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Jul 18 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: July 18, 2012

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San Bernardino, California

The California Legislature is not in session for a summer recess.

The California Assembly has adjourned until August 6, 2012 and the California State Senate is also in adjournment.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

On to today’s California headlines:

SAN BERNARDINO: Bankruptcy decision back before the council

The San Bernardino City Council will meet again Wednesday to consider a declaration of fiscal emergency and an authorization to proceed with filing for bankruptcy.

Council members delayed making a decision after a more than three-hour hearing Monday, July 16, where many residents and city employees urged the city to seek an alternative.

But with concerns that the city will soon run out of cash and might not make its Aug. 15 payroll, city administrators say bankruptcy is the best course to buy the city some breathing room and get its finances in order.

Last week, the council majority agreed to seek bankruptcy protection due to a $45 million budget deficit. However, it must still approve a formal resolution authorizing the city attorney to file for bankruptcy.

Berman campaign puts Brandon Hall in charge

Brandon Hall, the Democratic strategist who joined the Howard Berman reelection campaign in March as a senior advisor, is taking full charge of everything, campaign sources say. That would be a big and serious shift in approach by Berman, who for decades kept his political campaign machinery tightly in the hands of his brother Michael.

Michael Berman’s deft targeting of voter segments and his media strategy have provided all the firepower and campaign guidance that the veteran congressman needed in the past. But this year, Howard Berman is in the reelection fight of his life. He’s up against another Democratic congressman, Brad Sherman, in a race that’s turning out to be the most closely watched and expensive intra-party battle in the country. In the June primary, Sherman finished ahead of Berman by ten points in the San Fernando Valley district they now share due to reapportionment.

Hall, who moved to Los Angeles with the reputation of having saved Nevada Senator Harry Reid’s skin when his 2010 reelection was in doubt, was in charge of Berman’s day to day operations during the primary campaign. He now will take over the Berman media strategy, messaging and all other key elements. In addition, for the first time in a long while, if ever, the Berman camp is employing an outside pollster. The Democratic pollsters Fairbanks, Maslin, Maullin & Metz will now be helping out, a source close to the campaign confirmed.

Pension funds seriously underfunded, studies find

Corporate and public pension funds across the country are seriously underfunded, threatening the retirement security of workers and straining the financial health of state and local governments, according to a pair of independent studies.

In 2011, company pensions and related benefits were underfunded by an estimated $578 billion, meaning they only had 70.5% of the money needed to meet retirement obligations, according to a report by S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Funds generally don’t need to have all the money needed pay future pensions because returns on investments vary over the years and people retire at different ages and with different levels of benefits, experts said. But a funding level in the 70% zone is considered dangerously low.

The looming shortfall, and the move by corporations to 401(k)-type plans in which the level of investment is controlled by employees, could keep many aging baby boomers from retiring, said Howard Silverblatt, a senior S&P Dow Jones Indices analyst and the report’s author.

“The American dream of a golden retirement for baby boomers is quickly dissipating,” Silverblatt said. “Plans have been reduced and the burden shifted with future retirees needing to save more for their retirement.

“For many baby boomers it may already be too late to safely build up assets, outside of working longer or living more frugally in retirement.”

Bid to curb union spending gets big Democratic backer

Proposition 32 just got a big Democratic voice.

Former state Sen. Gloria Romero, a Los Angeles Democrat, announced her support this week for the November ballot measure that would ban the practice of political contribution by payroll deduction, the primary method labor unions use to raise political cash.

“As someone who has been on the political front lines in Sacramento, I’ve seen first hand how special interests control the political process,” Romero said in a statement. “Through their vast resources, special interests are able to hold lawmakers hostage to their agenda. This isn’t a partisan or ideological issue — all Californians deserve elected officials who will work for them, rather than special interests.”

In some ways, Romero’s support is not surprising. Throughout her tenure in Sacramento she battled publicly with some of the state’s most powerful unions, namely the California Teachers Assn. and the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. In her statement, she cited education legislation that died in the Legislature because of union opposition.

Supporters note that Proposition 32 prohibits both unions and corporations from contributing directly to candidates. Opponents argue that the measure disproportionately harms unions, which get most of their money through payroll deductions, and does nothing to curb the influence of independent committees and so-called super PACs, which are playing a burgeoning role in elections this year.

Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters Daily video: California’s battle over taxes is heating up

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