The Legislature is scheduled to wrap up its two-year session at midnight Friday. Members face many bills that still are in the hopper for votes before the conclusion.
Heading that list is pension reform which Gov. Brown introduced last fall. Presumably, there have been lots of behind-the-scenes discussions, but not public hearings.
The revised proposal was announced Tuesday by the governor after he negotiated the deal in secret. There’s widespread agreement that reform is necessary. The only objectors, as we saw this week, are the public employees unions whose members have benefited from overly generous and easily to abuse pension rules.
So the process being followed is to “gut-and-amend,”—in non-legislative speak that means to strip out all of the language in an existing bill that has moved through the process and is eligible for floor votes. It bypasses the normal process that would include policy committee hearings in each house as well as hearings before fiscal committees.
Instead of being vetted and allowing all stakeholders to weigh in, the bill went through a joint committee and now is scheduled for an up-or-down vote with no amendments allowed in both houses on Friday.
Call it deal making behind the scenes and totally short-circuiting the process. It’s nothing new for the Legislature and governors.
With Democrats controlling both houses and thus calling the shots, it will be interesting to see what happens when the floor votes come forward. Public employee unions consistently are among the top donors to Democratic candidates and changing the rules never is easy.
Of course, getting pension reform done in some manner was one of the governor’s highest priorities to demonstrate some degree of fiscal restraint before his tax increase proposal goes before voters in November. After the profligate spending flood opened up on the absurd high-speed rail project for a Central Valley line that connects nowhere to nowhere, he has to show some trace of fiscal sanity.
There certainly are some good aspects to the proposal—eliminating the egregious practice spiking final paychecks to greatly boost ongoing pension payments; the requirement that employees pay half of the costs of normal pensions among them—but without a robust series of hearings, this bill likely will echo former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s infamous remark about Obamacare—it will have to be passed so then we can read it and know what’s in it.
Not the way to do the public’s business.
SWITCHING TO A MUCH MORE PLEASANT SUBJECT:
Unusually cool August weather blessed the annual Taylor Family Foundation fundraiser, Day in the Park last Sunday. Instead of sweltering 90-100 degree temperatures so typical for late August, temps were in the 70s, delightful.
The event supports the summer and weekend camping programs that the foundation offers free to children with life-threatening or chronic diseases as well as at-risk youth.
The live auction portion got off to a wonderful start by raising $443,000 to fund camping programs. It was helped along by $100,000 pledges by two families and $50,000 from a third.
The total raised has not been finalized, but the foundation knows proceeds have exceeded the goal of $1 million. Day in the Park is set for the last Sunday in August, which always makes for a most busy summer for the staff, which must prepare for the event as well as supervise the camp experience for their summer clientele.