on retired annuitants, a sore subject for many state workers and for pension reform advocates, surfaced in an unusual hiring freeze exemption request filed earlier this year by the Department of Health Care Services.

The department asked on May 27 to hire a retired annuitant a specific retiree for an $8,000-per-month Research Program Specialist II job. The retiree had been training his successor to do everything from data mapping and research to to regulation review and survey analysis.

110919 begging.JPGThe replacement wasn't ready to take over and the department needed the retiree, whose name is redacted from the document provided to The State Worker, to stick around to finish preparing his successor to take over.

Failing to keep the RA to complete the institutional knowledge hand-off would "significantly delay the review of all policy findings including contracts, disclosure statements, riders, promotional materials, applications, coverage documents and actuarial memoranda." Ultimately the data analysis used for pricing some insurance policies could be affected.

No go, said the Brown administration in its June 28 response to request No. I-015, which we've posted below.

September 22, 2011
Read the hiring requests: Financial Institutions, Fish & Game

Our hiring freeze story in Sunday's fiber/cyber Bee used data collected from hundreds of pages of forms submitted by dozens of state departments, agencies and offices seeking exemptions from Gov. Jerry Brown's executive order.

It also prompted several calls and about a dozen emails from state employees asking, "What about my department?"

So we're posting daily links to the documents we used for that report so that you can see the figures, read the departments' rationale for hiring and the Brown administration's responses.

Today's batch: The Department of Financial Institutions and the Department of Fish & Game:

September 21, 2011
Read the hiring requests: Delta Stewardship, Cal EPA, more

Our hiring freeze story in Sunday's fiber/cyber Bee used data collected from hundreds of pages of forms submitted by dozens of state departments, agencies and offices seeking exemptions from Gov. Jerry Brown's executive order.

We're posting daily links to the documents we used for that report so that you can see the figures, read the departments' rationale for hiring and the Brown administration's responses.

We're skipping Corrections and Rehabilitation (since we posted those hiring requests on Sunday) and picking up with the Delta Stewardship Council through the state Environmental Protection Agency:

September 20, 2011
Consumer Affairs, Corporations asked Brown if they could hire

Our story in Sunday's fiber/cyber Bee used data collected from hundreds of pages of forms submitted by dozens of state departments, agencies and offices seeking exemptions from Gov. Jerry Brown's hiring freeze.

We're posting daily links to the documents we used for that report so that you can see the figures, read the departments' rationale for hiring and the Brown administration's responses.

Here's the next batch from Consumer Affairs and Corporations:

September 19, 2011
From the notebook: Read the state hiring freeze documents

Thumbnail image for notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpg
We never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our story in Sunday's fiber/cyber Bee uses data culled from hundreds of pages of forms submitted by dozens of state departments, agencies and offices seeking exemptions from Gov. Jerry Brown's hiring freeze.

Over the next two weeks, we intend to post daily links to the documents we used so that you can see the figures, read the departments' arguments for hiring and the Brown administration's responses.

Here's the first batch, Air Resources through Conservation:

September 19, 2011
California state engineers' union asks to stop road project

100609 gavel.jpgThe state engineers' union has asked the California Supreme Court to intervene in a San Francisco road project, contending that it violates state law.

The Friday filing by Professional Engineers in California Government asks the high court to review the public-private Park Presidio road project, which is being built as a public-private partnership, or P3 in governmentspeak.

The case raises again the classic debate over the performance and cost-effectiveness of government versus the private sector. So far, PECG has twice lost the court fight, despite the Presidio project's estimated cost tripling from $473 million when it was competitively bid to $1.4 billion as a no-bid P3.

September 18, 2011
From the notebook: Departments ask to hire, Brown responds

Thumbnail image for notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpg
We never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our story in today's Bee examines how Gov. Jerry Brown's administration is enforcing his Feb. 15 hiring freeze order.

Today's piece mentions four departments that sought exemptions with varying degrees of success: the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

What follows are links to download those departments' hiring freeze exemption requests and the Brown administration's responses. Starting Monday, we'll begin posting daily all the exemption requests that went into our hiring freeze calculations. It will probably take two weeks or a little longer to put all of them online.

September 15, 2011
Poll: What's the hiring temperature in state government?

We're working on a story about Gov. Jerry Brown's hiring freeze. We'd like to get state workers' perspectives into the piece: What are you hearing about hiring where you work? If you've received an SROA notice and are looking for a new position, how is it going? What are colleagues telling you?

This isn't for everybody. We're looking for people who wouldn't mind being on the record. The story would make it clear that you're not speaking for your employer. If you'd like to be part of our report, we'd like to hear from you. Call (916) 321-1043 or e-mail jortiz@sacbee.com. The story's deadline is 3 p.m. on Friday.

Meanwhile, here's our hiring freeze poll question:

September 6, 2011
Readers react to Sunday state layoff story

Thumbnail image for 110906 email.JPGWe've received an unusually heavy number of calls and e-mails reacting to our Sunday story on state employee layoffs.

We're still triaging the e-mails, but here are snippets from a few that represent the range of response to the story:

June 28, 2011
Bill watch: Firefighter certification bill streaks toward perfection

Assembly Bill 398, which would make it easier for some military veterans to become firefighters in California, rolled through a Senate committee this morning without any opposition.

The measure by Republican Assemblyman Mike Morrell of Rancho Cucamonga hasn't drawn a single "no" vote so far: The Assembly supported it 75-0 last month after two committees in the lower chamber voted a combined 33-0 in favor.

This morning, the 11-member Senate Committee on Governmental Organization approved OK'd the bill without any dissenting vote. It now goes to Senate Appropriations for consideration. From there the full Senate will take it up.

The measure would allow the state fire marshal to accept federal Department of Defense firefighter certification as equal training for Firefighter I, which is the basic certification California requires for firefighting jobs. (Here's our earlier post about the bill.)

Morrell has touted the proposal as a way to smooth the path to employment for some of the 30,000 or so veterans who return to California each year. It's not clear how many of them have firefighter certification from the Defense Department or, if they do, how many would apply for firefighter jobs if entry is simplified for them.

June 15, 2011
Jerry Brown administration to close four state garages

HA_state_cars113.JPGThe Department of General Services will shut down four facilities for holding state vehicles and focus all operations on its Sacramento garage, Director Fred Klass announced Wednesday.

"The state garage in Sacramento, near most state employees, makes sense--but brick and mortar locations elsewhere have become too costly," Klass said in a statement.

The 26 employees at the Fresno, Los Angeles and Oakland garages along with the San Diego office will have a chance to move to open positions within DGS or receive priority for other state posts for which they qualify.

Klass's order also will eliminate preventative maintenance operations at the Sacramento garage.

DGS said the closings will save the state $2 million annually -- consistent with Gov. Jerry Brown's efforts to reduce the size of state government. The winding down of operations will begin later this year.

"We cannot continue the status quo with our state fleet operations by maintaining non-essential facilities," Klass said in the statement. "Although the employees who work in at these garages do a fine job, the data shows us that the garages are no longer cost beneficial for taxpayers in supporting state government."

DGS spokesman Eric Lamoureux said in recent years fewer state workers had been picking up cars from the remaining state garages outside of Sacramento. The state has a contract with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which often serves as a more convenient location for employees to get cars.

Some of the facilities were built more than 50 years ago to service state vehicles, according to DGS. But service and repair now also can be handled at private shops.

Brown issued an executive order in January that called for the state to cut in half its fleet of 11,000 nonessential passenger cars and trucks. Vehicles at the garages to be closed will be moved to Sacramento or dropped from the state fleet per the governor's order.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been changed to reflect that DGS amended a previous statement to say that the state's leases for the Oakland and Los Angeles facilities will not be renewed. The Fresno location is part of a state complex and will become a parking garage. The San Diego office is in a state office building.

PHOTO CREDIT: A series of Toyota Prius Hybrids sit on the Sacramento garage in September 2009. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee.

May 17, 2011
President Barack Obama talks about government work

A federal employee who is about to lose her job asked President Barack Obama, "I'm stressed. I'm worried. ... I definitely need a job. ... What would you do if you were me?"

Click the viewer to hear the president's response.

February 16, 2011
Darrell Steinberg talks about Jerry Brown's hiring freeze

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg was at the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce this morning to unveil legislation on regulatory reform and -- as a news release from his office put it -- make government more "nimble and responsive" to the demands of economic development in the state.

While he was there, a reporter asked about the freeze on state hiring that Gov. Jerry Brown announced yesterday.

"I think he wants to make it crystal clear that government is not going to grow," Steinberg said in part. "It can't grow. We are dealing with big deficits here."

Watch Bee colleague Hector Amezcua's video of Steinberg's full response below.

December 9, 2010
More about State Fund's consolidation plan

We've received intra-agency e-mails and documents sent to State Compensation Insurance Fund employees about the fund's consolidation, a plan that we reported in this blog post earlier today.

Here are the docs and a press release that went out today:

December 2, 2010
2 million viewers watch game warden reality show

"Wild Justice," the National Geographic Channel's show about California game wardens, drew a combined 3.2 million viewers with its Sunday 9 p.m. preview and 10 p.m. premiere, according to an NGC press release that we've posted below. The 10 p.m. debut became the highest-rated series launch in the channel's history, reaching 2.1 million viewers.

Click here for an earlier State Worker blog post about the show with a clip from the series. "Wild Justice" now airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m.

This key will help you understand the press release:

HH = percentage of households with a television
P25-54 = percentage of viewers in the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic
P2+ = total viewers

"Wild Justice" breaks record on National Geographic Channel

November 18, 2010
State hired, promoted 477 executives in 2009 and 2010

From January 2009 through September of this year, California's state government hired or promoted employees to 477 career executive positions, according to figures provided by the State Controller's Office.

All but two of those jobs were full-time. The median monthly pay for employees assuming those posts: $8,616. The average monthly pay: $9,129.

The pace for executive hires and promotions in calendar 2010 quickened compared with 2009. Last year the state placed or promoted 230 employees into executive jobs, compared with 246 in the first nine months of this year.

Of those hired or promoted in 2010, 14 became effective on or after Schwarzenegger Cabinet Secretary Scott Reid clamped down on hiring.

Some of the increased executive hiring and promotions may be a result of a state worker rush to retirement prompted by furloughs, recent increases to employee pension contributions or demography. For example, a state audit last year estimated the government could lose 13,000 managers and supervisors to retirement by 2016, close to half of the employees at that level.

Click here to download the controller's numbers.This document defines the various columns of data on the spreadsheet.

September 6, 2010
From the notebook: More Labor Day story quotes and info

Thumbnail image for notebook.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 Labor Day story, a sort of "state of the state workers" piece, started at roughly twice the length of the finished product running in today's fiber/cyber Bee.

Among the details that didn't make the cut, an answer to a question we asked state Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer: How many vacant state positions have been "swept" off the books? His e-mailed response:

From 2004-05 through 2009-10, 8,104 positions were eliminated pursuant to Government Code 12439. Positions eliminated in 2004-05 represent positions vacant for at least six months as of June 30, 2004 (that were not reestablished). Those positions represent the first positions eliminated pursuant to GC 12439 under Governor Schwarzenegger.

Approximately 3,350 additional positions were eliminated as a result of other vacancy reduction drills in 2008-09.

Click here to read Government Code 12439.

September 1, 2010
Schwarzenegger cabinet memo clamps down on hiring, OT

As we reported in today's Bee, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has told agency secretaries and department directors to stop hiring, a directive underscored in a memo issued on Tuesday and obtained by The State Worker today.

The memo from Cabinet Secretary Scott Reid also directs departments to cut down on overtime. Although it uses the term "hiring freeze" to describe the governor's insistence that state executives scrutinize all new hires, the memo isn't an executive order directing that all hiring end.

According to Reid, Schwarzenegger's directions include the following:

All state agencies and departments under his direct executive authority shall cease the hiring of employees (including the categories of retired annuitant, permanent intermittent, seasonal, temporary help, and student assistant).

The hiring freeze shall also apply to the transfer of employees between State agencies, the promotion of employees, and the contracting for individuals to perform services.

Every effort shall be taken to cease and desist the authorization of all overtime for employees.

September 1, 2010
From the notebook: State hiring patterns in 2010

100831 calculator.JPGAs we reported Tuesday on this blog and again today (with a bit more detail), Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday told agency and department heads to clamp down on hiring. In January, the governor ordered departments to cut their payroll costs by 5 percent. Apparently, he wasn't happy to find out on that state government hasn't appreciably shrunk.

(To be fair, twice the number of state workers retired as were hired to full-time permanent positions from January 2009 through June of this year.)

After learning of the governor's meeting, we decided to take another run at the new-hire data used in our Monday report to answer some new questions:

August 31, 2010
Schwarzenegger to agency secretaries: Stop hiring

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger met with agency secretaries and department directors Monday afternoon to personally deliver a message: Stop hiring.

The 4 p.m. meeting came after The Bee reported that the size of the state work force overall remained essentially flat from January 2009 through June of this year, although full-time hires were roughly half the number of employees who retired.

The 18-month period analyzed by The Bee included 17 months that state workers endured furloughs ordered by the governor that reduced their hours and pay by a total of 46 working days.

Schwarzenegger called the meeting "to reiterate that we should not be hiring unless absolutely necessary," said the governor's spokesman, Aaron McLear.

Departments were directed to cut their personnel budgets by 5 percent earlier this year and most have met that goal. But meeting that target doesn't mean departments have a green light to hire.

"The point isn't to just get to the (reduction target) and then start hiring," McLear said. "The point isn't to just maintain the current level of employees. The point is to shrink."


August 30, 2010
From the notebook: New California state government hires data

From the notebook posts give State Worker blog users insights, notes and quotes that went into news stories that we write.

Our report in today's Bee notes that the state hired nearly 23,000 new-to-government employees in the 18-month period that ended June 30. The overall size of the work force stayed relatively flat. Interestingly, the number of first-ever permanent full-time workers was just a tad more than half the number of employees who retired, according to the State Controller's Office and CalPERS.

Have furloughs and threat of layoffs or minimum wage pushed some workers to the exits more quickly? Probably. And anecdotally we hear that those same policies have tamped down applications for some high-level jobs, such as investment managers at CalPERS. Then there's the accelerating brain drain brought on by the growing wave of boomer-age employees who are retiring,

Click here to download the new hires data we received last Wednesday from the SCO. We originally planned to reference the information for our Thursday State Worker column, but the granular detail of the database prompted us to write a full news story instead.

August 23, 2010
Schwarzenegger's job chart

100817 Job loss chart.JPG

Capitol Bureau intern Queenie Wong's post, "Schwarzenegger: State employees 'not in touch with reality,' " featured video of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking to the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce in Los Angeles.

During a Q&A with the audience, the governor referenced the job chart pictured above that illustrates how, in his estimation, state workers have been spared the fate that has befallen the private sector during the recession and hence are out of touch with reality.

We asked the administration for a bit more detail about the chart.

April 2, 2010
Lanterman center closure plan released; union reacts

Thumbnail image for 100201 Lanterrman.JPGThe Department of Developmental Services has issued its blueprint for closing the massive Lanterman Developmental Center in Pomona. You can read the 93-page plan by clicking here.

Lanterman's closure has to be approved by the state Legislature, which received the plan on Thursday. DDS estimates it will take at least two years from now to shutter the facility.

The plan includes the department's rationale for closing the center and impacts to clients and their families and to staff.

A coalition of the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians, Lanterman clients' family members and staff followed the DDS report with this "Save Lanterman" press release announcing the launch of saveldc.org , a Web site aimed at convincing lawmakers to save the facility. Of Lanterman's 1,280 staff, 507 are represented by CAPT.

Click here for an earlier report about Lanterman.

IMAGE: www.dds.cahwnet.gov

March 31, 2010
Obama names Teri Takai to federal post

President Barack Obama is nominating Teri Takai, California's state chief information officer, for a position in the Department of Defense.

It's not clear when Takai might leave Sacramento to become assistant secretary of networks and information integration at Defense. Office of the Chief Information Officer spokesman Bill Maile deferred questions Tuesday to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office for a comment. Other stories got in the way of making that call until today, and Schwarzenegger's press office is closed in observance of Cesar Chavez Day.

You can read the White House press release by clicking here.

March 3, 2010
Caltrans responds to analyst's report that it needs to cut jobs

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 081212 caltrans_logo.gifAs reported in this blog post, the Legislative Analyst's Office yesterday issued a report that recommended 1,500 job reductions at Caltrans, suggesting that the department's Capital Outlay Support program is overstaffed. LAO said that at the very least the Legislature should require Caltrans to provide more justification for its need to maintain 10,359 positions in its COS program.

Caltrans responded last night with this e-mailed statement:

We are in the process of reviewing the Legislative Analyst's Office report and conclusions. Caltrans is committed to ensuring that the public's tax dollars are used as effectively and efficiently as possible to build and maintain California's transportation system. We disagree that we are overstaffed at this time given the daily demands and efforts to upgrade and maintain our transportation system. This includes the implementation of Proposition 1B, the 2006 voter approved transportation bond, and the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which represents nearly 2,000 projects to date, will continue to grow, and has resulted in thousands of jobs for Californians. However, these two programs are fast approaching the end of their fiscal cycles and the Department will be re-evaluating its staffing levels to match its workload needs in the future. We are constantly working to improve our business practices while ensuring the safety of our workers and the traveling public. This review and the resulting discussions will help us continue our ongoing efforts.

Hat tip to Bee Capitol Bureau colleague Kevin Yamamura for his capable coverage of this story on Tuesday.

February 18, 2010
CSU East Bay axing 60 jobs

CSU East Bay seal and logo.JPGCSU East Bay says it is planning to cut about 60 non-teaching jobs and reduce the work hours of another 80 employees in response to what university President Mo Qayoumi calls a "staggering" budget crunch.

From the university's announcement:

The net reduction in the university's base budget from 2008-09 to 2010-11 was $20.3 million, a decrease of more than a 14 percent. That total does not include a $4.2 million structural deficit the university has been trying to eliminate since (Qayoumi) arrived in July 2006.

Read the press announcement about the layoffs and work time cuts by clicking here.

IMAGE: www.csueastbay.edu

January 25, 2010
Schwarzenegger order prompts 'workforce cap plan' memo

The Department of Finance sent out a budget letter to departments on Friday, giving them until Monday of next week to submit plans to wring another 5 percent in salary savings for fiscal 2010-11. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger mandated the cost cuts with his Jan. 8 Executive Order S-01-10.

"These reductions can be achieved through abolishing vacancies, attrition, and layoffs," the budget letter says. Click here to read it.

December 16, 2009
State worker featured in CNN story

Cindie Fonseca, a CDCR instructure and SEIU Local 1000 activist, is featured in a CNN report on California's sagging economy.

We've featured Fonseca on this blog and in this State Worker column.

Click here to see the CNN piece (after a brief advertisement). And clicking the following link will expand this post to include the report's script, provided by Local 1000's Jim Zamora.

September 16, 2009
See which state departments hired newcomers this year

State government added about 6,800 new employees in the first half of this year, according to data from the State Controller's Office. We've got the details in spreadsheet form that you can download by clicking here.

Some of the departments that added the most workers:

CHP: 501
Corrections: 940
DMV: 246
Developmental Services: 280
EDD: 1,054
Forestry and Fire Protection: 341
FTB: 388
Mental Health: 466
Parks and Rec: 544

Those numbers reflect appointments where the employee is new to state service, and the spreadsheet has more details about each position. Many are part time or seasonal.

Some hiring may be the result of the quickening retirement rate among state workers, a trend that we reported in this story. Other additions, such as EDD, were driven by higher caseloads.
We're interested in your observations.

California Association of Professional Scientists, which obtained it with a Public Records Acts request from the State Controller's Office, shared the data with The State Worker.

September 15, 2009
Reminder: CalPERS board voting deadline Oct. 2

If you haven't returned your CalPERS' Board of Administration ballot, you have until Oct. 2 to get it in. A few folks have called and e-mailed us that they have been holding their vote until they could watch the video from the Sept. 2 candidate's forum at Sacramento's Dante Club. They missed our earlier post and asked that we direct them to it.

We figure that there may be other blog users who want to see the video, so we decided to post it again here.

The Bee's video staff distilled the 28-minute video from two hours of raw footage shot by Kim McElroy of Shout TV, the public access television show devoted to SEIU Local 1000 issues. (Local 1000 doesn't sponsor the show or sanction its content.)

Watch the video and you'll see CalPERS Board of Administration candidates J.J. Jelincic, Inderjit Singh Kallirai and Muriel Strand taking questions from Bee editorial board member Ginger Rutland and the dean of Sacramento's political press corps, columnist Dan Walters. The video also includes closing remarks by each candidate.

Candidates Cathy Hackett, Kurato Shimada, Dan T. Villella and Dennis Yates did not participate.

The Bee and PERSWatch co-sponsored the event. The League of Women Voters moderated.

Click here for more information about the election.

June 16, 2009
Are cuts prodding California state workers to retire earlier?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Dollars and cents.jpgWe're starting to hear that state workers are moving up their their retirement dates. This is purely anecdotal, but the sense we're getting is that furloughs, declining morale, the budget crisis and a sense of overall erosion in the bureaucracy is pushing some people toward the exits.

The governor's recent proposal to cut state employee pay by 5 percent across the board may have been the clincher for many. That cut, unlike the furlough policy, would affect leave cash outs because it would reduce base pay, as we recently reported in this blog post.

Last week we asked the State Personnel Board for the latest age breakdowns for the state workforce. As of May 31, about one in five state workers was 55 or older. Add in those employees age 50 to 54, and the percentage of state workers eligible to retire within the next five years is about 35 percent.

Click here to see the SPB report. (Thanks to Madeline Olsen at SPB for helping us out.)
On average, state workers retire at age 60 with 22.7 years of service, according to CalPERS.

We thought about those statistics as we read this recent e-mail from a state supervisor who said that two key staffers were leaving for "greener pastures" in the private sector. (We've omitted some details because this person is not authorized to speak about personnel matters and isn't a spokesman for his department.)

The first of many staff exiting state service. They ... haven't had a contract for ... years and were already 50% behind market pay ... even before the 15 % cut.


They will take vacation payouts in the 50 to 75 thousand range for accrued vacation which hits department budgets hard ... First time in my (many) years (of service) that two ... left at once.

We've asked CalPERS for any retirement inquiry or application data that it tracks to see if a larger trend exists. We'll report what we hear from the fund.

IMAGE: freephotos.com

June 12, 2009
Developmental Services shutting down Yuba City facility

Thumbnail image for 090611 SVSign_sm.jpgThe Department of Developmental Services has told the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians that the state will shut down a Yuba City facility by the first of next year.

The facility, Sierra Vista, serves up to 50 clients at any one time and employs 51 Bargaining Unit 18 members, CAPT says. The union didn't know what the state plans to do with the clients or staff, according to its press release.

So we called DDS spokeswoman Nancy Lungren. She said that the state's financial crisis has forced the department to close Sierra Vista to cut costs.

The facility employs a total of about 130 people. The state will begin contacting public and private facilities around the Yuba City area to see what jobs might be available for displaced Sierra Vista employees.

Moving clients out will be handled "with sensitivity," Lungren said, on a case-by-case basis.

The state's lease on the property runs out in February of next year. The department figures to save about $4.2 million as the facility winds down in fiscal 2009-10. Sierra Vista costs the state about $15 million per year to operate, Lungren said.

This link will take you to Sierra Vista's Web site. Click this link to read the CAPT release about the facility's impending closure.

June 8, 2009
State plans job fair for employees facing possible layoff

The Department of Personnel Administration is hosting a job fair on Thursday at Cal Expo from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is specifically for state workers in danger of layoff. DPA expects up to 60 departments to attend the event.

Click here to read DPA Chief Deputy Director Debbie Endsley's e-mail blast to the state's personnel officers about the job fair.

Pop this link to read a letter from department Director Dave Gilb that contains important details for anyone who wants to attend.

Still have questions? Go to DPA's "Job Fair for State Employees Facing Layoff" Web page by clicking here.

May 29, 2009
'You can't discount anything' on furloughs

We just got off the phone with Schwarzenegger administration spokesman Aaron McLear. Some excerpts from the conversation:

TSW: How likely is it that the Legislature will approve these cuts, particularly the 5 percent state worker pay cut?

Aaron McLear: We're not putting bets on any part of our proposal. This is what the governor believes is the best way to get out from under a $24 billion deficit. If the Legislature has other ideas, we're anxious to talk about that with them.

TSW: Is there a Plan B if legislators don't go along with cutting state worker pay?

McLear: Our proposal is our proposal. The state worker pay cut is just one of many elements up for debate.

TSW: OK, straight up: Is the governor prepared to order more furloughs if he doesn't get the pay cut?

McLear: What the governor has put together is what he believes is the best way to (handle the budget mess). If he needs to take executive action to realize savings in the future he will do that. You can't discount anything.

April 30, 2009
Ex-Schwarzenegger Cabinet secretary appointed to CalPERS board
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has appointed a former Cabinet secretary to the CalPERS board to help oversee how the pension fund is managing your retirement money.

Dan Dunmoyer will join the CalPERS board as the Schwarzenegger administration's insurance industry representative, the retirement system announced Thursday.

Dunmoyer, a Republican, is head of state legislative and regulatory affairs for the Farmers Insurance Companies and Zurich Financial Services in the United States.

He was a Schwarzenegger cabinet secretary, deputy chief of staff and senior policy development adviser in the governor's office between 2005 and 2008.

Dunmoyer replaces Marjorie Berte, who has served on CalPERS board since 2005.

Rob Feckner, CalPERS board president, said Dunmoyer's insurance industry and public service experience will be an asset to the pension fund and its members.

Dunmoyer was head of the Personal Insurance Federation of California between 1996 and 2005.  He's also been chief administrative officer for the Republican caucus of the Assembly, where he once managed a 60-member staff.

January 14, 2009
State still hiring despite deficit and furloughs

The State Personnel Board has a handy-dandy Web tool for anyone looking for a state job anywhere in California.

It's called Geo Search, and you can see it right here.

The site displays open jobs by county statewide. I was curious: is the state hiring in these tough times?

I thought there would be no vacancies and no hiring, given that the state is running out of cash and eyeballing a stinker of a $45 billion budget deficit.

 So wrong.

In Sacramento County, there are 1,600 state jobs open, many of the advertisements for them including a declaration that the position is exempt from the state hiring freeze. 

Yes, that was 1-6-0-0.

Ditto for Los Angeles (181 open jobs), Fresno (83 open jobs), Napa (78 open jobs) Solano (62 open jobs), Yolo (49 open jobs) and San Francisco ( 44 open jobs).

Sutter, Yuba, Placer and Eldorado counties show postings for another 22 vacant jobs.

How can this be?.

Lynelle Jolley, a spokeswoman for the Department of Personnel Administration, thinks that some of those jobs probably won't be filled.

Some agencies are loathe to take down their job advertisements because they want to build a file of resumes they can tap when the economy and state's finances improve, she said.

Like any other workplace, though, there are defections to other agencies and state worker departures to private sector or other jobs. 

 There are retirements, too, though the 401K declines that some state workers saw in their accounts during 2008 have put a lot of those plans on hold, Jolley added.
.
"Even during furloughs and layoffs, there are certain jobs that you have to fill," Jolley said. "Consider what you would do if six people in your ten-person shop either leave or retire?"

The Governor and Department of Finance have made it clear in their marching orders that departments and agencies may still hire, Jolley said, but noted there's a big caveat.

The departments and agencies must meet budget reduction targets and promise not to come back later to plead for more money because they've blown the budget. 

If you have a teenager or college-age student, you may know where this is going. . .

December 22, 2008
Unions, lawmakers react to furloughs, layoffs

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Arnold.jpgOne of a California governor's greatest powers is the ability to set the agenda. When Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks, the press amplifies his message and then other elected state workers and employee labor unions have to respond.

Here's a roundup of what some folks were saying last week after Schwarzenegger issued his order to furlough state workers and, possibly, lay off some. Click the block quote to read the entire statement :

Assemblymembers Alberto Torrico, Paul Krekorian and Ed Hernandez

The governor has shown he can't negotiate with Republicans, he doesn't negotiate with Democrats, and now he's refusing to negotiate with employees. It's the same lack of leadership that has kept him from coming up with a single vote for any budget solution. And now that lack of leadership has resulted in his making a scapegoat of employees who are not the source of the problem.

The Association of California State Supervisors

ACSS' position is that instead of cutting state workers' salaries, the governor should focus on enhancing revenue.

Calfornia Statewide Law Enforcement Association

CSLEA will be doing everything within its power to prevent the furlough provisions of the Executive Order from taking effect. CSLEA will be meeting with DPA to attempt to reach an agreement which satisfactorily protects members' interests. CSLEA is also collaborating with other labor organizations and is researching potential legal remedies should negotiations fail to resolve this issue.

SEIU Local 100

Local 1000 staff attorneys are planning to file charges with the Public Employee Relations Board against the state. They are also are reviewing all our legal options to protect members.

IMAGE: The Sacramento Bee

December 19, 2008
State employees get their furlough letter
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has sent a letter to state workers outlining plans for furloughs and job eliminations. Read it here.
November 24, 2008
State workers map impact of climate change

081124 GOLDENGATE.jpgIf you haven't already, check out Bee colleague Chris Bowman's story today, which highlights the work of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which has literally mapped out the consequences of global warming for California's shorelines and waterways.

The story includes links to online maps that show the impact of a 1-meter rise in sea levels. Pretty sobering stuff.

IMAGE: San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission

October 30, 2008
California state worker ratio second-lowest in the nation

Thumbnail image for Census bureau seal.jpgFrom the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, this comment on new U.S. Census Bureau statistics:

In 2007 California had the 2nd lowest number of full-time equivalent state government employees relative to population among all states. California had 103 state employees for every 10,000 residents while Illinois had the lowest ratio at 97.

The data suggest that at the aggregate level California is not "overstaffed" relative to caseloads in the major program areas. Indeed, a stronger case can be made that public
programs are being carried out with less staffing than in most other states.

Read the Center's "Numbers in the News" report by clicking here.

When compared with other states, where should California rank in its ratio of government employees to population?

October 28, 2008
Furloughs? Pay cuts? State worker rumor mill in overdrive

Arnold 081027.JPGMonday's announcement by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that he will call lawmakers to a special session to deal with the state's growing budget mess has revved up the rumor machine among worried state workers, judging by calls and e-mails we've fielded:

"I heard that state supervisors and managers will be getting a 5% pay cut. [I'm a manager.]" one e-mailer wrote. "My boss [exempt] said he'd heard that exempts were getting a 5% pay cut. Generally I don't like to listen to rumors, but obviously this one, if true, will affect many of us!"

Another long-time state worker heard that furloughs are coming. "Better than just whacking jobs," he said.

And current contract talks were on the mind of one state worker who called us: "If the state is already $10 billion in the hole, there's no way we're getting a raise."

If you missed it, you can read Bee reporter Jim Sanders' story on the planned special legislative session by clicking here.

And Steve Wiegand of The Bee Capitol Bureau has more here.

IMAGE: Brian Baer / Sacramento Bee

September 23, 2008
Laid-off state workers won't be coming back

State Finance Director Micheal Genest this afternoon said that the state employees whose jobs were a casualty of California's budget impasse won't be rehired this budget year.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's executive order on July 31 terminated about 10,000 part-time and retired annuitant positions, curbed overtime and suspended some contracts.

"We expect the order to remain in effect the rest of the (fiscal) year," Genest said to reporters shortly after Schwarzenegger signed the budget.

The state estimates that the savings from the record-setting budget delay and lower operating costs from the executive order will save the state about $340 million for the fiscal year.

Genest left a little wiggle room, however, saying that some positions could be filled after consideration on a "case-by-case basis," but that jobs vital to public health, safety or property protection had already been exempted.

"Some of the people (who were laid off) will not be coming back," Genest said. "Some of those contracts will not be coming back."

Click here to download the 2008-09 California State Budget.

August 29, 2008
Union files unfair practice charge against DPA

SEIU Local 1000 has filed an unfair practice charge against the state Department of Personnel Administration for failing to ;provide specific information about the 10,000 part-time state workers who were laid off earlier this month.

The union says that DPA promised a complete list but so far has produced info on about 250 terminated workers. That list is part of the union's Thursday filing with the Public Relations Employment Board, which you can access by clicking here.

The complaint says that SEIU needs the information to "represent the affected workers in good faith."

Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker took the criticism further in an e-mail to the State Worker: "The state is either playing fast and loose with labor law or state offiicals have no idea what's going on in their agencies. Either way it's proof the executive order is a mistake."

A DPA spokeswoman said that the department will review the charge.

August 26, 2008
Public-private partnerships could get big boost

According to a front page story in today's Wall Street Journal, the Pennsylvania legislature will soon vote on a $12.8 billion deal struck to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

From the story: A green light in Pennsylvania could bolster the political will of officials in other states trying to hash out similar deals. That in turn could jump-start projects in waiting, from Florida's Alligator Alley to Chicago's Midway Airport.

... Proponents say the lease approach could provide financial relief to state governments struggling with foreclosures, ballooning pension obligations and reduced tax bases. That's not to mention crumbling roads -- and lately, a drop in tax revenue to pay for repairs, owing to high gasoline prices that have reduced driving. The U.S. needs about $1.6 trillion in investment over the next several years to bring infrastructure conditions to acceptable levels, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

... Detractors, from the Turnpike Commission itself to labor unions, question whether the state is selling too cheaply. They also worry that jobs will be lost -- under the proposal, union contracts are guaranteed only until 2011 -- and that tolls will rise.

With California facing at least $500 billion in needed infrastructure repairs and upgrades, it's easy to envision public-private partnerships becoming a bigger part of the political dialog here, particularly if proponents of the idea can point to a Turnpike success story. And if the Pennsylvania proposal fizzles or becomes a fiscal boondoggle later, look for PPP opponents to jump all over it as a high-profile lesson of the ills of such deals.

August 22, 2008
Is your workplace too competitive?

gold medal.jpgAs this new survey announcement notes, your workplace can be a daily version of the Olympics: a team sport with everyone pulling together for a common goal -- or a relentless battle between individual competitors grabbing for the gold.

A new survey found that almost half (46 percent) of senior executives interviewed said they believe employees are more competitive with each other today than they were 10 years ago.

The study was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by OfficeTeam, an administrative staffing service. Researchers conducted telephone interviews with 150 senior executives from some of the largest companies in the United States, according to the press release.

The executives were asked, "In your opinion, are employees more or less competitive with their co-workers than they were 10 years ago?" The tally of responses:

Significantly more competitive.................................12%
Somewhat more competitive....................................34%
No change.............................................................24%
Somewhat less competitive.....................................23%
Significantly less competitive.....................................3%
Don't know...............................................................4%

The OfficeTeam survey focused on the private sector, but would the results have been the same for California state workers? Or do civil service rules for promotions tend to tamp down individual competitiveness?

July 28, 2008
Public employees and public relations

Working for the State of California has downsides. Sure, the pay and benefits can be pretty good if you stick with it long enough. Then again, the governor could suddenly push a plan to whack your pay. And then there's the aggravation of your livelihood being a punchline.

Comedian Dane Cook's riff in this 2-minute YouTube video suggests that going to a DMV office is slightly less painful than a punch in the face. Web sites like officediversions.com have sections dedicated to poking fun at government workers. You've heard the jokes. Maybe even told a few yourself.

You have to wonder if any of that was part of the political calculus behind Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's threat to cut state workers' pay to $6.55 per hour. The formula goes something like this: The outrage of 200,000 state workers is less than the support from millions of Californians who want a budget passed and who don't sympathize with California's bureaucratic corps.

In other words, why risk using a popular group or program for political leverage when state workers are handy? 

Michael Shires, a Pepperdine University associate professor of public policy who wrote "Why is Government So Expensive?" put it this way in a phone interview with The State Worker: "California's state employees have a big PR problem. People see more and more money going into government and not a lot more coming out."

Do you agree? What's behind all the jokes and stereotyping of state workers? Is it harmless fun, or does it indicate something deeper? Can state workers or their unions do anything to improve their public relations? 

July 25, 2008
Kelso: Keep your chin up

Being the Governor of California isn't like being the general of an army. As the growing furor over Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's threat to temporarily chop state worker wages to $6.55 per hour illustrates, folks on the lower rungs can fight back or just ignore you.

I've posted an internal e-mail below that Federal Receiver J. Clark Kelso sent to all Prison Health Care staff. The State Worker hears that it was prompted by his concern that staff morale might take a hit, just as he is beginning to implement the turnaround plan to improve health care in California's 33 prisons.

Kelso "doesn't think it's appropriate" for state health care workers in the prison system to have to take time to run around applying for loans since "health care services in prison is a life or death, 24/7 job," e-mailed Luis Patino, spokesman for the Federal Prison Health Care Receivership.

"(Kelso) also feels that we can't restrict or control clinical services such as oncology which are life-or death services," Patino said. "And, he knows that there is a precedent of representatives of the Federal Court stepping in to override state hiring freezes and other personnel actions when they interfere with progress of remedial plans."

Here's the Kelso e-mail:

Dear California Prison Health Care Services Team Member,


    No doubt you have heard or read media reports about the Governor's proposed plan to ensure that the state maintains adequate cash flow by temporarily lowering state workers' salaries to the federal minimum wage of $6.55 per hour. You may have also heard or read conflicting reports from Controller John Chiang's office that he will continue to send state worker's their full paycheck.
    Exercising the power granted to him by the Federal Court to act as the Secretary of CDCR with respect to medical care matters, Federal Receiver, J. Clark Kelso, has decided that the overriding federal interests of the Receivership require that all employees who work for the Receiver shall be exempt from the executive order.
    This means that you will not see any changes in your pay as a result of the current budget crisis.
    Thank you for your continued hard work, professionalism and commitment to improving prison health care.

July 25, 2008
More details about The Golden 1's salary loan plan

Terry Halleck, The Golden 1 credit union's president and CEO told The State Worker this morning her company has finalized the plans for a two-tier "budget loan" program should Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut state employee wages to the federal minimum $6.55.

 

The program would work like this:

 

  • Members who had direct deposit with the credit union as of June 30 would be eligible for a zero-interest loan.
  • Existing embers who sign up for direct deposit after June 30 would qualify for a loan at 4.99 percent.
  • Both programs would only be available to state employees who were members of The Golden One as of June 30. 

Don't rush down to your local branch. The loans are contingent on the governor's wage cuts. "We won't have people sign loan documents until that happens," Halleck said. "It all depends on how (the budget talks) play out."

 

The Golden 1, which counts 100,000 state workers among its 680,000 members, has already been fielding calls from workers. If it needs to crank up the loan program, Halleck said that the company would use its existing personnel contacts in state government to get out the word. "Making people aware of this won't be an issue," she said.
July 25, 2008
Chiang says governor's order risks legal trouble

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger officials have used a 2003 California Supreme Court case, White v. Davis, to determine that they can pay only the federal minimum wage to state workers without a budget.

But Controller John Chiang told The Bee's Kevin Yamamura he believes the governor's order could put the state at risk for legal damages under federal law.

"I don't want to subject the state of California to legal liability," Chiang said. "Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, if we do not pay full wage, we may be subject to treble damages that would only exacerbate an already difficult financial situation."

Chiang said the state came into this fiscal year with $12 billion in cash available, and he said he believes the state will have sufficient cash through the end of September.

Chiang said he doesn't think White v. Davis is as clear as the Governor's Office believes on the minimum wage issue.

"I believe that it is potentially illegal," Chiang said. "The court did not decide as to the proper amount to be paid. So why would we want to test it when there is very little upside and significant downside at risk?"

Chiang also said he is uncertain his office can logistically set up its computer system to pay minimum wage to its employees by the August pay period.

"All of these government agencies would have to be involved more extensively in payroll calculations, and it could easily create errors subjecting us to legal liability under federal law," Chiang said.

July 24, 2008
Terminated workers could come back

Good news for the 22,000 temporary state workers who could be forced off their jobs next week if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs an executive order to deal with the budget impasse: they may be able to return once a budget is signed.

Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said the temporary employees, including retired state workers who return to the payroll part-time, would have to leave immediately when the executive order is signed next week. But once the budget is signed, he said, departments would have the option to bring the workers back on.

Among the 22,000 who face losing their positions, at least for now, are 7,923 permanent intermittent workers such as exam proctors, 8,720 seasonal employees and 5,662 retired workers who have returned part-time to the payroll. Those who deal with public health and safety, 24-hour care at state facilities and emergency response could be exempted

July 24, 2008
Who's there for you if your pay is whacked

The Governor's plan to cut wages if lawmakers don't reach a budget deal by the weekend had union workers protesting at the Capitol today. Reaction from state workers that I interviewed Wednesday for today's lead story in The Bee swung between angry and appalled. Heavy on the angry.

Move past the outrage and the disbelief, though, and it's probably entered your mind: What will I do if my pay gets cut to $6.55 per hour?

Several financial institutions, including The Golden 1, will likely step in with special loan programs to tide you over. Some already have programs in place that are serving  legislative employees who stopped getting paychecks on July 1.

Terry Halleck, President and CEO of the Sacramento-based credit union told me that budget impasse loans have "become routine" for The Golden 1, since it's the rare year that the state's budget comes in on time.

If state workers' pay is slashed, the credit union would quickly expand its outreach to its 100,000 state worker members. "We would quickly get word out," she said. "And I'm sure that our members would call us, too."

Schools Financial Credit Union issued this press release about its zero-interest state employee loan program earlier this month.

River City Bank for 10 years has helped its direct deposit customers working in the Senate and Assembly who lose their pay July 1 when the state's fiscal witching hour strikes. The bank covers checks and withdrawals on the accounts until the budget is finalized and the state makes good on its retroactive wage obligations.

Know of any other loan programs out there?

July 24, 2008
So who exactly would lose their jobs?

Word started to trickle out Thursday detailing what state employees would be affected by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's executive order to save money during the budget impasse.

According to the Department of Personnel Adminstration, the almost 22,000 workers to be immediately terminated include:

Permanent Intermittent Employees 7,923

Seasonal Employees 8,270

Retired Annuitants 5,662

Permanent intermittent employees are brought in as needed when the state's workload increases. They include CalTrans maintenance workers, exam proctors at the Department of Consumer Affairs, agricultural fair workers and others.

Retired annuitants are retired state workers who return to the job on a part-time basis. In total, they cannot work more than half the year. Most departments use them, claiming to save money by not having to pay the vaction or sick leave or health care costs.

Seasonal workers included park aides, seasonal clerks, tax processors and others.

A Bee analysis of the state payroll database by the Capitol Bureau's John Hill finds that the most common permanent intermittent employees are correctional officers, key data operators, state fair police officers, office assistants, security guards and motor vehicle field representatives. Some of these classifications may be exempt from the order because they are involved in protecting public safety.

The departments with the most permanent intermittent workers include Corrections, California Exposition and State Fair, the Franchise Tax Board, Employment Development, and Motor Vehicles.

Retired state workers who return part-time run the gamut of state titles, from middle managers to typists to transportation engineers to psychiatric technicians. The departments with the most retired part-timers are Corrections, Transportation, Mental Health, Developmental Services, and Motor Vehicles.

The most common temporary seasonal workers are assistant examination proctors, student assistants, seasonal clerks, firefighters, and California Conservation Corpsmembers and seasonal park aides. The departments most dependent on seasonal workers are Parks and Recreation, Consumer Affairs, Franchise Tax Board, California Conservation Corps and Forestry and Fire Protection. Firefighters would be exempted because they are involved in protecting the public.



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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