Will Kamala Harris monkey-wrench CA pension reform — again?

Will Kamala Harris monkey-wrench CA pension reform — again?

unionpowerql4I’ve been following California politics obsessively since 1990, and I simply have never seen an editorial like the Los Angeles Times’ piece Friday exhorting Attorney General Kamala Harris to do an ethical and honest job in preparing a ballot statement for a 2014 pension-reform initiative. Remember, the Times endorsed Harris in 2010 and has been a cheerleader for the San Francisco pol throughout her Willie Brown-enabled career. Now it feels the urgent need to beg her not to be a corrupt tool in the union political machine that dominates California.

“Californians could be faced in November with a proposal to dramatically alter the pension and benefit system for public employees. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has submitted a statewide ballot initiative that would allow government agencies to negotiate changes to current employees’ future retirement benefits, reversing the long-standing principle that once a public employee is hired, his or her retirement benefits cannot be reduced. 

“Public employee unions are already gearing up for a major fight over Reed’s initiative, which he could put on the ballot as soon as 2014 (or as late as 2016) if he gathers the requisite signatures. No matter the timing, voters will surely be inundated with intense propaganda from both sides. That’s why Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, charged with writing the title and 100-word summary for all ballot measures — including Reed’s pension initiative — should play it straight. Give voters clear, factual information, free of spin.

“Last year, Harris took heat for drafting a ballot measure summary — also on a pension reform proposal — that many considered skewed against the initiative’s fiscally conservative proponents. Her summation pushed the limits of interpretation and painted the proposal in the worst light, critics said. She even chose to define public employees as “teachers, nurses and peace officers” — who, according to polls, just happen to be among the most respected of all public employees. She neglected to mention the parking enforcement officers, tax collectors and DMV clerks who would also be affected by pension changes.”

A test for a possible future national candidate

This normally would be a no-brainer for Kamala Harris — write a slanted summary, keep sucking up to unions, keep moving up the CA Dem food chain. But if she wants to be president or vice president some day, and that is what a lot of people are hearing, she has to show she’s not a complete union tool.

Or, as CalWatchdog founder Steve Greenhut put it, that she’s not a “totalitarian.” Here’s what he wrote last year after Harris’ first pension reform monkey-wrenching:

“We expect all sides in politics to fight hard, given the stakes involved, but our system rests on the broad acceptance of a set of fairly applied rules. We know, for instance, that no matter how nasty the coming presidential election becomes, the loser ultimately will cede power after the final count is in. This isn’t a kleptocracy, where the only redress for the losing side is to take to the streets in a violent revolt.

“Unfortunately, California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ recent misuse of power to provide a dishonest ballot title and summary for proposed pension-reform initiatives, which she opposes, comes right out of the totalitarian playbook, where those wielding power recognize no rules of decency or fairness.”

We shall see if Harris has a shred of good faith in her. The odds at the Imaginary Politics Gambling House:

— 51 percent chance that she does a completely slanted, outrageous ballot description, as bad as last year’s.

–44 percent chance that she does one that is clearly slanted but that might survive a court challenge.

–5 percent chance that she writes a fair ballot summary.

That’s life in California — just a one in 20 shot that honest democracy will trump union hegemony.

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