By Jon Ortiz
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 – 6:58 am

Three months after lawmakers enacted public pension rollbacks, a new measure has surfaced that would exempt thousands of public transportation workers from the law.

The bill’s author and its union sponsors say it’s a necessary, narrow and reasonable tweak to the pension statute that will keep billions of federal dollars flowing into California.

But one of the state’s leading pension reform advocates said it’s another example of organized labor flexing its muscle to undo the retirement changes.

“If the Legislature does this,” said Dan Pellissier, president of California Pension Reform, “they’re selling out to the unions.”

The Teamsters and two other unions sponsored the bill, which would exclude 20,000 local and regional mass transit workers statewide from the higher pension contributions and lower retirement benefits passed last year.

Another provision of the measure would exempt so-called “multiemployer pension funds,” which are union-sponsored pension plans regulated by federal standards.

Trades workers participate in those funds, while few public employees do. The unions contend those plans cannot be put under state regulation and that the cost of closing them, which would entail paying for all the anticipated pensions up front, would be outrageously expensive.

Introduced by Watsonville Democrat Luis Alejo, Assembly Bill 160 assumes public pension changes that took effect Jan. 1 violate a condition of mass-transit federal grants requiring an agency to preserve whatever employees’ collective bargaining rights are authorized in that state.

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