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The Sacramento Bee reported yesterday that San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, the public face of a proposal to qualify a pension reform initiative for the state ballot, lost a Superior Court challenge to State Attorney General Kamala Harris over the wording of the initiative that would appear on the ballot if he and his supporters – reportedly fortified by dark money from out-of-state special interests – gathers enough signatures to qualify it for the state-wide ballot.
The Reed camp argued that the wording of California Attorney General Kamala Harris is “false and misleading in a way that ‘creates prejudice’ against the measure.” The Superior Court Judge ruled that this is not so.
A few years ago there was a similar initiative effort by other “sky-is-falling” anti-pension zealots that ran into a similar confrontation with the Attorney General over her wording. It seems that Reed and the advocates on that previous effort – a 2011-2012 effort by the far-right California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility and similar shadow organizations – believe the wording used by the Attorney General is just too sympathetic to public workers, and would bias the voters against the initiative – apparently in the belief that the voters are pretty ignorant. In that skirmish the proponents dropped their proposed initiative effort, and columnists and other paid writers have claimed that it was the AG Harris with her pro-public worker wording that dealt killed that effort.
Some predicted the same thing would happen with Reed’s effort, and sure enough, it has. We can now expect more cries of foul from columnists and paid opinion writers and bloggers once again attacking AG Harris for being too cozy with public workers.
In the meantime, the State Pension reform legislation signed into law by Governor Brown in 2012 is taking hold. More and more public agencies, including our own Board of Supervisors, are shifting more of the pension costs to the workers in recognition of that State reform and prudent fiscal management. In essence, the problem of public pensions – if there really is a problem – is being managed by most government employers.
Don’t expect this issue to go away though – Reed and his backers might try an appeal if they can raise enough money. Furthermore, many people are making a living and trying to launch political careers by keeping the issue of public sector pay and benefits, including retirement, alive. The latest focus is on what is called the California Rule – a 60-year long trail of Court decisions dealing with the vesting of public pension benefits. Expect to be seeing a lot of paid writing about the California Rule going forward right along with another round of Blame Attorney General Kamala Harris pieces…