Issue Updates

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  • 02 Feb 2016 4:34 PM | Anonymous

    From the Contra Costa Times:  

    Tax propositions might rain down on Bay Area residents like an El Niño downpour this year as cities, counties, school districts and agencies try to persuade voters to pay for improved transit, smoother roads, school repairs, city building rehab, and bay water and wildlife conservation.

    Transportation authorities in Contra Costa, Solano, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties are planning sales tax elections. Santa Clara County is also talking about a sales tax to help the homeless. BART directors plan a $3 billion bond measure in Contra Costa, Alameda and San Francisco counties. AC Transit directors are talking about a bond measure for the bus system's Oakland to Richmond area. An obscure SF Bay Restoration Authority led the rush to the ballot box with a nine-county parcel-tax measure for the June election. The Walnut Creek City Council and the Walnut Creek School District are discussing measures; so are Orinda, Lafayette and its school district. Not to be left out: the city of Hayward and the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District. On top of that not necessarily complete list, Gov. Jerry Brown has said that the state needs new taxes and fees to maintain its transportation systems. The legislative fist fight between Democrats and Republicans over taxes vs. reallocating existing money has led to months of inaction. An initiative petition campaign has qualified for the November ballot a $9 billion statewide Public Education Facilities Bond Initiative for new and modernized school and community college facilities.

    "It does seem somewhat unusual," said Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California. "Anyone thinking about asking voters to raise taxes or fees is aiming for the November 2016 ballot" that will draw more voters, he said.

    Low voter turnout has plagued California elections in recent years, he said. Los Angeles city elections in March drew just 10 percent of eligible voters.

    Historically low bond rates might also be driving governments to the ballot box, he said, before the Federal Reserve starts ramping up interest rates.

    The rush to get a hand into residents' wallets unnerves taxpayer advocates.

    "Why didn't anyone tell me it was open season on taxpayers?" asked Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

    He challenged the bay conservation measure as one that many would pay for but that would most benefit the corporations ringing the bay shoreline, not the people in the outer reaches of the bay.

    The "Clean and Healthy Bay Ballot Measure" on the June ballot would charge residents $12 a year, raising $25 million a year for 20 years to reduce trash and pollution, improve water quality, restore habitat, improve shore access and protect against floods.

    Another taxpayer advocate cast a gimlet eye over the ballot prospects and said he was appalled. "We're certainly challenged just to keep track of them," said Jack Weir, president of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association.

    The problem he and others see is the growing burden of paying for underfunded public employee retirement benefits.

    Under new rules that require public agencies to account for their unfunded pension liabilities, the state pension deficit could reach $250 billion, state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said in a Jan. 24 Orange County Register column.

    That figure does not include the hundreds of cities, school districts, community college districts and utility districts, each with pension obligations, he said.

    As the public agencies try to meet new requirements to fund that debt, they have less available for the services they are meant to provide, Weir said. That sends them to voters pleading for more money.

    "We have to solve the problem," he said. "We can't continue to spiral into fiscal insolvency."

    Pension woes driving down the cities? Maybe, maybe not, said a state expert.

    "We have 482 cities, and it is hard to make a general statement," said Mike Coleman, a fiscal adviser for the League of California Cities and the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers.

    "Each community is in a different place on pension and health benefits," he said.

    And, until the final decisions come down, it won't be possible to say whether it will be an unusual election year.

    Whatever happens, Weir said putting such a number of tax measures before voters would lead many to say, "Hell, I can't afford this," and vote no on all of them.



  • 01 Feb 2016 4:45 PM | Anonymous

    Community Choice Power:

    Government at its worst

    Community Choice Aggregation, also known as Community Choice Power, has landed in San Francisco, Sonoma and Marin counties and crept into Contra Costa via Marin Clean Power in Richmond.  Contra Costa County is now considering going “full steam ahead”, if you pardon the pun, as a Community Choice provider via a government JPA (Joint Powers Agreement) with local city governments.

    Let’s hope not.  Community Choice Aggregation is government at its worst.  Government has proven incompetent at regulating PG&E so now it wants to ratchet up its efforts by giving local governments the power to make PG&E their indenture servant and us its ultimate victims.

    Community Choice Aggregation:

    - Wrongly expands the coercive powers of local government;

    - Has several negative tax impacts;

    - Allows the JPA to legally misrepresent the quality of the electricity it sells;

    - Gives the JPA the abusive roles of partner, competitor, regulator and taxing authority over PG&E and their joint customers - us.

    Community Choice Aggregation is coercive in several ways.  The 2002 legislation that created Community Choice Aggregation allows for a sophisticated, uncompensated “taking” by local government without payment by forcing PG&E into a “master/slave” relationship with government agencies.  PG&E must do ALL the work: build and maintain the distribution system, the billing system, the customer relationship system, and the support systems needed to run a utility.  PG&E must hire, train, and manage the employees that perform all the work and  handle all interaction with customers.

    Government just takes the profits.

    CCA is also coercive in its implementation.  The legislation creating this monster mandates that all residents in the geographical area of the JPA are automatically switched to the JPA as customers.  To not be switched, a customer must beg (“opt out” in government terminology) to stay with PG&E.  It is government force substituting for a marketing and sales capability.  Why be good when you can be government?

    Next, a government  JPA pays no taxes.  PG&E does.  Who is going to make up for the loss of tax revenue?  There is a reason there is no mention of taxes on the Marin or Sonoma clean energy websites. 

    Community Choice aggregators frequently brag about being less expensive; when they actually are in it primarily because they pay no taxes (and can tax PG&E their “competitor”).

    Their tax advantage also allows them to use tax free bonds to purchase or build power generation facilities, again giving them a competitive advantage in the market and reducing tax income for government.  Who do you think will be forced into making up for the lost tax revenue?

    A Community Choice aggregator can also legally misrepresent the quality of their service by delivering coal or natural gas powered electricity without telling their customers.  How?  By purchasing “unbundled” (not attached to any specific project) Renewable Energy Certificates.  RECs are certificates sold in the open market that allows the buyer to claim legal ownership of 1 megawatt of renewable energy anywhere in the world.  Originally accepted in the financial marketplace these certificates have been found to be deceptive and have lost favor with investors.

    And I’m sorry, but there is not enough “green power” to meet the claims of Community Choice Aggregators and I find this deception reprehensible.

    Finally, there is something inherently wrong with a program that allows government to be the partner, competitor, regulator and taxing authority over a company and an entire industry.  Or as the old saying goes, “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

    We, as citizens, rightly give some coercive powers to our government.  Policing, taxing, and regulating are powers needed to be a government.  Giving Community Choice Aggregators the powers detailed above is wrong and needs to stop here.  

    Hal Bray

    473 Coronation Dr.

    Brentwood, Ca 94513

    925.240.7018

    Mr. Bray, a resident of Brentwood is Vice Chairman Emeritas, Contra Costa Republican Party


  • 25 Jan 2016 4:49 PM | Anonymous
    Click on the link to scroll through the slides.  Please read the President's Report for more information on the presentation.


    CCTAXv1 from Steve.pdf

  • 17 Dec 2015 3:21 PM | Anonymous

    Contra Costa Times

    Guest Commentary: Bryan Scott

    Elected representatives should fix the funding problem with East Contra Costa Fire Protection District

    By Bryan Scott   For the Times        12/1/2015

    http://www.contracostatimes.com/brentwood/ci_29189316/guest-commentary-bryan-scott-elected-representatives-should-fix?source=rss

    Posted:   12/01/2015 04:25:31 PM PST

    The East Contra Costa Fire District is experiencing significant financial difficulties as it tries to provide fire and emergency medical services to an ever-growing region of the county. This is no secret as the district has reduced the number of fire stations from eight to three recently.

    What might be a surprise to most residents is that the ECCFPD has been operating on a funding level that was set when the East County region was primarily corn fields and fruit orchards, with a population of one-tenth the number of current residents.

    The ECCFPD receives most of its money from property taxes. In the 1970s, when Proposition 13 was enacted, the three rural fire districts covering Eastern Contra Costa County received about 8 percent of the property tax dollars collected within the 249 square miles that encompassed the districts. They did a fine job, back then, of protecting corn fields and fruit orchards.

    This 8 percent average property tax allocation percentage was fixed at this level, cast in concrete, and has not changed in the nearly 40 years that have transpired since it was established.

    When viewed against today's demographics it shows that residents of the area served by the ECCFPD allocate $106 per person, on average, of their property tax dollars towards fire and emergency medical services.

    Other fire districts in the county allocate considerably more of their property tax dollars toward this life-preserving service, and end up setting aside considerably more on a per-person basis for this purpose. San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District receives roughly $349 per person for each of the 169,900 district residents. The Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection District, a smaller district in terms of population and area, receives $366 per person.

    Both of these fire districts were well-established residential areas when the property tax allocation percentages were determined in the 1970s. Back then the Moraga-Orinda and San Ramon Valley communities were setting aside what they felt was an appropriate amount for fire and emergency medical services, and so having their property tax dollar allocations set at 21 percent and 15 percent, respectively, has provided and continues to provide an acceptable level of service.

    That is not the case in East County, where our service levels are below acceptable standards.

    When the coverage area of each fire district is compared with ECCFPD the local fire district comes up short again. The ECCFPD property tax allocation percentage of 8 percent provides just $47,000 for each square mile within its district. The Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection District's 21 percent property tax allocation provides $366,000 per square mile of its 47-square mile area, and the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District's 15 percent allocation provides $383,000 per square mile for coverage of its 155 square miles.

    The region covered by the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District is probably most similar to eastern Contra Costa County. Its 155 square miles is less than the 249 square miles of the ECCFPD, and its population of 169,900 is greater than the ECCFPD's 110,000 resident.

    Considering these factors it is not a surprise that the ECCFPD property tax allocation funding is less than the allocated funding of San Ramon Valley Fire District. The current property tax allocation funding of the ECCFPD is $11,654,565. The property tax allocation funding of the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District is $59,300,000.

    Twelve million dollars versus sixty million dollars!

    Should the ECCFPD allocation be just 19.7 percent of the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District's budget? Should it be only about one-fifth as large? No, it should not.

    The first step in changing the property tax allocation rate requires the endorsement of a plan by the city councils of Brentwood and Oakley as well as the approval of the members of the Board of Supervisors. From there a state law needs to be written, submitted to the legislature and then voted on by the Assembly and the Senate.

    A number of concerned residents have been meeting lately, and a plan to change the property tax allocation percentages appears to be emerging.

    As one resident of East Contra Costa, I feel that it is better to spend our tax dollars on the preservation of life services provided by the ECCFPD than on other government services that only deal with my quality of life.

    Bryan Scott is a Brentwood resident who occasionally becomes a community affairs activist. Those interested in contributing to this grass roots effort can reach him by email at scott.bryan@comcast.net or by telephone at 925-418-4428.

     


  • 15 Dec 2015 4:28 PM | Anonymous

    (Pinole, CA, December 15, 2015) ­ Only two bidders responded when the cities of Pinole and Hercules sought bids for construction of a joint Pinole/Hercules wastewater treatment plant upgrade. The lowest bid is $4 million over the engineer¹s estimated project costs  http://www.ci.pinole.ca.us/publicworks/docs/WPCP2015Project/Water%20Pollution%20NIB.pdf of $39 million.

    The Contra Costa Taxpayers are asking Pinole city leaders to rebid the project without the controversial project labor agreement,² said President Jack Weir. The cities united about the need for the project but divided over the proposed use of a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) that was not in the original construction plans. PLAs are highly controversial pre-contracting provisions advanced by labor unions which receive exclusive representation of all workers on a project including all funding for union dues and health and pension fund payments.


    The PLA was originally requested by Pinole Councilmember Debbie Long on behalf of the Contra Costa County Building and Construction Trades Council but was also pushed aggressively by Councilman Pete Murray, a union electrician. Hercules leaders resisted until Pinole leaders announced intentions to advance the project with the PLA with or without agreement from Hercules.

    According to Weir, PLA proponents insisted that the PLA would not add cost and that there would be plenty of bidders. Had even one bidder come in under the estimate we would not have a problem. Had 10 bidders offered proposals and all were high; we could maybe blame the engineer. With just two bidders and both well above the estimate, what can we blame except the objective evidence that contractors are not interested in working under a PLA when they have lots of places to work without PLAs?

    The two bidders out of the eight who prequalified are Kiewit at $43million and Overaa at $49 million. Two of the largest EBMUD projects were built without PLAs - the $637M Freeport Regional Water Project and the $120M Walnut Creek-San Ramon Valley Improvement Project.  Both were large, long-term, multi-craft and complex construction projects successfully completed and without labor strife.

    Founded in 1937, CoCoTax leads the way in providing fiscal oversight of local government. We actively resist unwarranted taxes and fees, discriminatory regulations, ill-advised public expenditures and government secrecy, inefficiency and waste.

    We challenge government at all levels to be accountable, responsive, efficient and fair and to deliver optimal value for every tax dollar.

    ###


  • 12 Nov 2015 10:23 AM | Anonymous

    Former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed acknowledged at a recent taxpayer forum that his latest proposed pension reform initiatives won’t solve California’s $350 billion unfunded retirement benefit liability problem. But he thinks they’ll help.

    “Sometimes you have to eat the elephant one bite at a time,” Reed told the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association at an Oct. 30 luncheon. “So these are bites out of this elephant that’s $350 billion big.”

    Reed and former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio have submitted two initiatives that would limit pension plan benefits for government employees hired after Dec. 31, 2018.

    Third Time the Charm?

    Reed and DeMaio are hoping the third time is the charm. Previous pension reform efforts last year and in June were canceled due to concerns about ballot descriptions by Attorney General Kamala Harris.

    The first initiative, The Voter Empowerment Act of 2016, requires voter approval before governmental agencies can enroll new employees in pension plans and increase their pension benefits. Voters also must approve if an agency wants to pay more than half of the total cost of retirement benefits for new hires.

    In addition, the initiative would prevent retirement boards from imposing fees or other punishments on governments that don’t allow new employees to participate in a pension plan. The California Public Employees Retirement System requires its member agencies to pay three-to-five times the cost of their unfunded liability in order to opt out of the system, according to Reed.

    These changes are needed, according to the initiative, because “state and local governments face elimination or reduction of essential services because of costly, unsustainable retirement benefits granted to government employees. Almost all of these benefits were granted without the consent of voters.”

    The other initiative, “The Government Pension Cap Act of 2016,” limits government contributions for new employees at 11 percent of base compensation; 13 percent for new safety employees. It also requires voter approval before an agency can pay more than half of the total cost of retirement benefits for new employees.

    “We are trying to empower the voters,” said Reed. “Either of these two initiatives would have a significant impact on the cost of new employees.”

    Those costs are increasing rapidly, according to Reed. In the next five years, state and local governments will need to increase contributions by 50 percent to CalPERS. This is resulting in less state funding for universities, courts, roads, social services, parks and recreation, Reed said.

    Price of Pensions

    School districts have it even worse. Their contributions to the California State Teachers Retirement System will more than double in five years.

    “Where the money goes determines the priorities of the state,” Reed said. “And we are putting our money, I believe, into the wrong priorities.”

    Failure to correct those priorities will result in more jurisdictions going bankrupt like Stockton, Vallejo and San Bernardino, he said.

    “The people in those cities suffered; the employees working in those cities suffered,” he said. “And we need to avoid that. And so, giving local governments some things they can do to deal with their problems has been the focus of the initiatives.”

    A successful pension reform initiative campaign will require $25 million, in addition to the $2-3 million for signature gathering, Reed said. He anticipates raising much of it from Silicon Valley executives wanting to avoid future tax hikes as well as from pension reform advocates around the country.

    If they are successful, California will begin making a dent in its unfunded retirement benefits liability, he said.

    “Although we acknowledge this will not solve the $350 billion problem,” he said, “if these initiatives were passed, we could save money on new employees that will allow us to help pay down that $350 billion of unfunded liabilities. This is not a solution to those unfunded liabilities, but it would be helpful.”

    Potential Savings

    The savings could be significant, according to a state Legislative Analyst’s Office analysis of Reed’s June initiative, which also was called the Voter Empowerment Act of 2016. It’s similar to the current VEA, but also allows voters to decide compensation for current employees.

    “It is likely that [pension] benefits would be reduced or eliminated in many jurisdictions,” the LAO said. “These changes would reduce governmental employer costs significantly in the future.”

    Critics of Initiatives Speak Out

    Naturally, the public employee unions are opposed to benefit reductions for their current and future members. Three people handed out leaflets outside of the luncheon at Back Forty Texas BBQ in Pleasant Hill that were critical of Reed, DeMaio and their initiatives.

    “These two former politicians are currently championing a State-wide initiative approach to destroy retirement security for all new employees that would chose [sic] to work in the public sector, including law enforcement, firefighters and teachers,” said Mike DeBord, a committee co-chairman of the California Retired County Employees Association, in an essay titled “Pension Reformers Continue Their Long List of Failures.”

    In another piece, “Proponents Still Trying to Undermine Retirement Security,” DeBord said that the “initiatives would amend the state constitution and erode retirement security for public employees, targeting new hires. If any are approved by the voters, they would likely be subject to many costly and lengthy legal challenges.”

    Vested Rights

    But the luncheon’s other speaker, Contra Costa Times columnist Dan Borenstein, believes Reed’s initiatives don’t take a large enough bite out of the $350 billion elephant. He wants Reed to challenge state judicial rulings specifying that pension benefits for current employees can be increased but not decreased.

    “It’s a one-way ratchet,” said Borenstein. “Someone likened it to a mouse trap.”

    Pension reforms would not affect benefits that have already been accrued; only accrual rates for future work would be affected, he said. Borenstein said he’s aware of the political headwinds that an initiative challenging vested rights would face, but he asked Reed to take on that more substantial fight.

    “Aside from politics, why not challenge the vested rights question?” Borenstein asked. “And if you don’t, how much are you really accomplishing?”

    But given California’s political climate, Reed said the focus has been on getting an easily understandable and supportable initiative on the ballot.

    “Something that’s hard to misconstrue,” Reed said. “Although this is a political campaign – truth is never really a limitation of any political campaign in California. So we know they’ll be misconstrued. But we want people to be able to pick it up and decide for themselves.”

    The legislative analyst will begin a financial analysis of the initiatives probably on Nov. 9, according to Reed, with the attorney general filing titles and summaries by the end of the month.

    After that, “we’ll do some polling, try to decide what to do,” said Reed. “And hopefully we’ll be in a position where we’ll actually have these in front of the voters in November of 2016.”



  • 05 Nov 2015 2:28 PM | Anonymous
    • Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) believes that the use of a benefit assessment, rather then a special tax, to fund fire suppression services constitutes a violation of article XIII D of the California Constitution (Proposition 218).
    • The California Supreme Court has explained “An assessment can be imposed only for a ‘special benefit’ conferred on a particular property.” i.e. not a general benefit.
    • The California Supreme Court has further explained “No assessment shall be imposed on any parcel which exceeds the reasonable cost of the proportional special benefit conferred on that parcel.”
    • During the Proposition 218 election the Legislative Analyst’s Office wrote in the Official Voter Guide “Typical assessments that provide general benefits include fire, park, ambulance, and mosquito control assessments.”
    • HJTA says as drafters of Proposition 218 they agree that fire suppression services for assessment financing but must be funded through property taxes or other general and special taxes.

    *Reference: Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association letter, June 10, 2015 to Chief Dale Skiles and Board of Directors, Salida Fire Protection District


  • 03 Nov 2015 3:25 PM | Anonymous

    15-0077 Arndt.# I

    Government Pension Cap Act of 2016

    SECTION 1. TITLE.

    This measure shall be known and may be cited as "Government Pension Cap

    Act of 2016."

    SECTION 2. STATEMENT OF FINDINGS AND PURPOSE.

    (a) Government has an obligation to provide essential services that protect the

    safety, health, welfare, and quality of life enjoyed by all Californians. State and

    local governments face reduction or elimination of essential services because of

    costly, unsustainable retirement benefits granted to government employees.

    (b) Almost all of these benefits were granted without the consent of voters.

    Consequently, the need to empower voters to reform retirement benefits for

    new government employees is a matter of statewide concern.

    (c) Therefore, the people hereby amend the Constitution to limit the cost of

    retirement benefits granted to new government employees and to empower

    voters to approve or reject any proposed increases in those limits.

    SECTION 3. Section 23 of Article XVI of the California State Constitution is

    added to read as follows:

    Sec. 23 (a) Government employers shall not contribute more than 11 percent of

    base compensation for a new employee's retirement benefits. Government

    employers shall not contribute more than 13 percent of base compensation for

    a new safety employee's retirement benefits. All other costs, including

    unfunded liability costs, of a new employee's retirement benefits shall be the

    responsibility of the employee, unless the voters of that jurisdiction establish a

    new limitation.

    (b) Government employers shall not pay more than one-half of the total cost

    of retirement benefits for new government employees unless the voters of

    that jurisdiction have approved paying that higher proportion.

    (c) Challenges to the actions of a government employer or retirement board

    to comply with requirements of this section may only be brought in the

    courts of California exercising judicial power as provided in Article VI or in

    the courts of the United States.

    (d) Nothing in this section shall alter any provisions of a labor agreement in

    effect as of the effective date of this Act, but this Section shall apply to any

    successor labor agreement, renewal or extension entered into after the

    effective date of this Act. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to

    amend or modify section 9 of Article I.

    1

    (e) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to limit the ability of

    government employers to offer defined benefit pension plans or defined

    contribution plans or a combination of both plans for new employees, subject

    to the limitations in this section.

    (f) Government employers may provide disability benefits and death

    benefits for new employees which are not subject to the limitations of

    this section. ·

    (g) For the purpose of this section, the following definitions shall be applied:

    (1) "New employee" means any of the following:

    (A) An individual who becomes a member of any state or local public

    retirement system in California for the first time on or after January 1,

    2019, and who was not a member of any other state or local public

    retirement system in California prior to that date.

    (B) An individual who becomes a member of a state or local public

    retirement system in California for the first time on or after January 1,

    2019, and who was a member of another public retirement system prior

    to that date, but who was not subject to reciprocity under subdivision (c)

    of California Government Code Section 7522.02 as it existed on

    September 1, 2015.

    (C) An individual who was an active member in a state or local retirement

    system in California and who, after a break in service of more than six

    months, returned to active membership in that system with a new

    employer. For purposes of this subdivision, a change in employment

    between state entities or from one school employer to another shall not

    be considered as service with a new employer.

    (2) "Government employer" means the state, or a political subdivision of

    the state including, but not limited to, counties, cities, charter counties,

    charter cities, charter city and counties, school districts, special districts,

    boards, commissions, the Regents of the University of California,

    California State University, and agencies thereof.

    (3) "Retirement benefits" includes defined benefit pension plans, defined

    contribution plans, retiree healthcare plans, Medicare, Social Security,

    or any form of deferred compensation provided by government

    employers. "Retirement benefits" does not include death and disability

    benefits.

    (4) A "new safety employee" means any new government employee as

    defined in (g) ( 1) who is also a police officer or sheriff duly certified in their

    2

    law enforcement position, any licensed firefighter, any prison guard, or

    other classification the government employer finds is a high risk law

    enforcement or public safety position.

    (5) "Base compensation" means the regular annual base pay of the

    individual public employee and reflective of regular base pay of similarly

    situated employees of the same group or class of employment for services

    rendered on a full-time basis during normal working hours, pursuant to

    publicly available pay schedules, and subject to any. exclusions as defined

    in California Government Code Section 7422.34 as it existed on

    September 1, 2015.

    SECTION 4. GENERAL PROVISIONS.

    (a) This Act is intended to be comprehensive. It is the intent of the People

    that in the event this Act and one or more measures relating to the same

    subject shall appear on the same statewide election ballot, the provisions of

    the other measure or measures shall be deemed to be in conflict with this

    Act. In the event that this Act receives a greater number of affirmative votes,

    the provisions of this Act shall prevail in their entirety, and all provisions of

    the other measure or measures shall be null and void.

    (b) If any provision of this Act, or part thereof, or the applicability of any

    provision or part to any person or circumstances, is for any reason held to be

    invalid or unconstitutional, the remaining provisions and parts shall not be

    affected, but shall remain in full force and effect, and to this end the

    provisions and parts of this Act are severable. The voters hereby declare that

    this Act, and each portion and part, would have been adopted irrespective of

    whether any one or more provisions or parts are found to be invalid or

    unconstitutional.

    (c) This Act is an exercise of the public power of the people of the State of

    California for the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the people of

    the State of California, and shall be liberally construed to effectuate its

    purposes.

    (d) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if the State, government

    agency, or any of its officials fail to defend the constitutionality of this act,

    following its approval by the voters, any other government employer, the

    proponent, or in his or her absence, any citizen of this State shall have the

    authority to intervene in any court action challenging the constitutionality of

    this act for the purpose of defending its constitutionality, whether such

    action is in trial court, on appeal, and on discretionary review by the

    Supreme Court of California and/ or the Supreme Court of the United States.

    The fees and costs of defending the action shall be a charge on funds

    appropriated to the Attorney General, which shall be satisfied promptly.

    3


  • 03 Nov 2015 3:22 PM | Anonymous

    1 5 - o o 7 a Arndt.# I

    Voter Empowerment Act of 2016

    SECTION 1. TITLE.

    This measure shall be known and may be cited as "The Voter Empowerment Act of

    2016."

    SECTION 2. STATEMENT OF FINDINGS AND PURPOSE.

    (a) Government has an obligation to provide essential services that protect the

    safety, health, welfare, and quality of life enjoyed by all Californians. State and local

    governments face elimination or reduction of essential services because of costly,

    unsustainable retirement benefits granted to new government employees.

    (b) Almost all of these benefits were granted without the consent of voters.

    Consequently, the need to empower voters to approve retirement benefits for

    government employees is a matter of statewide concern.

    (c) Therefore, the people hereby amend the Constitution to reform retirement

    benefits granted to new government employees and to require voters to approve or

    reject increases in defined benefits proposed for any government employees.

    SECTION 3. Section 23 of Article XVI of the California State Constitution is added

    to read:

    Sec. 23 (a) Government employers shall not provide a benefit enhancement to any

    new government employee in a defined benefit pension plan unless the voters of that

    jurisdiction approve that enhancement.

    (b) Government employers may only enroll new government employees in a defined

    benefit pension plan if the voters of that jurisdiction approve enrollment in such a

    plan.

    (c) Government employers shall not pay more than one-half of the total cost of

    retirement benefits for new government employees unless the voters of that

    jurisdiction have approved paying that higher proportion.

    (d) Retirement ooardsshaltnot impose termina-tt-on fee-s-;-a:cceterate-p-aym-en·-nts,..,.on~--~

    existing debt, or impose other financial conditions against a government employer

    that proposes to close a defined benefit pension plan to new members, unless voters

    of that jurisdiction or the sponsoring government employer approve the fees,

    accelerated payment, or financial conditions.

    (e) Challenges to the actions of a government employer or a retirement board to

    comply with requirements of this section may only be brought in the courts of

    California exercising judicial power as provided in Article VI or in the courts of the

    United States.

    1

    (f) Nothing in this section shall alter any provisions of a labor agreement in effect as

    of the effective date of this Act, but this Section shall apply to any successor labor

    agreement, renewal or extension entered into after the effective date of this Act.

    Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to amend or modify section 9 of Article I.

    (g) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to modify or limit any disability

    benefits provided for government employees or death benefits for families of

    government employees, even if those benefits are provided as part of a retirement

    benefits system. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to require voter

    approval for death or disability benefits.

    (h) For the purpose of this section, the following definitions shall be applied:

    (1) "New employee" means any of the following:

    (A) An individual who becomes a member of any state or local public

    retirement system in California for the first time on or after January 1, 2019,

    and who was not a member of any other state or local public retirement

    system in California prior to that date.

    (B) An individual who becomes a member of a state or local public retirement

    system in California for the first time on or after January 1, 2019, and who

    was a member of another public retirement system prior to that date, but who

    was not subject to reciprocity under subdivision (c) of California Government

    Code Section 7522.02 as it existed on September 1, 2015.

    (C) An individual who was an active member in a state or local retirement

    system in California and who, after a break in service of more than six

    months, returned to active membership in that system with a new employer.

    For purposes of this subdivision, a change in employment between state

    entities or from one school employer to another shall not be considered as

    service with a new employer.

    (2) "Government employer" means the state, or a political subdivision of the

    state including, but not limited to, counties, cities, charter counties, charter

    cities, charter city and counties, school districts, special districts, boards,

    commissions, the Regents of the University of California, California State

    University, and agencies thereof.

    (3) A "defined benefit pension plan" means a plan that provides lifetime

    payments to retirees and survivors based upori a formula using factors such as

    age, length of service or final compensation.

    (4) "Retirement benefits" includes defined benefit pension plans, defined

    contribution plans, retiree healthcare plans, or any form of deferred

    compensation offered by government employers.

    2

    (5) A "benefit enhancement" means any change in a defined benefit pension plan

    that increases the value of an employee's benefit including, but not limited to,

    reducing employee's share of cost, increasing a benefit formula, increasing the

    rate of cost of living adjustments, expanding the categories of pay included in

    pension calculations, reducing a vesting period, lowering the eligible retirement

    age, or otherwise providing an economic advantage for government employees in

    a defined benefit plan, except for the disability component of any defined benefit

    plan.

    SECTION 4. GENERAL PROVISIONS.

    (a) This Act is intended to be comprehensive. It is the intent of the People that in

    the event this Act and one or more measures relating to the same subject shall

    appear on the same statewide election ballot, the provisions of the other measure or

    measures shall be deemed to be in conflict with this Act. In the event that this Act

    receives a greater number of affirmative votes, the provisions of this Act shall prevail

    in their entirety, and all provisions of the other measure or measures shall be null

    and void.

    (b) If any provision of this Act, or part thereof, or the applicability of any provision or

    part to any person or circumstances, is for any reason held to be invalid or

    unconstitutional, the remaining provisions and parts shall not be affected, but shall

    remain in full force and effect, and to this end the provisions and parts of this Act

    are severable. The voters hereby declare that this Act, and each portion and part,

    would have been adopted irrespective of whether any one or more provisions or

    parts are found to be invalid or unconstitutional.

    (c) This Act is an exercise of the public power of the people of the State of California

    for the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the people of the State of

    California, and shall be liberally construed to effectuate its purposes.

    (d) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if the State, government agency, or

    any of its officials fail to defend the constitutionality of this act, following its

    approval by the voters, any other government employer, the proponent, or in his or

    her absence, any citizen of this State shall have the authority to intervene in any

    court action challenging the constitutionality of this act for the purpose of defending

    its constitutionality, whether such action is in trial court, on appeal, and on

    discretionary review by the Supreme Court of California and/ or the Supreme Court

    of the United States. The fees and costs of defending the action shall be a charge on

    funds appropriated to the Attorney General, which shall be satisfied promptly.

    3


  • 27 Oct 2015 3:23 PM | Anonymous

    By working just two and a half more years, retired Vallejo City Manager Joseph Tanner boosted his starting annual pension from $131,500 to $216,000. He wants more, claiming he's entitled to yearly retirement pay of $307,000.

    An administrative law judge, the board of the California Public Employees' Retirement System and a Sacramento County judge all rejected his outlandish pension-spiking attempt. Now he is now taking his six-year dispute to the state Court of Appeal. At issue is whether CalPERS must pay benefits on a contract Tanner and the Vallejo City Council concocted to boost his pension or whether the retirement system has the legal right and responsibility to set boundaries. So far the rulings have come down on the side of sanity.

    Read more:  http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_29009577/daniel-borenstein:-city-managers-breathtaking-pensionspiking-gambit-seeks-307000-annual-payout


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