Index
Wednesday
Dec242014

SACRAMENTO: Unfunded liability, state worker retiree health care: Report/analysis, "Tackling big debt that lawmakers let balloon"; also, editorial, "200,000 retired state workers' long-term health care isn't funded" ....

* Calpensions:  "Tackling the big debt that lawmakers let balloon" - From Calpensions:

The debt or “unfunded liability” state Controller John Chiang reported last week for state worker retiree health care, $72 billion, is larger than the unfunded liability for state worker pensions reported by CalPERS in April, $50 billion. It’s a legislative legacy, a debt for state worker services received by one generation that lawmakers decided to let the next generations inherit.

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The total state unfunded liability (“unfunded actuarial accrued liability”) for retiree health care (“other post-employment benefits”) in fiscal 2013 was nearly $498 billion, or 3.25 percent of national gross domestic product, according to a report issued this month.

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In an annual “fiscal outlook” last month, nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor expects state retiree health care costs to grow at nearly the same rate during the next five years, going from $1.8 billion this fiscal year to $2.8 billion in fiscal 2019-20. The analyst’s report urges the Legislature to .....................

***ALSO:

* San Francisco Chronicle (editorial):  "200,000 retired state workers' long-term health care isn't funded"

Wednesday
Dec242014

POLITICS (National): Uber, lawsuit, Americans with Disabilities Act: "Obama administration takes sides in disability suit against Uber"; also, "Disability suit against Uber gets U.S. scrutiny" ....

* San Francisco Chronicle:  "Obama administration takes sides in disability suit against Uber" - From the Chronicle:

The Obama administration weighed in Tuesday on the side of advocates for the blind in a San Francisco federal court suit accusing ride-on-demand company Uber of discriminating against passengers with guide dogs. In its court filing, the Justice Department did not endorse the specific allegations of discrimination but said companies like Uber are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires equal treatment and reasonable accommodations for disabled customers.

Uber has denied discriminating but has also argued that it is not a public-service provider — a “public accommodation” — covered by the disability law. “The ADA applies to private entities that are primarily engaged in providing transportation services,” even if a company is not a public accommodation, said the filing by Justice Department lawyers and U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s office.

Uber also argued that it does not directly provide transportation services but merely signs contracts with independent drivers. The Justice Department countered that a transportation company “may not contract away its ADA responsibilities” and is covered by the law if it operates a “demand-responsive system.” The law prohibits any such company from “denying or providing unequal service to individuals with service animals,” government lawyers said.

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In response, Uber said. . . . . . . .

Uber has also argued that the suit should be dismissed because............

***ALSO:

* Los Angeles Times:  "Disability suit against Uber gets U.S. scrutiny"

Wednesday
Dec242014

SACRAMENTO: CalPERS, lobbyist representaiton, Washington, D.C.: "CalPERS hires two lobbying firms in Washington, D.C." ....

* Sacramento Bee:  "CalPERS hires two lobbying firms in Washington, D.C." - From the Bee:

CalPERS said this week it has hired two lobbying firms to represent the big pension fund in Washington, D.C. as it continues to split up a contract that previously belonged to one firm.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System hired jointly the Lussier Group and Williams & Jensen to lobby on retirement policy issues. K&L Gates, an international law firm, was hired to represent CalPERS on investment and financial-market issues. Until now, the Lussier Group, based in Alexandria, Va., had done all of CalPERS’ lobbying work in Washington.

CalPERS hired a third lobbying firm in November to handle health care-related issues, a joint venture between Avenue Solutions and Jennings Policy Strategies.........

Wednesday
Dec242014

POLITICS/URBAN AFFAIRS (National): Waterfront development, Miami, vulnerable floodplain vs. needed city revenue: "Miami's climate catch 22: Building waterfront condos to pay for protection against the rising sea" .... 

* Washington Post:  "Miami's climate catch 22: Building waterfront condos to pay for protection against the rising sea" - "In one of cities most vulnerable to climate change, a high-stakes bet to out-build the sea" - From the WP:

MIAMI BEACH –  Argentine developer Alan Faena recently listed the most expensive condo in this city’s history at $55 million. The Mid Beach penthouse features a private elevator, an infinity pool, an uninterrupted view of the Atlantic. The catch: The tower stands on what scientists call one of America’s most vulnerable floodplains.

But Miami Beach needs this penthouse — and many more like it. The more developers build here, the more taxes and fees the city collects to fund a $300-million storm water project to defend the shore against the rising sea. Approval of these luxury homes on what environmentalists warn is global warming quicksand amounts to a high-stakes bet that Miami Beach can, essentially, out-build climate change and protect its $27 billion worth of real estate. The move makes budgetary sense in a state with no income tax: Much of South Florida’s public infrastructure is supported by property taxes.

The penthouse and the 46 other luxury condos in “Faena House” have sold out, months before the building is scheduled to open, the developer’s team said. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine declared Faena, who designed shirts before towers, “a genius and a visionary.” “The biggest investors in the world, the smartest minds in the world… they’re all buying,” Levine said. “They believe Miami Beach has a tremendous future, and they put their money where their mouth is.”

Critics question the wisdom of turning high-end properties into climate armor ...........................

Wednesday
Dec242014

MISCELLANEOUS: Big business, $58-billion pet industry, holiday gifts for pets: "Holiday shoppers are splurging on pet gifts" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Holiday shoppers are splurging on pet gifts" - From the LAT:

Eric Bouffard and Tamiko Manago were suffering through that familiar Christmas ritual: coaxing their little one to look into the camera while perched on Santa's lap. "Right here, Charlie! Look here, Charlie!" Manago implored one recent night at Westside Pavilion. The photographer shook a string of jingle bells. Finally, Charlie glanced in the right direction, ensuring the perfect holiday snapshot. Charlie is a 5-year-old terrier mix.

"We don't have kids, we have the dog," Bouffard, 40, said with a sheepish smile. "We did this last year, and that was our Christmas card. Our whole family loved it."

In another sign of the rising status of animals in U.S. households: Fluffy and Scout are scoring big this holiday season. Shoppers scrambling to buy Christmas and Hanukkah presents are picking up something special for their furry and feathered companions too.

During November and December, the average shopper is expected to spend $30.43 on pet gifts, up 14.2% from the same period a year earlier, according to the National Retail Federation. In comparison, spending on family is forecast to increase 6.5% to $459.87 and buying for friends is predicted to rise 6.7% to $80.

Sniffing an opportunity, big-box retailers and specialty boutiques alike have rushed out gift sets, party outfits and luxurious spa treatments — all for pets. There are even pet stockings to hang by the chimney with care.

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"There is a lot of momentum behind the growth in pets during the holidays," said James Russo, senior vice president of global consumer insights at Nielsen. "The pet is an important part of the family, and many people think, 'We should be buying a gift.'" The $58-billion pet industry is working extra hard to win over besotted owners.........................