Senate Passes Corrections Contracts

Katy Grimes: Described as “Short Time Gain – Long Time Pain” by Republican Sen. Bob Dutton, the six union deals between the Governor and correctional officers failed to garner the necessary Senate votes for ratification today in the Senate – however, don’t count it over yet. The Senate recessed until 4:15 p.m. today at which time they will reconvene and finish the vote on SB 151 (Correa), and Democrats are hoping to have another Republican in the bag.

The vote was 26-14, along party lines – except for one Republican vote from Sen. Sam Blakeslee (San Luis Obispo) – to ratify the six union contracts, which includes four new contracts with California Correctional Peace Officers. Only one more Republican vote is needed to pass Correa’s bill.

With one hour left in the day to lobby Senate Republicans, the CCPOA, which has given a great deal of money to both parties, will no doubt be reminding Republican Senators where some of their bread is buttered during the campaign season, in order to gain the additional vote needed for the correctional union contracts.

Sen. Pres. Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (Sacramento) described some debates in the like Senate like being in Alice In Wonderland and then proceeded to pummel Republicans. “Where is the commitment to actually reform something?” asked Steinberg.

But Republicans were not just critical of the union contracts for increasing in size by another $50 billion in the next five years – several Senators asked for a finalized budget first, and then agreed to sit down and negotiate union contracts.

Diamond Bar Republican Sen. Bob Huff commented that the deal scores little savings this year, then will hit hard down the road with massive increases. Huff said that the union contract increases would mean cuts to schools. “Why don’t you deliver this message to the schools – that this contract is more important than schools,” said Huff.

“This feels like a take-it-or-leave-it deal. I don’t feel negotiated with,” said Sen. Doug La Malfa (R-Butte). La Malfa said that the union contracts would leave the state $200 million short, but Steinberg challenged that amount and said the budget shortfall would only be $12 million, and added that “collective bargaining is under attack throughout the country.”

Former Governor Gray Davis gave the California Correctional Peace Officers Association — California’s prison guards — management control over the state’s prison system through the contracts he negotiated, and approved by the Legislature. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger  undid much of what Davis put into play, but now Gov. Jerry Brown may just reverse Schwarzeneger’s reforms and hand the keys to the state’s checkbook back to the correctional officers.

While many legislators would not mind richly remunerating actual public safety jobs, the list of jobs included in the “safety classes” is 41 pages long and includes such dangerous jobs as fingerprint specialists, mental health workers, parks and recreation employees, civil engineers, forestry and fish and game employees, and even the “shoemaking” and “culinary” instructors at the Youth Authority.

Included in the contracts is more vacation time for correctional officers, which adds up to nearly 19 weeks of accumulated leave time. The Legislative Analyst’s Office reported that the current vacation time is valued at $600 million.

The six union deals need two Senate Republican votes… we will update the story after 4:15 p.m. Watch it live on The California Channel.

UPDATE: Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) flipped his “no” vote late this afternoon and ended up voting in favor of SB 151. Jessica Hsiang, Cannella’s communications director provided Cannella’s statement about his vote:

“The contracts ratified today were negotiated at the bargaining table, and they do represent concessions from the unions involved and significant savings to the state. However, our state’s massive unfunded liabilities demand swift action to address the long-term sustainability of our state’s public pension system.

“Clearly, real pension reform will not be achieved at the bargaining table; it must be achieved through statute or by a vote of the people. That’s the reason I joined my colleagues in proposing a package of much-needed reforms that includes implementing 401K-style pension plans, capping final pension payouts, ensuring employees contribute their fair share to health care coverage and ending pension-spiking practices.

“Today, I received assurances from public-employee union leaders that they will engage in an earnest conversation about real pension reform, and I remain committed to finding agreement on a long-term solution to the multibillion-dollar unfunded pension liability California today faces.”

If the pension reform assurances from the public-employee unions are so earnest, why didn’t the entire Senate Republican caucus vote to ratify the contracts?

Katy Grimes

MAY 2, 2011

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