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Mar 14 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: March 14, 2012

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Santa Monica, California

Good morning!

The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.

Lower expectations at CalPERS; bigger bills for cities, schools

America’s largest public pension system is about to swallow a bitter pill — and the pain will be felt in most every city in California.

Critics have derided the California Public Employees Retirement System for years over its allegedly rose-colored glasses: CalPERS, and most every other public pension system in California, officially expects to earn 7.75 percent on investments.

Last year, CalPERS earned 1.1 percent.

The Orange County  Employees Retirement System earned just 0.74 percent.

One could say reality came knocking Wednesday, when a CalPERS committee argued over whether the giant retirement system should lower its expectations to 7.25 percent, or 7.50 percent.

Some have urged it to go far lower than that. Understand that the lower the assumed return, the more the state and cities have to kick in to pension plans to meet the promises they’ve made to workers. Returns change; what they’ve promised to pay does not.

The CalPERS committee finally settled on a .25 percent reduction in its expected return rate — to 7.5 percent. That recommendation will go to the full CalPERS board on Wednesday for approval.

If adopted:

  •     This means that cities will see their required pension payments rise — between 1 percent and 2 percent for general workers, and between 2 percent and three percent for more expensive public safety workers, beginning next year, according to a CalPERS “warning” that went out last month.
  •     Throw in price inflation and wage inflation, and you’re looking at cities and the state paying pension bills that are 4 percent to 5 percent higher for general workers, and 7 percent to 8 percent higher for public safety workers, CalPERS said.

Postal cuts could force change in Calif. voting

California lawmakers and election officials worried about the effect of postal closures on elections are considering extending the voting period for mail-in-ballots, a move that could delay results by days or even weeks.

Election officials are concerned that longer delivery times will disenfranchise tens of thousands of absentee voters after the U.S. Postal Service begins closing post offices and mail distribution centers this summer.

During a joint legislative hearing Tuesday, lawmakers, county registrars and Secretary of State Debra Bowen discussed the possibility of changing California election law so ballots must be merely postmarked by Election Day. Currently, they must be in the hands of election workers by the time polls close to be counted.

Bowen acknowledged the change could mean the end of same-night election results, with nearly half the California electorate voting absentee.

“You hate to make changes with a gun to your head,” she said.

About 40 percent of California voters are registered for permanent absentee ballots, compared with 5 percent in 2000. Nearly 6 million residents voted by mail in 2008, the last presidential election.

A new ‘Cathie Wright’ will be on Simi Valley ballots

Growing up the daughter of a woman who served 20 years in the California Legislature and was the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in 1994, Victoria Catherine Wright said she learned a few things about politics from her mother.

One thing former Sen. Cathie Wright taught her is that political candidates shouldn’t put relatives on their campaign payroll, she says.

“She believed that you shouldn’t pay family,” Wright said. “They should work for you just because they believe in you.”

Last week, Wright decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps, filing to become a candidate in the 25th Congressional District. Using her middle name, she will be on the ballot as “Cathie Wright” — the same name longtime Simi Valley voters remember from the 1980s and 1990s.

She will be taking on a fellow Republican, incumbent Howard “Buck” McKeon of Santa Clarita, an elected official who hasn’t followed the Wright family wisdom about not paying relatives from campaign funds.

McKeon has long paid his wife, Patricia, as a campaign staffer. An analysis by the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call last year found McKeon led all members of Congress in that category, having paid his wife $264,000 from his campaign account since 2007.

“What that means is that people are donating money to his campaign and he’s pulling it out and putting it in his family’s pockets by paying his wife,” Wright said.

Calif. bill would ban violent fans from games

Call it the “no-root” list.

A state assemblyman from Los Angeles who was infuriated by the near-fatal beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow outside Dodger Stadium last year has introduced a bill that would create a list of hooligans banned from attending professional sporting events.

It’s a roster no fan would want to make, and would be published online by the state, like the Megan’s Law database of sex offenders. Unlike typical sports rosters, this one would feature a criminal history rather than stats like batting average.

People convicted of serious or violent felonies at sports arenas would qualify for bans of up to five years. Those caught attending a game anyway would be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.

“We have a situation where a lot of people are now afraid to take their kids to a ballgame,” the bill’s author, Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, said Tuesday. “People go to games and have a couple cans of courage, and then they take the fun out of it for the rest of us.”

And, Dan Walter’s Daily Video:

Enjoy your morning!

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