Sacramento Bee reporters Dale Kasler and Jon Ortiz answer questions about how recent rulings on pensions may affect Californians. Join them beginning at 11:30 a.m. Friday, December 6, 2013.
Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers
Friday, December 6 2013
Thursday, December 5 2013
CalPERS’ governing board aims to up its collective understanding of everything from financial statements to financial markets with a new set of “core competencies” that will help shape education and training.
The policy, which the board is imposing on itself, also requires board members to have familiarity with topics ranging from health care and pension plans to board governance and communication.
"The issues and topics we address are some of the most diverse and complex of any entity - public or private - in the country," Rob Feckner, president of CalPERS’ 13-member board, said in a press statement. "These criteria are designed to enhance the competency of the Board and will help us better serve our members and employers."
The board is comprised of elected, appointed and ex officio members such as the state treasurer and the state controller, who often send surrogates to meetings. That constitutionally-mandated composition occasionally becomes a target of critics who have said, among other shortcomings, that the board is ill-equipped to thoughtfully process policies that impact some 1.6 million members and assets that currently stand at $276 billion.
Thursday, December 5 2013
The Sacramento Bee’s Dale Kasler and your humble blogger will co-host a live online chat to answer your questions about how recent court rulings on pensions may affect Californians and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s proposed pension measure for the November 2014 ballot. Join us at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 6, on the Sacbee Live website to share your questions, comments and participate in live polling about government retirement issues.
Thursday, December 5 2013
Most beefs between law enforcement employers, unions and the rank-and-file fall into three areas: workplace safety, money and respect.
All three have coalesced in a brouhaha that recently erupted over an abbreviated correctional officer academy now running in eastern Kern County.
The story starts with a recent three-year, $28.5 million deal between Gov. Jerry Brown and Corrections Corporation of America to lease the private prison company’s California City facility near Edwards Air Force Base. The agreement will add space for nearly 2,400 convicts. Brown needs the space to comply with a federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding without releasing inmates.
A spinoff from that deal is allowing 80 former CCA guards to become full-fledged state correctional officers on Dec. 12 after six weeks of training, 10 weeks less than the state’s standard academy training in Galt.
Wednesday, December 4 2013
In case you missed it, today’s Bee includes a report on why a Michigan bankruptcy court said Detroit can impose cuts on its pension plans and what it may mean for California. After you check out Dale Kasler’s story and what Bee columnist Dan Walters thinks about it, weigh in with our poll on whether the news will impact efforts to put a pension measure on next fall’s statewide ballot. Want to chat more about pensions? Head over to The State Worker community Facebook page and leave your comments.
Tuesday, December 3 2013
Confronted with a growing wave of retirements, the California Department of Corrections said today that it will need to hire approximately 7,000 prison officers over the next three years to fill current and future vacancies statewide.
The state has about 25,000 fewer inmates in its 34 adult prisons owing to a two-year-old program that sends more convicted offenders to local jails, while attrition also is draining the prison-officer ranks with an average 150 retiring each month, according to corrections statistics. The state employees about 28,500 full-time-equivalent parole and prison officers, according to state union contract documents posted on the California Department of Human Resources’ website.
The job application process is notoriously slow. Assuming applicants have the minimum qualifications (U.S. citizenship, high school diploma, at least 21 at time of appointment and pass a drug-test screening, can legally own and use a firearm), candidates must then pass a written test, go through a qualifications assessment, pass a physical fitness test, vision screening and psychological evaluation, a pre-employment medical examination and a background investigation.
The whole thing, from application to entrance to the department’s 16-week academy in Galt, can take up to one year. Base wage for academy cadets: $3,050 a month. New correctional officers earn $3,774 per month plus overtime and benefits.
Monday, December 2 2013
Friday, November 29 2013
In case you missed it, this week’s State Worker column reports on a new twist in the ongoing tussle over San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s public pension proposal: some local officials oppose the idea.
Reed has argued that local governments, whose budgets are particularly susceptible to pension-cost hikes, need the clear authority to prospectively cut benefits for current employees. His measure, aimed for the November 2014 ballot, would let them do that (while leaving accrued benefits unchanged). The letter, released by a union coalition fighting Reed’s ballot proposal, is designed to chip away at that assertion. Here’s the letter:
With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes, the documents and the observations that inform what's published.
Thursday, November 28 2013
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s proposed public pension ballot measure absorbed another political hit this week, this time from about two dozen local politicians who have asked him to drop the idea.
Their Tuesday letter argues that “pension matters are best decided locally and addressed at the bargaining table rather than at the ballot box.” Unions across the state have bargained cuts, they say, and a new state law is already lowering benefits for new hires.
Democrat Reed has support from three mayors and a Vallejo vice mayor. No word on what other elected officials in California’s 482 cities and 58 counties think.
The pension-change camp says rising retirement costs are draining money for basic services, especially at local agencies where employee compensation is a big chunk of budgets. Reed’s proposal would change California’s constitution to upend decades of case law widely thought to lock in pension terms promised to government employees on their first day at work. That would allow prospective cuts in pensions earned by current workers but leave earned benefits unchanged.
Wednesday, November 27 2013
For those with access to KVPT Valley PBS , this Friday’s “The Maddy Report” will look at public employee pensions, including a segment with your humble blogger. “Public Employees Pension Reforms: Too Much, Too Little or Just Right?” also will feature union lobbyist Christy Bouma and pension-reform advocate Marcia Fritz. Maddy Institute Executive Director Mark Keppler hosts the show, which airs at 7 p.m.
You can watch archived programs by clicking here.
The Kenneth L. Maddy Institute at California State University, Fresno, is named for the city’s former Republican assemblyman and state senator who served in the Legislature for nearly 30 years.
Tuesday, November 26 2013
Monday, November 25 2013
Here are a few more tidbits of data that informed our Sunday story about the security contract between California’s Administrative Office of the Courts and the California Highway Patrol that includes armed drivers for appellate court justices.
The numbers below come from records provided to The Bee by CHP. Click the tags at the bottom of the spreedsheet to toggle between mileage costs for October 2012 through June 2013 and costs for the entire five-year agreement. Read the contract by clicking here.