The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

November 8, 2010
Blog back: Price per prisoner; private prisons' political payouts

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Nov. 5 Corrections contracts out-of-state facilities for 2,600 inmates

Here's a brief comment/conversation that starts with a suggestion/criticism and ends with ... well, you'll see:

And just what does this cost me as a tax payer? How about some numbers Ortiz? What's (sic) the costs to outsource to another State (Cost Per Bed) in regards to the actual costs to house inmates in a California State Prison? I know the overcrowding is an issue however, is this the most cost effective way to resolve the overcrowding? Let's do some reporting and state the facts and numbers......

We should have included the costs in the post.

For the record, the GEO Group agreement is to house 2,600 prisoners at $60 million per year. That rounds out to about $23,000 annually per inmate. The four-year contract starts in 2011.

Talks with Corrections Corp. of America aim to ship nearly 2,400 more California inmates out of state, besides the nearly 10,000 it currently houses. The two-year contract will cost $300 million annually, or about $24,000 per inmate.

California's per-inmate housing cost in 2008-09 was roughly $47,000, according to this Legislative Analyst's Office report.That was among the highest in the nation.

If you really want to dig into the topic, check out this report by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project. It's a tad dated, but interesting nonetheless.

Moving on ... Apparently, some users are still bothered over our recent series of posts on unions' political spending.

August 24, 2009
Awareness campaign or lobbying campaign for peace officers?

The Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) launched a campaign today about the dangers of being a cop.

It comes as the police labor group's key members in cities and counties around the state - it doesn't represent CHP officers - enter into contract talks.

The headline on PORAC's press release says the campaign aims to educate Californians about the perils of police work. It also urges that politics be kept out of any discussions about their pay and retirement packages.

The awareness campaign includes two YouTube video commercials.

A key suggestion of the campaign may be unpopular with other state workers, who struggling with furloughs and pay cuts.

PORAC President Ron Cottingham suggests in a news release that police officer compensation is currently "not enough to make it simple to recruit reliable candidates willing to do the job."

There are 10,000 police officer vacancies statewide, Cottingham claims, citing data from the California Commission for Peace Officer Standards and Training.

In the PORAC videos, a male and female officer take turns saying they work dangerous streets and complain that their pensions are "under fire." A gun appears on screen as they discuss their concerns.

The problem is, that's not true for current officers. Changes to pensions under consideration by the administration would only affect future recruits, not officers already working the streets.

Why deliver that message now? This fall, police pensions are certain to come under intense scrutiny if the state's financial condition worsens.

PORAC's public awareness campaign is also a good example of the vertical integration occurring in Sacramento right now, as lobbyists and public relations professionals join forces under one roof to advance their clients' interests.

Rachel Pitts is the contact person on the PORAC campaign. She just joined lobbying shop Aaron Read this summer to help the influence firm launch its new public relations arm, Marketplace Communications.

PORAC is a client of Aaron Read, paying the firm $60,767 from April to June and $180,767 so far in the 2009-2010 cycle, state lobbying filings show.

That's why nobody should forget that when a group like PORAC launches a "public awareness campaign," it can also be a lobbying effort, too.

NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect that PORAC represents police officer associations in cities and counties across the state and remove a suggestion that PORAC members include California Highway Patrol officers. The CHP has its own labor group, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen. Though the CAHP and PORAC use the same lobbying firm, CAHP labor representative Carrie Lane said the CAHP has not paid for and is not involved in any way in the PORAC campaign.

July 9, 2009
From the notebook: Letters supporting a change to the Unruh Act

Blog posts from the notebook give you insights, notes and quotes that inform the news stories that we write.

Our news story in today's Bee notes that lawmakers are taking up a bipartisan bill that would change the Unruh Civil Rights Act to protect businesses from discrimination lawsuits when they offer furloughed employee discounts.

Apparently, a Southern California lawyer has threatened lawsuits against some businesses for "Furlough Friday" deals for state workers and cited the Unruh Act as the basis.

Here are a couple of letters that support the bill. As of this writing Wednesday night, no one has voiced opposition.

Letter from the California Chamber of Commerce

Letter from the Consumer Attorneys of California

The bill is on the Assembly Judiciary Committee's consent calendar for today.

April 28, 2009
CalPERS names new top lobbyist (or should we say advocate?)
The state's giant employee pension fund has turned to an old hand from the Senate and Assembly to become its top lobbyist.

Melanie Moreno has been named chief of CalPERS Office of Governmental Affairs.

Moreno will oversee the giant pension fund's staff of legislative analysts and be the chief legislative lobbyist  for CalPERS on all state and federal legislative issues.

Her job includes overseeing the fund's lobbyist  - and lobbying -  in Washington, D.C., as well as its dealings with agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Moreno starts her new job at CalPERS May 25./ She succeeds Wendy Nottsineh.

Since 2002, Moreno has been a senior consultant on health care issues for both houses of the state legislature.

 "Her experience in the Legislature will make her an especially effective advocate," according to CalPERS chief executive  Anne Stausboll.

Moreno was recently  principal consultant for the Senate, analyzing statewide policy impacts of legislation before Senate Committees on Health.  She did  the same job or the Assembly from 2002 to 2007.

In addition to a B.A. in sociology from California State University, Sacramento, Moreno also has two master's degrees (Social Welfare and Public Health) from the University of California, Berkeley.

March 30, 2009
Check your union's political spending with The Bee's lobbying database

The Bee has launched its new state government lobbying database. It's a clearinghouse of information for how various interest groups, including those that represent state workers, spent money to advance their agendas during the last two years.

The Bee organized the information from the Secretary of State's Web site afterShane Goldmacher, who runs our cousin blog, Capitol Alert, did tons of research that produced two stories so far. Today's piece looks at how lobbyists "recruit" leaders. Shane's A1 Sunday report included a list of the biggest spenders in Sacramento over the last two years.

You can search the database by interest group type (agriculture, education, government, labor unions, political organizations, public employees, etc.) or you can search by the group's name.

Go to the database seach engine by clicking here. We've also set up the following of links that might be of particular interest to state workers. Click on any of them to see the named list:



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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