MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Newcomer Runs — April 10, 2016

The filing period closed one month ago and we finally have our first article on my June Primary race. It is in the Laguna Beach Indy, the first piece below.

The second piece is from the LA Times and will probably appear in its Monday edition. It addresses the subject of double dipping. What I receive as a pension has not been a secret (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Rule of 72 — August 3, 2015 August 3, 2015 John Moorlach). Encouraging individuals to retire at a young age baffles me. Besides the generous formulas–that I have been and continue to protest against–municipal government also sees so much corporate knowledge walking out the door years before this occurs in the private sector.

Of course, besides just retiring, I had options after concluding the second of my two permitted terms as a County Supervisor. I received about a half-dozen job offers from the private sector.

I can also tell you what else I didn’t do. I didn’t stay in the position of County Treasurer-Tax Collector until age 59. This would have provided a much more attractive pension, as this position pays much better than that of a County Supervisor. So, I am not in public service for the money.

If I would have successfully run for County Auditor-Controller or Assessor in 2014, I could be adding more years and a much higher salary to the pension formula. One four-year term would have increased my annual benefit by more than $28,000 per year. However, I did not pursue one of these opportunities in order to pad my pension. I chose to run for a position that pays much less and provides no employer funded pension.

I am well aware of the double dipping abuses. Like many a retired deputy sheriff, police officer, or firefighter, who retired receiving a $175,000 retirement benefit and was then hired to serve as the Police or Fire Chief of a city in a different pension system. They then start earning $325,000, plus qualifying for another pension, on top of their $175,000 retirement benefit. It’s a crazy system. And in this regard, I did try to make legislative changes while a County Supervisor to prevent pension system hopping.

The public employee union leaders must be getting nervous. It is nice to be recognized as a "leading voice in the Legislature against skyrocketing debt piled up by public pension systems." So I’m sure they raised the concerns. This is not the first time a reporter was baited with this story line.

It strikes me as humorous that those who will benefit from these same retirement benefits, the public employee union leaders, are the ones who coaxed their elected officials to vote for the upgraded, retroactive benefits, and now expect those same elected officials, and their successors, to work for free or not work at all. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Chutzpah — November 15, 2015 November 15, 2015 John Moorlach.

Newcomer Runs for State Office

Four-year Laguna Beach resident Ari Grayson will challenge Republican incumbent John Moorlach for California’s 37th Senate District in the November election.

In the wake of his decision, Grayson recently resigned as president of the Laguna Beach Democratic Club and signed off as co-host of the KX 93.5 radio talk show “Laguna Round Table.” For the last two years, he and co-host Jim Kennedy each week interviewed leaders on topical policy issues.

“Good government isn’t just about what you’re saving, it’s what you’re costing people,” said Grayson, in an interview Wednesday, referring to his fiscally conservative opponent’s stance against raising the minimum wage and desire to abolish public pensions.

“If you don’t have disposable income, you don’t create jobs,” Grayson said. “Even Henry Ford understood that.”

Grayson pointed to the innovative characteristics of the electric carmaker Tesla as embodying the keys to California’s economy and future: higher education, environmental stewardship, energy independence and economic vibrancy.

“We are never going to bring back manufacturing jobs. If we are going to have a 21st century economy, that demands an educated population,” he said.

At the party convention in February, Grayson said three Democratic leaders, including state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and Orange County Democratic Party chair Henry Vandermeir, urged him to contest the race.

“Whenever possible, we try to have a horse in the race,” said Vandermeir, who nevertheless explained that the local Democratic Party focuses its resources on countywide races and only competitive contests with little registration advantage are likely to draw state party backing. “He’s got his work cut out for him,” Vandermeir said this week.

Orange County remains the state’s last Republican stronghold. The contested Senate district spans the coastlines between Huntington and Laguna Beach and reaches inland across Irvine to Orange and portions of Anaheim Hills. Nearly 1 million residents, or a third of the county’s population, reside within the district’s borders. About 41 percent of its 463,000 registered voters identify as Republicans, though Democrats hold slight leads in Laguna Beach and Irvine, data from the county registrar shows.

Campaigning in a district with a 12 percent registration disadvantage “is a matter of idealism and dedication to the two party system,” said Aliso Viejo attorney Steve Young, a Democrat, who has run for Congress and state Senate in south-county districts without success in the last decade. “Frankly, I think they’re heroes,” he said of such long-shot efforts.

Without intra-party opponents in California’s June primary, the Moorlach and Grayson race will heat up in the fall. Young isn’t placing any bets. He thinks the GOP does a better job than his own party of backing long-odds candidates by taking the “long term view,” providing financial support for campaigns that ultimately woo voters into the party.

Grayson’s political counterweight on radio thinks the freshman candidate has a strong grasp of issues. “It’s up to voters to decide if they value a fresh opinion and knowledge of the Laguna Beach area,” said Kennedy, a technology consultant from Irvine.

Moorlach, 60, of Costa Mesa, served a cumulative 20 years in elected posts as county supervisor and treasurer before he won the state office in a special election last March by defeating fellow Republican Donald P. Wagner.

Wagner, a six-year office holder who cannot seek re-election due to term limits, had signaled his interest in the Senate district also, but decided not to take on an incumbent, chief of staff Sam Cannon said this week from Sacramento. Wagner represents the 68th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Anaheim, Irvine, Lake Forest, Orange, Tustin and Villa Park.

Grayson, 55, said he hired Deborah Skurnik to manage his first-ever campaign for elected office. He teaches part time at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona and also works as a design consultant. His doctoral thesis from the University of Michigan spanned the disciplines of architecture, engineering and psychology to explain the affect of light on comfort and well-being.

He says party leadership recruited him because of his involvement in the 70-member Laguna Democratic Club, where he drew attention to progressive causes in recent years with high-level speakers such as activist Tom Hayden and Attorney General Kamala Harris.

“We were preparing Ari to run for City Council,” said Nick Hernandez, who succeeded Grayson as president of the club. “This is perfect. Win or lose, he’ll get a lot of name recognition.”

Some cry foul as state lawmakers collect public pension checks and legislator’s salaries

Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), second from right, bids farewell to fellow lawmakers at the end of the Senate floor session in Sacramento on Sept. 11, 2015. Moorlach is a leading voice in the Legislature against skyrocketing debt being piled up by public pension systems.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Republican state Sen. John Moorlach of Costa Mesa has emerged as a

leading voice in the Legislature against skyrocketing debt piled up by public pension


But some in the pension reform movement say the former Orange County treasurer

may be contributing to the problem: Moorlach receives an $83,827 government

pension check from the Orange County Employees Retirement System while making

$100,113 a year as a senator.

At least 16 other state lawmakers collect two checks each month, including

Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), who retired two years ago at 50 as a

captain in the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. When added to his

legislative pay, Cooper’s annual pension of $173,820 brings his total income each

year to $273,000.

Advocates for a pension system overhaul say legislators are entitled to the benefits

they earned. But, they add, the costly pension perk is an example of what is wrong

with public retirement benefits: Government workers can retire too soon with

lucrative benefits that the pension systems cannot sustain.

"It’s a form of double-dipping, which makes a lot of people angry," said former San

Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, who is planning a pension reform initiative for the 2018

state ballot. "Most of us have to work until we are 65 or 67 before we can retire when

Social Security kicks in."

It’s legal under current rules, said Dan Pellissier, president of the group California

Pension Reform.

"But the optics are poor, certainly for an elected official to be taking another public

salary after retiring," Pellissier said.

The practice was uncovered by a search of pension system records by the Los Angeles

Times just as public policy makers are debating both legislative pay and excesses in

public pensions.

Last month, state Controller Betty Yee reported that the public pension system has a

long-term unfunded liability of $63.7 billion.

On April 27, a state panel will meet to consider whether to grant pay raises to

California lawmakers who already receive the highest base pay of any legislators in

the country, $100,113, far above second-place Pennsylvania’s roughly $85,000.

Reed’s proposed initiative to rein in pension costs, including a requirement for voters

to approve benefits, would be the most serious attempt to address projected pension

shortfalls since 2012, when Gov. Jerry Brown pushed through changes affecting

future government employees.

The Legislature passed a law that orders current state employees to pay a greater

share of the cost of their pension, and requiring new public employees who are not in

public safety jobs to work until 67 to get full retirement benefits.

Brown said at the time that the bill was "not perfect" and that more changes may be

needed in the state retirement system.

Assemblyman Tom W. Lackey (R-Palmdale) agrees that additional action is required

to make public pensions sustainable, but he defended his benefits. Lackey was 54

when he retired as a sergeant with the California Highway Patrol.

He receives an annual pension of $111,792 from the California Public Employees’

Retirement System in addition to his $97,188 legislative salary. He did not accept a

pay raise last year.

Lackey said the low retirement age for law enforcement officers and firefighters is


"There is clearly room for improvement on the sustainability issue," Lackey said. "I

do believe in my situation, law enforcement pensions deserve unique consideration

just because of the danger and all the circumstances that surround that type of


Lackey said 56 CHP officers died in the line of duty during his 28 years with the

agency. He also noted that current state lawmakers do not accrue credit for a


The rules approved by Brown in 2012 apply to local public pension systems,

including the one in Orange County, but the new retirement age does not affect those

like Moorlach who were already employed.

He retired at age 59 just before he joined the Senate, and his retirement check is

based on 19.7 years of service that included time on the Orange County Board of

Supervisors and as the county treasurer.

When asked about several legislators collecting pension checks on top of salaries,

Moorlach said, "It’s not the people who are bad. It’s the system that’s bad. We’ve got

to fix the system."

Moorlach said he warned in 2004 that the county was making a "massive mistake"

by boosting retirement benefits. It went from a formula with a retirement age of 65 to

one providing a share of salary payable beginning at 55.

After being told he could not opt out of the county retirement system, he abided by its

rules, but he decided after retiring at 59 that he could still provide public service, he


"I could easily have retired at age 60, but I had a lot of my friends who said, ‘We still

want you involved, we want you to run.’ I did it for public service," Moorlach said,

adding that he agrees that the current system encourages public officials to retire


His acceptance of a county retirement check and a state paycheck also concerned one

of his allies, Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal

Responsibility, which has pressed for pension reform.

"That doesn’t look good," Fritz said. "I hate to say this publicly about John, but it’s


Fritz, who advised Brown’s office on his 2012 plan, said one solution to the problem

would be to adopt rules similar to Social Security, which reduces retirement pay if the

person goes back to work and earns more than a small amount.

"Something like that would be reasonable," she said. "We should do what we can to

discourage people from retiring too soon."

State legislators are paid $100,113 annually but many receive government pension checks at the same time, including:

Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove)


(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:


Government service:

Cooper retired two years ago

at age 50 as a captain with

the Sacramento County

Sheriff’s Department.

Biographical details: He is former chairman of the Assembly Public Employees,

Retirement and Social Security Committee.

Sen. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield)


(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:


Government service:

Fuller spent 30 years in

public education and was

superintendent of the Keppel

Union School District.

Biographical details: She is the Senate Republican leader and is vice chairwoman

of the Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee. Fuller is also a member of

the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee.

Assemblyman Tom W. Lackey (R-Palmdale)


(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:


Government service:

Lackey retired at age 54 as a

sergeant with the California

Highway Patrol.

Biographical details: He

did not accept a pay raise last year, so he receives a Senate salary of $97,188. Lackey

is vice chairman of the Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative


Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego)


(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Annual public pension:


Government service:

Weber taught at California

State L.A. and Los Angeles

City College. She was also a

professor at San Diego State.

Biographical details: She spent decades in higher education and has spent her

time in the Assembly serving on the Appropriations, Budget, Education and Higher

Education committees among others.

Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa)


(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:


Government service:

Former Orange County

treasurer and member of the

Orange County Board of

Supervisors with a total of

about 19 years of county


Biographical details: An outspoken critic of unsustainable pension benefits, Moorlach is a member of the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee. He is vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee and serves on the Budget and Fiscal Review and Governance and Finance committees.

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-South Los Angeles)


(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Annual public pension:


Government service:

Jones-Sawyer worked for the

city of Los Angeles in roles

including director of asset

management and assistant

deputy mayor.

Biographical details: He is chairman of the Public Safety Committee and serves

on the Higher Education, Government Organization and Agriculture committees. He

is the former chairman of the Los Angeles County Small Business Commission.

Assemblyman José Medina (D-Riverside)


(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Annual public pension:


Government service:

Medina retired in 2012 after

many years as a teacher with

the Riverside Unified School


Biographical details: He

was a school board member on the Jurupa Unified School District Board of

Education and completed three terms on the Riverside Community College District

Board of Trustees. Medina is chairman of the Assembly Committee on Higher


Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego)


(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Annual public pension:


Government service:

Block served as a dean,

professor and legal advisor at

San Diego State.

Biographical details: He

served as a San Diego Superior Court judge pro tem and statewide president of the

California County Boards of Education. He chairs the Senate Education Budget

Subcommittee, the Committee on Banking and Financial Institutions and the

Legislative Jewish Caucus.

Assemblyman Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park)


(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Annual public pension:


Government service: He

spent 13 years on the San

Mateo County Board of

Supervisors, which was a full-

time job with benefits.

Biographical details: Gordon chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Rules and

serves on the Budget committee.

Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside)


(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Annual public pension:


Government service: Roth

is a former major general in

the U.S. Air Force.

Biographical details: Roth

has turned down pay increases

in his Senate salary since his election, so he receives $90,540 annually. He is

chairman of the Senate Budget Subcommittee on State Administration and General

Government, and the Insurance Committee. He is vice-chairman of the Joint

Legislative Audit Committee.

Sen. James Beall (D-San José)


(Associated Press)

Annual public pension:


Government service: Beall

is a former member of the

Santa Clara County Board of

Supervisors and former urban

planner for the cities of Santa

Cruz and Los Gatos.

Biographical details: He is chairman of the Senate Transportation and Housing

Committee, and is a member of the Public Employment and Retirement;

Appropriations; Budget and Fiscal Review; and Governance and Finance committees.

He also sits on the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.

Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills)


(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:


Government service:

Pavley taught in public

schools for more than two

decades, completing her

teaching career in Moorpark

before she retired in July 2004.

Biographical details: She is the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee

chairwoman, and serves on committees including Budget and Fiscal Review and

Governance and Finance. She was also mayor of Agoura Hills.

Assemblyman Kansen Chu (D-San José)


(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Annual public pension:


Government service: He

worked as an aide to

legislators and served seven

years on the San José City


Biographical details: He

served on the Berryessa Union School Board District and is chairman of the

Assembly Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media committee. He

also serves on the Committee on Labor and Employment and the Jobs, Economic

Development and the Economy and Transportation committees.

Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis)


(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:


Government service:

Wolk served from 1998 to

2002 as an elected member

of the Yolo County Board of

Supervisors before retiring

from county service.

Biographical details: She is Senate majority whip and is chairwoman of the

Senate Budget Subcommittee and No. 2 on Resources, Environmental Protection,

Energy and Transportation. Wolk is the former mayor of Davis.

Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada-Flintridge)


(Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Annual public pension:


Government service: Liu

was a teacher in Richmond

public schools, teaching

history at the junior and

senior high levels. She

became a school

administrator before retiring in 1996.

Biographical details: She is chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee and

serves on the Insurance, Public Safety, Human Services and Elections and

Constitutional Amendments committees.

Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica)


(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:


Government service:

Bloom served for 13 years on

the Santa Monica City

Council, where he served

as mayor three times.

Biographical details: He also served as a volunteer judge pro tem and mediator

for Los Angeles County Superior Courts. He is a member of Assembly committees

including Budget, Appropriations and Higher Education.

Assemblyman Rocky Chávez (R-Oceanside)


(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Annual public pension:

Requests made by the Times

for information about

Chávez’s annual pension were

not answered by Chávez and

military representatives.

Government service:

Chávez spent more than 28 years as a U.S. Marine, rising to the rank of colonel and

serving as chief of staff for the 4th Marine Division.

Biographical details: He is vice chairman of the Assembly Veterans Affairs

committee, and sits on the Budget and Joint Legislative Budget committees, among



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