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Friday, December 27, 2013

California Attorney General Harris has power to influence pension-change efforts

SacbeeA single word could send a game-changing California public pension proposal into political oblivion early next month.

Within the next few weeks, Attorney General Kamala Harris will issue a title and summary of not more than 100 words to describe a ballot initiative that would, among other things, give state and local government agencies power to change retirement benefits prospectively for current employees.

The language Harris uses to describe San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s measure is key because that’s what voters will see. Once she issues the language, Reed will focus test it and then shop the measure to potential campaign underwriters.

Reed’s side worries that Harris, who enjoys strong labor support, will live up to the ballot-bias rap she got in 2012. A pension-change measure that year failed to raise signature-collection money after the title and summary falsely said, among other things, that the proposal would change benefits for current employees and monkey with death and disability benefits. Editorials and political columnists from both sides of the aisle blasted Harris for politicizing the process.

At the time, Harris stood by her take on the measure. She still does, spokesman Nicolas Pacilio said. The proponents could have sued her over the 2012 title and summary she issued, but didn’t. continue reading...

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