Capitol Alert

Late bill hikes pension formula for next Assembly sergeant-at-arms

The Dalai Lama addresses lawmakers in the Assembly chamber in June. Assembly sergeants-at-arms provided security during the historic event.
The Dalai Lama addresses lawmakers in the Assembly chamber in June. Assembly sergeants-at-arms provided security during the historic event. jvillegas@sacbee.com

Intrigued by the prospect of 80 bosses? Ready to ensure the safety of thousands of lawmakers, staffers and tourists? Then the Assembly chief sergeant-at-arms job may be right for you.

Assembly officials, though, say there haven’t been many takers to succeed longtime Assembly Chief Sergeant-At-Arms Ron Pane, who is retiring effective Nov. 30 after 40 years in the sergeant’s office.

The reason, they say, is a vestige of a 1999 retirement benefits law that specifically excluded chief sergeants in both houses from a more generous peace officer retirement formula. Under the law, any police officer, sheriff’s deputy or rank-and-file sergeant-at-arms in the Assembly or state Senate who took the Assembly chief sergeant’s job would be taking a cut in retirement benefits.

Last-minute legislation would change that. A single line in Senate Bill 834 and Assembly Bill 1630, identical 43-page budget trailer bills to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement between the state and government attorneys would elevate the Assembly chief sergeants job to peace officer status.

“I want my next chief to be a sworn peace officer,” said Assembly chief administrative officer Debra Gravert.

The Legislature on Wednesday afternoon gave final approval to AB 1630, sending it to the governor.

Government employees classified as peace officers generally are eligible to retire at age 50 with a benefit based on 3 percent of their salary for each year of employment. Retirement formulas for other government employees vary, with miscellaneous employees generally eligible to retire at age 55 with a 2 percent-a-year formula or at 65 with a 2.5 percent-a-year formula.

But Gravert said the change would have no effect on Pane, 60, who has an annual salary of $152,556. In fact, Pane would receive a smaller retirement benefit if he switched to the peace officer status, she said. According to CalPERS, an employee of Pane’s age, years of service and retirement classification would receive 92.56 percent of their final compensation at retirement. By comparison, the peace officer retirement formula tops out at 90 percent.

The change in AB 1630 applies only to Pane’s position, with the Senate chief sergeant at arms staying a non-peace officer. A Senate spokesman did not respond to an inquiry about the bill.

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 6:15 p.m. Aug. 31 to include the legislative vote on AB 1630, information from CalPERS, and SB 400 history. It was updated at 1:33 p.m. Sept. 1, 2016 to remove reference to a feud over the 1999 law.

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