Ballot Proposal for Pension Changes To Be Revised, Resubmitted
The sponsors of a proposed ballot measure that would require voter approval for any changes to pension benefits -- including health insurance -- said they will revise and resubmit the plan, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Giwargis, San Jose Mercury News, 9/26).
Background on Ballot Measure Proposal
The measure, proposed by former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed (D) and former San Diego council member Carl DeMaio (R), would require California to put any proposed pension and retirement benefit changes to a public vote.
Under the proposal, which seeks to cut rising retirement costs, "defined-contribution" plans would become the default retirement program for state and local employees hired after Jan. 1, 2019. Employers would need voter approval to add new workers to "defined-benefit" plans, which currently are common for government employees.
In addition, the plan would prevent:
- Government employers from paying more than 50% of retirement benefits without voter approval; and
- Lawmakers and government agencies from filing lawsuits or pursuing other actions to interfere with voter-approved ballot measures related to state employee compensation or retirement benefits.
In August, California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) issued a title and summary for the proposal that stated the measure "eliminates constitutional protections" for current workers and could lead to "significant effects -- savings and costs -- on state and local governments."
Proponents of the measure criticized Harris for favoring labor unions, noting that she repeated language used to describe a previous failed attempt to limit taxpayer spending on pensions.
Reed called the title summary "inaccurate and misleading," noting that he and DeMaio planned to conduct a legal review of it (California Healthline, 8/12).
According to the Mercury News, Reed withdrew the proposed measure following the "unfair" description. However, a court ruled that it was fair.
Last week, DeMaio said that "lawyers have crafted a strategy that will allow us to continue to advance pension reform."
For the revised plan, Reed and DeMaio avoided provisions making changes to existing workers' pensions, according to the Mercury News.
For every revision of the plan, Harris is required to issue a new title and summary, after which supporters have 180 days to obtain about 580,000 signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot.
Reed and DeMaio said they would file another lawsuit against Harris if the revised plan is described as modifying workers' pension rights.
According to the Mercury News, there is no limit to how many times Reed and DeMaio can revise and resubmit the plan, but they must have the signatures verified by June 30, 2016, to meet the ballot deadline (San Jose Mercury News, 9/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.