Capitol Alert

Contract deal with state attorneys wins legislative approval

California Attorney General Kamala Harris watches as Gov. Jerry Brown endorses her bid for U.S. Senate in Sacramento. A deal reached between Brown and the union representing attorneys in Harris’ office is nearing legislative approval.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris watches as Gov. Jerry Brown endorses her bid for U.S. Senate in Sacramento. A deal reached between Brown and the union representing attorneys in Harris’ office is nearing legislative approval. The Sacramento Bee

An agreement announced last week between Gov. Jerry Brown and the state’s legal professionals over their new contract won final legislative approval Wednesday on the last day for bills to be sent to the governor.

Among other things, the deal includes a 14 percent pay bump in order to address a long-standing grievance from the California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges, and Hearing Officers in State Employment. The union representing the state’s legal team says its members are underpaid compared to counterparts in the local and federal government, as well those in the private sector. The previous contract with the union expired on July 1.

“No one could go into the attorney general’s office starting their career,” a union representative told the Senate budget committee on Wednesday, noting the disparity in starting salary between state attorneys and district attorney offices.

The deal, outlined in Assembly Bill 1630, would significantly raise costs for the state. Analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office shows that the agreement would hike annual costs by more than $130 million by the 2019-20 fiscal year, a large increase given that the state spent $650 million in total on salary and benefits for the state legal corps in 2015-16. That figure also assumes that the departments will eat a large portion of the costs of the agreement, such as the increase in the amount of unused leave hours workers can cash out, using existing resources. According to the LAO analysis, this could cause departments to leave positions vacant in order to cover the higher costs.

A spokesman for CalHR said in a statement that the leave buyback program is subject to the availability of funds and that “it is not the administration’s intent that departments would hold positions vacant to fund this program.”

The deal was approved by union members earlier this week, according to an email sent by the CASE board of directors to members on Tuesday and obtained by The Sacramento Bee. A union spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

In the email, the board said two-thirds of the membership participated in the election, and 98 percent voted to approve the agreement.

“The membership’s support of the contract reflects the fact that this is a significant first step toward reducing the long-standing salary deficit faced by all of the state’s legal professionals,” the board wrote in the email.

The new contract would run retroactively from July 1, 2016 to July 1, 2019.

Anshu Siripurapu: 916-321-1060, @AnshuSiripurapu

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