MOORLACH UPDATE — Winsome Session — September 12, 2015

Win some, lose some. As promised, the Senate Session for 2015 concluded yesterday, just before midnight. This week I went toe-to-toe with Senator Tony Mendoza, a Democrat who represents Buena Park (including my folks) and adjoining areas in neighboring LA County.

Sen. Mendoza had two major bills. His union tribute is covered by the Voice of OC in the first piece below. A few years ago, Costa Mesa Mayor Steve Mensinger implemented Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN). This ordinance spells out certain elements of the collective bargaining process that should be pursued by the city and its public employee unions. The major component is providing the details of the negotiations to the public as the talks are progressing. Revolutionary. Up until now, although this could be done, it was never pursued by any municipality that I am aware of. Therefore, the taxpayers find out what the new contract is a few hours before the governing board votes for it.

I had previously encouraged my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to adopt a couple of the planks of COIN, but had never done so in a formal ordinance. Consequently, I proposed a similar version of Costa Mesa’s COIN to the OC Board of Supervisors in 2014. For a current status, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Pension Hole — July 31, 2015 John Moorlach After COIN passed, it made the union leadership livid. They responded by using their muscle. After all, the public employee unions are the ATM machine for the Democratic Party and they virtually run Sacramento (more on this at another time).

The first salvo from the unions was killing legislation to allow Orange County to potentially use the services of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission to address campaign issues as a resolution for those seeking an ethics commission. A similar bill for another agency flew through the legislature this year with no opposition. So, in a hissy fit, the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA) killed a proactive initiative as retribution.

OCEA then sniveled for the implementation of CRONEY (Civic Reporting Openness in Negotiations Efficiency Act), which found no traction with the Board of Supervisors (see MOORLACH UPDATE — CRONEY Comedy — September 2, 2014 John Moorlach). After their efforts failed, they recruited Sen. Mendoza and he wrote SB 331 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 331 — May 4, 2015 John Moorlach).

As it moved through the legislature, the LA Times (of all publications), printed an editorial promoting the adoption of COIN in Los Angeles! It can be seen at http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-0901-labor-contracts-20150901-story.html.

The bill came up for Senate concurrence and it succeeded, but only by two votes (I thought it was only one vote, but the state’s website indicates two). Usually all 26 Democrats vote for bills carried by fellow Democrats. But, SB 331 was so bad, that three Democratic Senators voted against and one laid off (did not vote for at all).

Now it goes to the Governor for signature. He should want more public scrutiny of the negotiation process, as he’s not doing so well in this critical area. In fact, I criticized him in the third piece below, one of our press releases. The Governor knows that I was critical of his efforts on addressing retiree medical liabilities. I would call it "reform-lite," as it only makes the pension problem worse (more on this at a later time). All to say, I’m sure that the Governor will sign SB 331 in retribution, which seems to be the theme here. But, the taxpayers will lose, again, thanks to the dominance of the public employee unions.

But, I did get a win over Sen. Mendoza. He also pursued Senate Constitutional Amendment 8 (SCA 8), which would put a measure on the statewide ballot to convert counties with populations exceeding 2 million to increase from five Supervisors to seven. Sen. Mendoza has never been a County Supervisor. His arguments were thin. If he was concerned about diversity, he only needed to look at the LA and Orange County Boards. I suspect he was looking for a place to land when he is termed out. It was another "butt out" matter that needed to be killed (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Butt Out — June 13, 2015 John Moorlach). It takes a two-thirds vote to put a measure on the ballot. A good number of my Democrat colleagues agreed that this was a local matter and opposed the bill. The LA Times covers it in the second piece below.

In Sacramento, the minority doesn’t get very many wins. But, I can list a few from this first session experience (more on this later):

* No additional car taxes
* No cigarette tax
* No reduction of gasoline consumption mandate
* No retroactive additional tax punishment on a major utility
* No approval for the issuance bonds (the state needs to address its current debts)

It’s great to conclude this chapter. It’s good to be home. I’ll get some rest. Then we’ll craft some bills to fix the fiscal nightmare that California has become. I want to thank my staff, interns and volunteers for all of the support. You did great!

Legislature Approves Bill Targeting COIN Laws

By Nick Gerda

Organized labor’s response to the controversial Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) ordinances has taken a major step forward, with the state Legislature giving final approval Thursday to a bill that expands disclosure requirements for contracts between private companies and local governments that have adopted such ordinances.

A final version of the bill, known as Civic Reporting Openness in Negotiations Efficiency Act, or CRONEY, was narrowly approved by the Senate on a 21-15 vote Thursday morning. (21 votes were required for it to pass.)

It now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for a potential signature.

COIN ordinances, which have been passed by Orange County and some cities, apply extra transparency provisions to labor contracts. In the county’s case, it requires, among other things, public disclosure of offers and counter-offers during negotiations, a more detailed financial analysis of proposed agreements and the posting of proposed contracts 30 days before voting on their approval.

CRONEY, meanwhile, requires counties and cities that have passed COIN ordinances to also follow similar transparency rules for contracts worth more than $250,000 with private companies.

The provisions would no longer apply if a local government suspends or repeals its COIN ordinance.

The bill’s supporters hailed its passage as a stand for fairness, given that COIN ordinances open up government transparency on labor contracts but not large contracts with private firms.

“We’re pleased that our elected leaders in the state legislature took a stand for evenly applied transparency, and against discrimination. This is progress for the middle class,” said Jennifer Muir, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA), which represents about 12,000 county workers.

Meanwhile, COIN’s proponents say CRONEY is nothing more than a ploy to pressure local governments to repeal those laws.

“SB 331 is essentially intended to end healthy transparency of union negotiations by local governments,” said state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), who successfully introduced COIN at Orange County’s county government last summer when he was on the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who joined Moorlach in approving COIN last year, has a similar outlook.

“It’s just going to make doing anything difficult, specifically for the County of Orange,” Nelson said. If this is really about good government and transparency, he added, “it should be passed for all counties.”

Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Whittier), whose district includes most of Buena Park and about 500 residents of unincorporated Orange County, introduced the bill. OCEA and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) played significant roles in advocating for its passage.

Among CRONEY’s provisions is a requirement that an independent auditor produce a public report on the cost of proposed contracts at least 60 days before their approval. That also applies to changes to contracts.

Agencies would also have to disclose negotiation offers and counteroffers on their websites within 24 hours, details about negotiation sessions, and verbal and written communications with company representatives within 24 hours. Contracts would also have to be heard at two public meetings before being approved.

The original bill applied to contracts worth $50,000 or more. But the final bill increased the threshold to $250,000 and exempts contracts that are in response to a state of emergency.

So far, five local governments have adopted COIN laws: Orange County; the cities of Costa Mesa, Fullerton, and Beverly Hills; and the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

(Click here to read the bill’s official legislative analysis)

In addition to OCEA and AFSCME, CRONEY is supported by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs and the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. Opponents include the California Chamber of Commerce, Huntington Beach City Council, the League of California Cities, and Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens.

A physical copy of the bill is expected to reach Gov. Brown’s office in the coming days.

You can contact Nick Gerda at ngerda, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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Lawmakers reject measure expanding county boards of supervisors

By Patrick McGreevy

The Senate on Thursday failed to muster the two-thirds vote to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot requiring large California counties, including Los Angeles, to expand their five-member boards of supervisors to at least seven members.

Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) may bring the proposal up again Friday, but he was able to get only 24 of the 27 votes he needed on Thursday after four Democrats voted against it and Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) withheld her vote.

Mendoza said his proposal would increase the opportunity for minority communities to elect representatives.

It would apply to all five counties with populations of 2 million people or more: Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego.

SCA 8 "will provide the opportunity to be more responsive to and reflective of the needs of the people they serve," Mendoza told his colleagues. The bill, which still needed Assembly approval, would put the issue on the November 2016 ballot.

However, Democrats and Republicans questioned the proposal.

Republican Sen. John Moorlach of Costa Mesa said the bill is "totally unnecessary" because counties already have power to expand their boards if they decide it’s necessary.

Sen. Benjamin Allen (D-Santa Monica) also opposed the bill, saying Los Angeles County voters have turned down expansion proposals in the past. Expanding the board without an elected chief executive to bring order would create an "unwieldy" panel, Allen said.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 10, 2015
Contact: Amanda Smith (949-223-5037)
Amanda.Smith
BREAKING NEWS: #CALTRANS WATCH

Nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Issues Tough Criticism of Governor’s Recent Caltrans Engineer Pay Hike Deal

  • LAO says deal “places Legislature in difficult position so late in the legislative session.”
  • Three-year, seven percent pay increase also quadruples employee cash-out of unused vacation, costing State an additional $30 million.
  • “Based on their poor record, how can we trust Caltrans supervisors to even know when an employee is on vacation versus on the clock?”State Senator John Moorlach
  • State Legislature to consider today budget trailer bill, AB 131, which contains this deal’s language.

(Sacramento, CA) – Today, the Legislature will likely consider AB 131 – the budget trailer bill that contains language for the seven percent Caltrans engineers pay hike deal negotiated last week by union leaders and the Governor.

But, according to a newly released review by the State’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), the deal is problematic and contains a hidden gem that allows Caltrans engineers to increase from 20 hours to 80 hours the amount of unused vacation that can be “cashed out” for additional bonuses. The LAO estimates this provision will increase costs to the State by $30 million.

“This agency, one that has an extremely poor record of tracking work days and vacation days, is now going to allow employees to cash out four times more unused vacation days?” asked State Senator John Moorlach. “How can we trust Caltrans supervisors to even know when an employee is on vacation versus on the clock? And, why should taxpayers foot an additional $30 million dollar cost for this benefit, in addition to the $500 million plus dollar pay hike?”

The entire three-year, seven percent pay spike for Caltrans Engineers will cost taxpayers an additional $571 million over the next four years.

An earlier audit by the LAO found the Caltrans engineering department to be overstaffed by 3,300 employees at a cost of half-a-billion dollars per year. At a Senate hearing three weeks ago, the LAO presented damning evidence about Caltrans’ poor management, bad data and lack of expenditure tracking systems.

The nonpartisan State Auditor followed up with a report two weeks ago revealing that one Caltrans engineer had golfed 55 days while “on the clock” over the past 18 months, and that Caltrans supervisors had signed his time sheets without even being able to verify the hours worked. In response, Caltrans’ top executives abruptly pulled out of their previously planned, work-week golf outing.

“Californians are being asked to increase taxes to pay for the repairs that Caltrans is already supposed to be fixing,” continued Senator Moorlach. “While Caltrans is not the only problem to our road funding, their inefficiencies, poor expense and budget tracking, and lack of good management practices has contributed substantially to our bad roads.”

The new agreement does address the growth in retiree medical costs by enacting pre-funding for retiree medical, but the timeline allows the legislature little opportunity to review these changes, examine actuarial tables for future impact, and make an informed decision on passage of the deal. As the LAO points out, “The administration’s lack of attention to such important details places the Legislature in a difficult position so late in its session.”

"We need significant retiree medical modifications," concluded Senator Moorlach. "The Governor fell far short and is getting absolutely nothing for the generous pay raises. The state could use a professional negotiator, and it should adopt greater openness and transparency in labor negotiations."

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