California public pension reform approved by legislature

The California legislature joined together in a bipartisan effort to pass public pension reform.Sometimes pigs really do fly

Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign AB 340, a bill enacting landmark California public pension reform. In a rare show of bipartisan cooperation, the bill passed overwhelmingly on Friday with major support from both parties. The Senate vote was 38-1 and the Assembly cleared it by 66-9. Some conservatives felt the bill did not go far enough while public unions opposed it. The huge margin of victory for AB 340 indicates the legislature listened then acted on the growing mandate for public pension reform coming from the citizens of California.

This really is a political earthquake. More on IVN.

California Workers’ Comp overhaul happening in secrecy


California’s Workers’ Compensation is facing major changes if a bill scheduled for this week comes up for debate and then passes. Veteran Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters says renegotiating of workers’ comp benefits for injured workers happens about every ten years with the current battle no different from the divisive fight in 2004. However, this time, at least part of big labor is supporting reductions in benefits. Further, some stakeholders not allowed at the negotiations.

Workers’ comp lawyers and insurance companies are not part of the negotiations, which are rushed and and being in secret. I discuss this and more and interview a workers’ comp lawyer with decades of experience in my latest IVN article. He has useful insights into the convoluted process that is California workers’ compensation.

And many workers really are injured. He says:

Look at the comments after Dan Walters’ [workers’ comp] article. People are told there are no real work injuries, only people who pretend to be injured because they are lazy. Sit at my desk and interview truly injured people who tell you they are not like those other claimants, they are really injured, to understand how deeply ingrained this attitude has become, due to constant pounding by the insurance industry and the press.

Jerry Brown about to ignite mother of all California water wars

The Sacramento Delta is ground zero for California water wars. California Gov. Jerry Brown will soon announce plans to build massive tunnels to siphon water away from the Delta and to Central Valley cropland and the ever-thirsty Southland.

The tunnels would siphon water using three intakes on the Sacramento River below Freeport, carry it some 60 miles underground to pumping facilities near Tracy, and then use existing canals to move it to farms in the Central Valley and cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego.

California says they’ll have the deepest concern for the health of the Delta and its fish population, including salmon, and will study and ponder this deeply as they build the canal.

Precisely how much water is diverted will depend on what is determined by the scientific studies that will accompany construction, she said.

This approach does not fill me with great hope that the state cares much about the Delta. Environmentalists, commercial fishermen, and Delta farmers say the effect on fish and the environment needs to be determined before the construction starts. I agree.

[Delta farmers] now irrigate with water that is cleansed as it flows through the delta. If the tunnel project moves ahead, they will use water that has more salts and toxins that could kill or damage crops.

The poject, if it happens, will be mostly funded by a $11 billion oft-delayed water bond scheduled to be on the ballot on 2014. Given the vagueness of the current plans it’s a cetainty the project will cost way more than that.

Gentlemen, start your lawsuits.

19% of electricity consumption in California goes for using water

Graphic by Andy Warner / KQED

KQED links to a 2005 State of California report and has a wonderful and informative infographic about how 19% percent of power in California is involved in using water.

Plus, water is heavily used in generating electricity by steam and also for cooling. Seems a bit of a vicious circle, doesn’t it?

Pension reform earthquake in California, other cities will follow

Voters in San Jose and San Diego Tuesday overwhelmingly approved public pension reform for their cities. It was beyond a landslide. These results send a clear and unmistakable message to municipalities everywhere that are struggling to meet pension obligations. If pension reform can pass in major California cities, it can pass anywhere. Cities and counties across the country are sure to follow suit and put pension reform on their ballots too.

Some have opined that Tuesday’s California primary was a non-event. Nothing could be less true. The reverberations and impact of these big pension reform wins will be felt for years to come in California and in the nation. California has long been known as being friendly to public unions and the unions have enjoyed enormous political power, but that power is now directly being challenged. What happened Tuesday was an earthquake.

More on the pension reform earthquake at IVN.