Fund fight

Dec 17, 2012

CalPERS, the nation's largest public pension fund, denounced strapped San Bernardino for engaging in a "sham" bankruptcy and said the city was breaking the law by withholding payments to the fund.


From Reuters' Tim Reid and Jim Christie: "The filing on Friday by the California Public Employees' Retirement System, or CalPERS, came 10 days after San Bernardino officials traveled to Sacramento to plead with top CalPERS executives for more time to make payments."


"At issue is whether the pensions of government workers take precedence over other payments in a municipal bankruptcy - which could have ramifications for municipal creditors, including Wall Street bondholders, as more cities and towns have trouble meeting their obligations."


"No agreement was reached at the CalPERS-San Bernardino meeting, and CalPERS officials told Reuters they have little latitude to allow San Bernardino - or any other city that pays into its pension fund - to alter the payment schedule."


California Republicans, licking their wounds after the Nov. 6 election, are looking for ways to survive as Democrats tighten their control on the state.


From Capitol Weekly's Greg Lucas: "If major donors and powerful political players thought the party was trending perilously close to ineffectual prior to Nov. 6, the perception hasn‘t exactly brightened with the numeric superiority of Democrats in the Legislature."


"During this election cycle, incumbent Republican lawmakers — Democrats hold all statewide offices except two Board of Equalization seats – viewed California’s party apparatus as so gummed up they created “leadership“ campaign accounts of their own. That way, more dollars could be given directly to legislative races without state party involvement..."


"Contributions to the Senate and Assembly legislative “leadership” funds were often funneled through individual county central committees, like San Luis Obispo, in which the county chair was considered competent enough to recognize which candidates had a shot and which were destined to be Democratic road kill."


The passage of Proposition 30 has given the perception to some that the state is flush with cash -- and groups that want to make use of that money are converging on Sacramento.


From thre LAT's Chris Megerian: "Children's advocates want day-care centers inspected more often. Dentists want their poor patients' coverage restored. Universities want funds to prevent further tuition increases, replace old computers and perform maintenance. Cities say the state should let them keep more of the money left over from defunct redevelopment agencies."


"But California still has financial problems, even after years of steep service cuts, and Gov. Jerry Brown has vowed to keep a tight rein on the budget. State finances could take a turn for the worse if the federal budget standoff sends the country into a new recession or tax revenue doesn't keep pace with spending."


"Labor unions that took compensation cuts this year and then put their political muscle behind Brown's successful tax-hike campaign may also look for more money. Almost every contract involving state workers — covering about 172,000 employees from 10 unions — is set to expire this summer."


U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein says she intends to introduce a bill on the first day of the new Congress next month that reestablishes the federal ban on assault weapons.


From Russell Berman in The Hill:" Feinstein, a leading gun control advocate in Congress, said the measure had been in the works for a year and would be unveiled simultaneously in both the House and Senate."


"The assault weapons ban enacted in 1994 lapsed a decade later. But calls to renew it have grown louder following the Friday shooting of 27 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., as well as in response to other mass shootings in recent years..."


"Feinstein, first elected in 1992, was a leading sponsor of the original ban, and she said she and other lawmakers had sought to perfect it in this most recent iteration."


In 2009, California banned texting while driving, including hands-free texting, but the law was changed last year to allow hands-free testing. Safety advocates don't like that change.


From the Chronicle's Wyatt Buchanan: "Now the National Safety Council, which did not formally oppose the bill as it made its way through the Legislature, wants California's lawmakers to repeal the measure when they return to the Capitol next month."


"At issue is whether laws should permit drivers to do things that may distract them, even if the laws are intended to reduce harm - in this case the harm that comes with texting while driving, which some lawmakers say is an inevitable human behavior."


"Everybody was caught off guard by this," said David Teater, senior director of transportation initiatives for the council. "It's just real bad public policy." He said there are three kinds of distractions for drivers: visual, mechanical and cognitive. Texting falls under cognitive, a situation "where people's minds are somewhere else."


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