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Nov 29 2011

Flap’s California Morning Collection: November 29, 2011

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Santa Monica, California Pier

The California Legislature is not in session.

On to today’s headlines:

California demographic shift: More people leaving than moving in

Recent census figures show the state is losing more Californians like McCluer than it is attracting from other parts of the U.S. And the trend toward out-migration is looking less like a blip than a long-term condition.

The proportion of Californians who had moved here from out of state reached a 100-year low of about 20% in 2010, and the decade measured by the most recent census was the first in a century in which the majority of Californians were native-born.

The demographics of California today more closely resemble those of 1900 than of 1950: It is a mostly home-grown population, whose future depends on the children of immigrants and their children, said William Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“We used to say California, here we come,” said Frey. “That now has flipped.”

Court strengthens public retiree health rights

A state Supreme Court ruling last week could make it more difficult for state and local governments to cut spending on health care for their retired employees, one of the fastest-growing costs.

In a widely watched Orange County case, the court said when local elected officials approve a health care benefit for retirees, a lifetime right to the benefit can be created even if the ordinance or resolution does not specifically say so.

The court unanimously said the approval can create an “implied” vested right, fully protected by contract law, if it can be shown that was clearly the “intent” of the action by the elected officials.

The League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties filed briefs in support of Orange County’s contention that a county and its employees cannot form an implied contract.

The court said the local government groups “raise legitimate concerns” that retiree health insurance benefits, unlike pensions, are usually not funded in advance during working years and that costs have “skyrocketed in recent years.”

But the court said it was dealing not with a policy issue but a legal question posed by a federal appeals court:

“Whether, as a matter of California law, a California county and its employees can form an implied contract that confers vested rights to health benefits on retired county employees.”

The decision written by Justice Marvin Baxter that “a vested right to health benefits for retired county employees can be implied under certain circumstances from a county ordinance or resolution” could have a broad impact.

Despite Angry Protests, UC Regents Raise Administrators’ Salaries

Regents of the University of California, meeting for the first time since campus police used pepper spray and riot batons to disperse student protests at Berkeley and Davis, listened to nearly three hours of public complaints about those incidents and tuition increases before chanting protesters disrupted the meeting and drove them from the room.

The Regents then reconvened in a smaller room down the hall from the protesters, where they voted to raise the salaries of nearly a dozen university administrators and lawyers by as much as 21.9 percent.

“I am very sorry that a small group of students, about 20, decided to disrupt our meeting,” said Sherry L. Lansing, the board chair.

Lieut. Gov. Gavin C. Newsom, one of the six Regents who attended the meeting on the campus of UC San Francisco, was the only one to accept a request from the estimated 50 student and faculty protesters to continue the discussions after the Regents closed the official meeting to public comments.

The demonstrators took turns railing against a litany of student and faculty complaints, including mounting student debt, poor job prospects after graduation, low wages, and alleged police brutality.

When protesters asked Newsom to sign a petition calling for state lawmakers to close corporate tax loopholes, among other initiatives, he declined, explaining that he had “an absolute aversion to pledges.”

Rethinking Budget Trigger Unlikely, Says Speaker

Assembly Speaker John Perez isn’t ruling it out — never say never, one supposes — but nonetheless says that talk of the Legislature stopping, or even just rejiggering, the budget’s automatic spending cuts isn’t likely to go anywhere.

“I don’t know of another approach that has greater support than the triggers that we already voted on,” said Perez in comments to reporters after today’s long and contentious meeting of the regents of the University of California.

The exact depth of the so-called “trigger” cuts won’t be known for another two weeks, when Governor Jerry Brown’s budget team releases its state economic and revenue forecast. You’ll remember that the budget Brown signed into law in late June contained language that identified almost $2.5 billion in new spending cuts if revenue predictions dropped by more than $2 billion.

The prediction of the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office — which, along with the governor’s team, makes the assessment — is that revenues will miss the mark by $3.7 billion, thus triggering most of the identified cuts. That would include an additional $100 million in cuts to both the UC and CSU systems, plus deep cuts in health and human services and a whopping $1.4 billion in cuts to K-12 schools and community colleges.

Enjoy your morning!

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