San Jose Mercury News
March 14, 2014
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed's statewide pension reform initiative was dealt a major setback Thursday when a judge rejected a lawsuit that could have made it much easier for Reed get his measure on the ballot.
Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose office must write an unbiased overview for all initiatives aimed for the California ballot, in January issued what Reed considered an inaccurate summary for his proposed statewide pension measure. Last month, Reed sued to overturn the summary while he put signature-gathering to qualify the initiative for the ballot on hold.
SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS -- Mayor Chuck Reed on Friday abandoned what was supposed to be his crowing achievement, saying he had admitted defeat in his bid to get a statewide pension reform measure on the November ballot.
The decision was expected after Reed struggled to attract the well-funded allies he needed to raise the millions of dollars to gather the roughly 800,000 signatures required for the initiative to reach the ballot. Meanwhile, organized union groups mounted a campaign to defeat it, and dozens of other California mayors lined up against it.
The San Jose mayor will be termed out of office at the end of this year and had spent months traveling the state and Washington D.C. in hopes of gathering support for his initiative, which was similar to a city pension measure he championed in 2012.
Proponents of a pension-change initiative want a judge to edit key language used to describe their measure, contending that it was written to bias voters against it.
The lawsuit filed this week by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and four other local government officials behind the proposal accuses Attorney General Kamala Harris of writing a title and summary that “uses false and misleading words and phrases which argue for the measure’s defeat, is argumentative, and creates prejudice against the measure, rather than merely informing voters of its chief purposes and points ...”
After California State Retirees (CSR) took the lead in calling for legislative hearings regarding pension privacy rights, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) announced Jan. 6 that it will rescind its plan to post on its website the names and pension amounts of 550,000 CalPERS retirees.
In July, CalPERS agreed to postpone the launching of its searchable pension data base when CSR and other retiree organizations argued that public information should only be released upon individual request under the Public Information Act. Posting the pension information of all CalPERS members on a data base would make it easier for solicitors and identity thieves to obtain information, the groups argued.
The Jan. 6 statement released by CalPERS Spokeswoman Rita Gallardo said: "After many discussions with our stakeholders and partners, we have come to better understand their concerns about posting this public information in a secure database on the CalPERS website. Next month CalPERS staff will report to the [CalPERS Board of Administration] that we no longer believe the intended benefits of posting the database on our website outweigh the risks and concerns to our members and that we should not move forward with our previous plans.
Ordinarily, when increases in employer and employee pension contributions are discussed, we would be the first to question the need for such increases. But the current reality shows it is prudent to adjust contributions in light of the updated actuarial assumptions. Members are living longer. Hence the long term stability of the fund outweighs knee jerk objections in our estimation.
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has revised the public employee pension ballot measure, tweaking its language to fend off opponents’ criticisms that the proposed constitutional amendment circumvents collective bargaining and guarantees proponents a payday in state-subsidized legal fees to defend the measure if the state attorney general declined to fight lawsuits that would certainly follow the its approval.
“In the last two or three weeks we’ve talked to a lot of people,” Reed said this morning in a telephone interview, including the legislative analyst staff and the attorney general’s office. “Some parts of our measure weren’t clear. So we’re trying to make it clear what our intentions are.”
Union opponents seized on the revision -- and a switch in the lineup of the measure’s proponents -- as a sign that the proposal is in trouble. Among other things, Reed’s proposal would change California’s constitution to allow public employee pensions to be lowered prospectively for current workers. A body of case law appears to make that illegal without another form of compensation to offset that loss.
For more than half a century, Yolanda Solari dedicated much of her life to fighting for the rights of state workers, state retirees and California citizens in general.
She passed away Oct. 30 at the age of 90.
She held several elected offices within CSEA, which currently has about 140,000 members in four affiliates, including California State Retirees.
She was first elected president of CSEA in 1990 – the third woman to hold the position, and the first to serve three two-year terms.
Governor signs CSR-endorsed bills
Gov. Brown signed five bills in October that are beneficial to senior citizens and supported by California State Retirees (CSR).
Of the 896 bills the Legislature sent the governor this year before adjourning in September, the governor signed 800 and vetoed 96, according to Ted Toppin, legislative advocate for CSR. The approved bills go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
Incumbents Joseph Jelincic and Michael Bilbrey Preliminary Winners of CalPERS Board Election
SACRAMENTO, CA – Joseph (JJ) Jelincic and Michael Bilbrey are the preliminary winners to fill two Member-At-Large seats on the Board of Administration for the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) according to unofficial results released today by the Pension Fund. Formal certification of the results must be made by California's Secretary of State.
It has come to our attention that approximately 25,000 CalPERS members do not have a mailing address on file at CalPERS, and therefore did not receive a ballot for the CalPERS 2013 Board Member-At-Large-Election.