Around The Capitol

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THE NOONER for August 29, 2012

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Shortly after 6pm last night, the conference committee that has reviewed pensions over the last year convened to adopt the compromise ironed out between the governor and Democratic leaders. [video

Given the significance of the subject, the hearing was quick, and no public testimony was taken. Republicans refused to go along with the package, arguing that without a constitutional amendment (requiring a ballot measure), the provisions could be changed by future Legislatures.

Here is the bill language and the committee summary.

There are four primary changes, each affecting new employees only:

  • Formula: All formulas will increase. The largest group, "local miscellaneous," will see the formula change from 2% at 55 with a max of 2.4% at 63 to a new formula of 2% at 62 up to 2.5% at 67. Public safety employees will see the formula change from 3% at 50 to 2.7% at 57.
  • Final compensation: Instead of the highest year comp provided to long-time employees or highest three year average provided to others, final compensation will be based on the highest twelve months of the final three years of compensation.
  • Defined benefit cap: For employees covered by Social Security, state and local government pensions would be limited to $110,100. For employees not covered by Social Security, the cap would be 120% of the $110,100, or $132,120. (This will adjust with inflation over time).

For all employees, the following significant change is made:

  • Pensionable compensation: Only regular, monthly recurring, pay will be counted. No more vacation and sick time payouts, uniform allowances, overtime, or bonuses. In most cases, these were not supposed to be creditable, but had found their way in to final comp in the better years.

Additionally, after December 31, there would be no more purchasing of "air time." And, if you commit a felony in your official capacity, you lose your pension.

All new employees will have to contribute at least 50% of the total cost of their annual pension contributions, something most agencies (including the state) have negotiated, or are in the process of negotiating (often in exchange for a salary increase, simply shifting money around and making it taxable).

The Bee is neither impressed with the package nor the timeline: "This issue is too important to be jammed through the Legislature in the last three days of the session. It would be better to hold a special session to allow legislators and public to know what's really in this reform."

With the right and labor both not happy, a sweet spot may have been reached.

POSTER CHILD: Ex-Bell official seeks $837,000 payout




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The highlight of yesterday's session may have been the debate whether or not the Sacramento Bee is one of the "most communist" newspaper around the world. The debate was during John Perez's AB 2451 relating to death benefits for cops and firefighters (at 1:29:14). While Donnelly's statement started the dustup, perhaps most humerous was Chris Norby's concession that he has read the Bee ever since his "subscription to Pravda was cancelled for lack of payment."

DOGGEDLY CAMPAIGNING: Bill Wong and Jennifer Fearing are out with an appeal to Sutter Brown to get the governor to sign SB 1221.

TAKEOVER: The Assembly yesterday approved SB 533 (Wright), which will provide a $55 million loan to Inglewood Unified School District and lead to a state takeover of the beleagured district. The bill is in the Senate for concurrence.

$$$: $3 million comes in against Prop. 32, while the American Beverage Association comes in with another $250,000 to Jerry Brown's Prop. 30 committee.

STALLED: If you didn't get to go to Tampa as a California GOP delegate, be happy.

WORD DU JOUR: "transmogrified:" Transform, esp. in a surprising or magical manner. [Dan Walters column]


Money Flows To Lawmakers As Final Votes Loom
Dan Morain @
Interest groups have handed out no less than $42.37 million in campaign donations in the final weeks of the legislative session, as lawmakers decide the fate of hundreds of bills. Coincidence? Not hardly.

A Statue Of Ronald Reagan For California's Capitol?
Greg Lucas @
Among the measures lawmakers will be landing on Gov. Jerry Brown’s already well-piled desk is allowing a statue of President – and former California Governor – Ronald Reagan to be placed in the “new” section of the state Capitol.

Conservative Activists, Unions Bash Jerry Brown's Pension Plan
On politics in the Golden State

California Legislature Saturated With Deals
Dan Walters @
Some of these transmogrified measures are hundreds of pages long, making it virtually impossible for anyone outside the inner circles of "stakeholders" to fully understand what they would do. And some are being treated as budget "trailer bills," thus qualifying them for fast action, even if they have little to do with the budget and just contain token $1,000 appropriations. Good government? Taking the time to do it right? Scarcely.

Ann Romney Makes Appeal To Women Voters
Carla Marinucci @
Hours before her prime-time moment Tuesday as Mitt Romney's best cheerleader, Ann Romney was energetically at work on her mission - doling out homemade pastries to the media, talking up her husband's "regular guy" love of Costco shirts and presenting an ever-smiling face to supporters.

Assembly Sends Public-safety Death Benefit Measure To Governor
Jim Sanders @
The Assembly sent to the governor today legislation that would double the statute of limitations for families of police and firefighters to file for job-related death benefits that can exceed $300,000.

Editorial: At first blush, pension deal is modest at best
After more than a year of secretive maneuvering with Democrats in the Legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown announced a pension reform package on Tuesday that offers very little immediate budget relief for state or local governments.

Lawmakers Approve Bill To Allow San Francisco-to-solano-county Trash Hauling
Jim Sanders @
The Assembly sent to the governor today a San Francisco lawmaker's bill meant to ensure that her city's trash can continue to be hauled to Solano County without restriction in years to come.

Brown takes softer line in latest plan to rein in pension costs
Anthony York and Patrick McGreevy @
The governor would raise the retirement age and cap benefits, but he omits key provisions of his earlier proposal. A vote on the plan is expected Friday.

California Workers' Compensation Overhaul Bill Races The Clock
Marc Lifsher @
With just three days left in the legislative session, California lawmakers begin consideration of a 170-page bill to overhaul the workers' compensation system.

Texas legislature found guilty of redistricting discrimination
David G. Savage @
WASHINGTON — A three-judge federal court Tuesday found the Republican-controlled Texas legislature guilty of discriminating against Latinos and blacks in the drawing of new election districts and threw out its redistricting plans for both the U.S. House of Representatives and the state legislature.

Jerry Brown Set To Outline Pension Changes
On politics in the Golden State

Borenstein: 'pension Reform Lite' Doesn't Get Us There
Three days before the Legislatures deadline to vote on the plan, the governor and legislative leaders are withholding critical details needed to intelligently evaluate it.

Darrell Steinberg's Medical Damages Bill Surfaces Late In Session
Dan Walters @
With just a few days remaining in the 2012 legislative session, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has filled in a shell bill aimed at overturning, or at least altering, a hotly contested 2011 state Supreme Court ruling on medical damages in personal injury cases.

Brown gets compromise pension reform plan
JUDY LIN, Associated Press @
With election politics in play, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday announced systemic reforms to save billions of dollars in California's underfunded pension systems, but dropped key changes he had sought to avoid a showdown with labor allies.

Feinstein Urges Ftc Probe Of Ca’s High Gas Prices
By Josh Richman Tuesday, August 28th, 2012 at 1:35 pm in Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate.

GOP OKs Platform Barring Abortions, Gay Marriage - Wire Election News - The Sacramento Bee
Texas alternate delegate Linda Patterson from Grand Prairie, Texas raises her arms up in the air to pray at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012.

Brown gets partial win in Calif. pension reforms
JUDY LIN, Associated Press @
Gov. Jerry Brown has announced systematic reforms to California's badly underfunded public pension system that he says will save taxpayers billions of dollars over time.

Pension Reform: Top-paid Administrators To Take Biggest Hit
John Fensterwald @
The retirement age for new teachers will be pushed back two years; they’ll have to fork over about another 1 percent of their pay into the retirement system. And their bosses – principals and administrators ­– will see a ceiling of $132,120 as the portion of their pay used to calculate retirement pay. Those in the highest-paid jobs, earning $200,000 plus, may see pensions reduced by tens of thousands of dollars.

Pension Reform is Already Dead
It doesn’t matter what happens in these next few days. If this new pension deal, released Tuesday with little in the way of hard financial numbers or projections, falls apart. Or if it lives. Or if labor sues or files a referendum. Or because it will be undermined by future collective bargaining, or by any ballot initiative that conservative forces may file in the weeks or months ahead.

Attorneys for Santa Clara County defend decision to place sales tax measure on Nov. 6 ballot
Tracy Seipel @
The taxpayers' group that is suing to stop Santa Clara County from placing a 1/8th-cent sales tax on the Nov. 6 ballot waited too long to protest the board of supervisors' vote on the matter, and has failed to prove that the county made any error in placing the proposed tax on the ballot, according to arguments filed late Tuesday by county attorneys.