Who really runs our state government?

By From page A6 | July 24, 2013

Whenever I bike to our neoclassical Capitol in Sacramento, I realize that under its proud dome, inside those Corinthian columns, behind the magisterial walls resides a completely corrupt legislature, a body which passes whatever laws their campaign donors tell them to pass.

It never matters what the public interest is. Good government no longer exists.

It doesn’t matter to our elected officials if the bills they approve hurt the poor, make college more expensive, triple the cost of water projects, destroy businesses, bankrupt our state or desiccate local government.

All they care about is paying off the donors who own their souls. The expenses they run up will have to be paid by the suckers who inherit them in the future.

That is how government in California got into the mess it is now in. It is why public pensions in our state are underfunded by $4 trillion.

A telling example of how our corrupt legislature works against the public and for the unions — the donors who control the Democratic Party — is playing out right now in Davis. It’s called the AB 646 process. It is designed to constipate and discourage cities and counties.

Assembly Bill 646 was passed by both houses in the summer of 2011 and signed into law by Gov. Brown on Oct. 9 that year. Its alleged author was Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), who is now in her party’s leadership. But in reality it was the handiwork of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the California Professional Firefighters.

AFSCME and the firefighters donate a lot of money to elected Democrats to get what they want. It works. They plied Atkins with giant checks, and she rewarded them for their generosity. That’s why she is now a Democratic bigwig.

The problem unions faced a few years ago — what they sought to fix with AB 646 — was that state law permitted local governments to unilaterally impose contract terms on their employees, if, after many months of collective bargaining, the two sides were unable to agree upon a deal and the negotiations were formally declared in an impasse.

The imposed terms would be the last, best and final offer put up by the local government.

This provision had actually been in state law for a long time. But it only became a priority of the unions to change in the last few years, as virtually every local government in our state is going bankrupt (paying for pensions and other benefits) and more terms would likely be imposed.

In Davis, an impasse (the second in two years) was declared with the Davis City Employees Association on Nov. 8, 2012. On April 12, 2013, after a year of “collective bargaining,” another impasse was declared with the Davis firefighters.

The AB 646 process is still a long way from being resolved.

A source of mine in city government told me last weekend that Davis expects no resolution before Nov. 1. My source said “the process is very expensive” and inefficient by design.

After impasse was declared, the parties were required to hire a mediator, who, in theory, would listen to the arguments of each side and suggest a solution. But, of course, if the suggested solution gave the unions what they wanted, the city would reject it. And vice versa.

A person on the management side in Davis told me that the state mediators — Kenneth Glenn (DCEA); Scott Pearl (fire) — arrived with a pro-union bias.

After 30 fruitless days with a mediator, the unions can either accept the city’s last, best and final offer or they can request the matter be submitted to a factfinding panel.

The unions, of course, pick the latter course.

The next step is called factfinding. Human resources director Melissa Chaney explained to me where Davis is with DCEA:

“The first factfinding panel that was held for the 2010 negotiations was held on March 20 and 21, 2013. And the factfinding panel had a DCEA representative, a city representative and Joe Henderson was the factfinder. That document has not been finalized.

“The second round of factfinding was held in the middle of May and the end of June. And the factfinding panel had a DCEA representative, a city representative and John LoRocco was the factfinder. That document has not been finalized.”

Factfinding with the fire union, Chaney said, will not begin until August.

Under the terms of AB 646, the factfinding panel is “authorized to make investigations and hold hearings, and to issue subpoenas requiring the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of evidence.”

There is no limit to the time a panel can take to find its facts. If the union wants to drag the process out as long as possible, its side will mooove sloooowly. They hire lawyers who are unable to come to Davis on days which end in y.

AB 646 says that “the factfinding panel (is) to make findings of fact and recommend terms of settlement, for advisory purposes only.”

In other words, after scores of meetings and hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to lawyers and others who benefit no one, nothing will be resolved. After the recommendation of the panel is rejected, Davis will impose its last, best and final offer — assuming that our city has not gone broke before that day comes.

— Rich Rifkin is a Davis resident; his column is published every other week. Reach him at [email protected]

Rich Rifkin

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