The push for a government pension measure on the November ballot died Friday when its most public backer called it quits.
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and his allies officially gave up after a judge rejected Reed’s challenge to language describing the measure for purposes of signature collection.
Despite the loss in court, the Democratic mayor said he and his allies “remain committed” to rolling back what they believe are unaffordable government pensions and will be “targeting the 2016 election cycle for our proposed pension reform initiative.”
The measure would have changed the state constitution to give government employers, under certain circumstances, the authority to freeze accrued retirement benefits for current employees and then reduce them in the future. A body of case law says that public pensions, once promised, cannot be cut without an offsetting benefit.
Paul Sakuma/ Associated Press
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed at a 2012 city council meeting.
The push to put a public pension measure on the November ballot is officially dead.
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and his allies gave up Friday after a judge rejected Reed’s challenge to the language describing the measure for purposes of signature collection.
Despite the loss, Reed said in a statement, that “we will be targeting the 2016 election cycle for our proposed pension reform initiative.”
The measure he proposed would have given government employers, under certain circumstances. the authority to freeze accrued retirement benefits for current employees and then reduce them in the future. A body of case law says that pension benefits, once promised, can’t be cut without an offsetting benefit.
Our column in Thursdays Bee updates whats happening with the lawsuit against CalPERS and now its individual board members over the organizations administration of long-term care policies sold from 1995 to 2004.
Weve received several calls for more information about the litigation, including questions from policyholders who want to be included in the lawsuit. Since the lawsuit is aiming for class-action status, plaintiffs attorney Stuart Talley told us, theres nothing that policyholders need to do to join. If the case proceeds, policyholders will be contacted at the appropriate time.
Click here to open a website that set up by the law firms that filed the lawsuit. The site includes a Q&A page that addresses all of the questions weve been hearing from readers. Weve also embedded the court documents that informed Thursdays column. Mobile platform users can read them by touching this link to read CalPERSs argument to throw out the case and this link to view the amended lawsuit that CalPERS will rebut next week.
Ntc of Demurrer - P&as-123489 by jon_ortiz
A superior court judge dealt San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed's pension overhaul campaign another setback on Thursday, rebuffing Reed's request to have the ballot initiative's title and summary rewritten.
Reed and other public officials sued Attorney General Kamala Harris last month, arguing that her description of Reed's pension initiative, which would empower local governments to change future pension benefits for current workers, was fatally biased.
The sentence in dispute states that the measure "Eliminates constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees, including teachers, nurses, and peace officers, for future work performed." Reed and his allies said in their lawsuit that description was "false and misleading" in a way that "creates prejudice" against the measure.
Not so, said Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner. Going through the contested sentence word by word, Sumner found "nothing false or misleading" about how Harris described Reed's measure.
The simmering fight over CalPERS decision to jack up its long-term-care insurance premiums is about to get hotter next week when the fund responds to a lawsuit that, among other things, accuses its leaders of falling down on their legal obligation to do right by members.
The Los Angeles Superior Court complaint seeks to represent about 150,000 CalPERS members who took out private policies between 1995 and 2004 to cover convalescent care, in-home living assistance and similar services. Nearly all the policies guaranteed inflation-adjusted payments for the life of the policyholder.
CalPERS stopped selling the so-called lifetime, inflation-protected policies and periodically raised premiums because the program was going broke, squeezed by underperforming investments and soaring payouts it hadnt anticipated when pricing the open-ended policies. Many private-sector insurance carriers had the same experience selling long-term-care coverage and got out of the business. Today, CalPERS $3.6 billion long-term-care fund is the second-largest in the nation.
Then last year, CalPERS board signed off on an 85 percent premium hike on the Cadillac plans, timed for 2015 and 2016.
A legislative audit committee on Wednesday commissioned an audit of the Board of Equalization headquarters that will consider a range of options for the troubled building and the 2,000 or so employee who work there.
State Auditor Elaine Howle said her office can start on it “right away” and finish the work in about five months.
During testimony before the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Howle described a top-to-bottom review that will consider everything from the cost to stay in the 24-story tower in Sacramento to moving its employees to a new facility. Another option Howle will consider: temporarily moving employees out of the building while it is repaired. The board is one of California’s two tax-collecting agencies.
The building at 450 N St. has a long history of trouble, from toxic mold and leaking windows to falling exterior panels and unreliable elevators. Most recently, a waste water pipe leak affected three floors of the building. Investigators determined the problem is widespread because the drain system wasn’t constructed to code.
A Modesto lawmaker has pulled back her call for an audit of a 6-month-old California state computer system that has slowed down the process for licensing nursing school graduates since going online last fall.
Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, withdrew the audit request she made last month in favor of an April 3 hearing in her district with Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced. Gray chairs the Joint Legislative Audit Committee that would have commissioned an audit of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ BreEZe system.
Olsen’s office cast the move as a tactical decision that would still hold Consumer Affairs accountable without an independent audit that would take months.
“At this time, it is essential the DCA be given every opportunity to tell us what we can do to help them eliminate the backlog of unprocessed testing and licensing applications as soon as possible,” Olsen said in a press release, “An audit would not give us answers until the end of the year.”
Jay Mather/ Sacramento Bee
CALPERS headquarters in downtown Sacramento
More than a quarter of policyholders covered by CalPERS’ most costly long-term care insurance switched to cheaper plans over the last year, avoiding a controversial premium hike that looms in 2015.
About 16,000 people shifted from programs that guaranteed life-time benefits with inflation-adjusted payouts to policies that cap payments for convalescent care, in-home assistance and similar services, CalPERS executive Ann Boynton told reporters during a Tuesday conference call,
Still, 41,000 top-level policies remain in effect, so CalPERS recently sent letters to those policyholders, reminding them that their premiums are set to go up 5 percent this year and 85 percent in 2015 and 2016. They can avoid the steep increase by purchasing one of several capped-benefit policies.
“We think the folks (who want to) make the conversion have already made it,” Boynton said, but CalPERS is reaching out anyway. The increase won’t affect CalPERS’ 100,000 or so long-term care insurance policyholders with without open-ended coverage.
Paul Sakuma/ Associated Press
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed listens during a 2012 city council meeting in San Jose, Calif.
Mayor Chuck Reeds public pension-change initiative is all but dead for this election cycle, but the court fight over its wording is alive. At stake: whether Reed can come back with a similar measure in in two years.
The latest combatant, a Washington D.C.-based public pension-fund trade group, entered the fray with a Monday filing in Sacramento Superior Court.
The National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems says Attorney Kamala Harris accurately and fairly described Reeds proposal, which under certain circumstances would give state and local officials authority to freeze current employees accrued pension benefits and then downgrade them going forward.
Reed sued Harris last month, saying the measures summary, which would appear on signature-gathering materials, uses false, misleading words and phrases intended to create prejudice against the measure. His lawsuit focuses on one summary sentence: Eliminates constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees, including teachers, nurses, and peace officers, for future work performed.
Our news story in today’s fiber/cyber Bee highlights a $1 million jury verdict in a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit brought against the Department of State Hospitals, the chief psychologist of Napa State Hospital and two other employees there.
If you missed the story, check it out and then browse the two court documents from which most of the report was written, the complaint and the judgement on the jury’s verdict:
First Amended Complaint
Judgment.on.Verdict by jon_ortiz
Nick Ut/ Associated Press
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a California State University Board of Trustees meeting in March 2013.
With the state struggling to implement on-time and on-budget computer systems that perform as promised, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is scheduled for an online interview to talk tech next week.
The former mayor of San Francisco, who is running for re-election as back-up governor, will make an appearance on Techleader.TV, Monday at 11:30 a.m.
Newsom will be talking about his new book, “Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government.”
The web-based show, hosted by former California state technology chief John Thomas Flynn, will carry the interview live and then archive it for on-demand viewing. Previous TechLeader guests have included Carlos Ramos, director of the California Department of Technology, and Chris Hughes, deputy director and chief information officer for the Department of Health Care Services.
California’s state hospital system and three of its employees must pay a combined $1 million award to a state hospital psychologist after a jury decided she was pressured to declare mentally ill patients competent for trial using questionable assessment methods and then fired for exposing the policy.
Napa State Hospital psychologist Melody Jo Samuelson’s lawsuit ended with a monthlong trial and a verdict that she suffered retaliation for whistleblowing. A judge late last week affirmed the jury’s decision.
Department of State Hospitals spokesman Ralph Montaño declined to answer questions about allegations in the lawsuit or whether the department will continue fighting it.
“The department is in the process of evaluating the verdict,” Montano said in an email earlier this week.