The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

December 9, 2009
Two public employee political funding initiatives enter circulation

The Secretary of State's office has approved two ballot measures for circulation that are of keen interest to state workers, especially if they remember Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's special election of 2005.

Here's the official title and summary of the first one:

MAKES ILLEGAL THE USE OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEE WAGE DEDUCTIONS FOR POLITICAL ACTIVITIES. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Amends the California Constitution to make it illegal to deduct from wages or earnings of a public employee any amount that will be used for political activities as defined. Prohibits any membership organization that receives public employee wage deductions from using those funds for any political activities, but does not apply to deductions for charitable organizations, health, life or disability insurance, or other purposes directly benefitting the public employee. Authorizes the Legislature and Fair Political Practices Commission to adopt related laws and regulations. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Probably minor state and local government implementation costs, potentially offset in part by revenues from fines and/or fees.
IMPOSES POLITICAL CONTRIBUTION RESTRICTIONS ON PUBLIC EMPLOYEE LABOR ORGANIZATIONS. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Prohibits public employee labor organizations from using member dues or nonmember fees for disbursements to political committees unless the employee provides prior annual written consent on a particular form. Does not apply to dues or fees collected for charitable organizations, health care insurance, or other purposes directly benefitting the public employee. Requires public employee labor organizations to maintain and, upon request, submit to designated government authority, records of authorization, employee funds withheld and transferred to political committees, which records are not subject to disclosure under Public Records Act. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Probably minor state and local government implementation costs, potentially offset in part by revenues from fines and/or fees.

The individuals backing both initiatives -- Mark W. Bucher, Dawn M. Wildman, Allan R. Mansoor, Lawrence D. Sand and Mark J. Meckler -- are members of The Citizen Power Campaign. They believe that public employee unions exercise undue political influence with large war chests amassed with compulsory donations by public employees. Click here to view their Web site.

The first measure, which changes the state constitution, requires signatures from 694,354 registered voters to qualify it for the November 2010 ballot. The second would change state statute, so it needs just 433,971 signatures. The deadline for signature collection for both is May 3.

In 2005, Schwarzenegger pushed Proposition 75, which would have barred public employee unions from using dues for political purposes without the annual written consent of the employee. Voters turned down the measure, 53.5 percent against and 46.5 percent in favor.

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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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