Wyatt Buchanan
Saturday, April 28, 2012

One of the biggest mysteries at the Capitol these days is whether lawmakers are really going to make any substantive changes in the pension system for public employees.

This week didn’t do much to answer that, even though there were hearings on bills that were taken word-for-word from proposals Gov. Jerry Brown had sent to the Legislature. The apparent problem? Republicans introduced the bills.

They deal with a host of issues, but the two most contentious are increasing the retirement age and creating some kind of hybrid system that includes a traditional pension plus a 401(k)-style plan.

Republicans were ready to make a big push for the plan, until the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee Chairman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena (Los Angeles County) sent a letter to Republicans the day before the hearing saying the measures would not be voted on.

Instead, Democrats on the committee made a procedural move to send the bills to an existing conference committee that is discussing pensions. What’s not clear is whether the proposals will ever face a vote, or if they have been disappeared.

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County), who introduced three of the bills, told the committee he had some hope, though, that they would be part of any final solution.

“I think it’s all kind of in the eye of the beholder whether this is going to be seen as moving these bills to legislative purgatory never to be seen again or will they be part of the discussion in front of the conference committee,” he said.

We should have an answer to that in the next few months.

Preacher-in-chief: Here’s a political pop quiz for you: How does a politician avoid a potential public relations land mine involving the death penalty and victims of violent crime?

Answer: Preach, or at least that’s what the governor did this week. Brown was scheduled to speak to an annual gathering of Crime Victims United of California, where many of the speakers before him expressed outrage that a ballot initiative to end the death penalty qualified on the eve of the march and rally.

Prior to his speaking there, Brown told reporters at an event in San Jose that he was glad the death penalty repeal would appear on the ballot, though he didn’t take a public position.

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