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Voter Empowerment Act of 2016
SECTION 1. TITLE.
This measure shall be known and may be cited as "The Voter Empowerment Act of
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
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
(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
(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.
(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
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
(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.