L.A. CITY HALL: City of Los Angeles public employee pension funds, projections of future returns, editorial: "Getting more realistic on L.A. pension returns" ....

* Los Angeles Times (editorial):  "Getting more realistic on L.A. pension returns" - From the LAT:

In the last year, all three of Los Angeles' public employee pension funds have recalculated their too-rosy estimates of how much they will earn in the years ahead. Those lowered earning forecasts may cost the city in the short term — if it has to deposit more money into the funds now rather than counting on the market to earn the money later. But over the long term, the more conservative assumptions will help ensure that there is enough money to cover the city's pension promises.

The three funds, which provide pension benefits and retirement healthcare for police officers, firefighters, civilian workers and Department of Water and Power employees, will now assume an average return of 7.5%, instead of the current 7.75%, based on projections that investments will earn less. That may not sound like much of a change, but the decisions could cost the city as much as $50 million in the next year alone.

It's good to see pension fund managers taking a more fiscally conservative approach. But ................................


SACRAMENTO: California Senate, staff reductions/elimination of positions, commentary (Dan Walters): "What really motivated cuts to California's Senate?" ....

* Sacramento Bee:  "What really motivated cuts to California's Senate?" - From the Bee:

Kevin de León, the state Senate’s newly minted president pro tem, says that eliminating dozens of legislative staff positions, many by layoffs, was “difficult but fiscally necessary.” He and his minions say that a squeeze developed when the Senate’s allocation of tax money was virtually frozen for one year under a complex formula adopted by voters 24 years ago.


Few Californians will shed tears about legislative staffers losing their jobs. After all, they are “at will” workers exempt from civil service protections that other public employees enjoy, and the appearance of frugality aligns de León with the public’s mood, as Gov. Jerry Brown has demonstrated. Notwithstanding all of that, those in and around the Capitol are wondering, with good reason, whether the Senate’s squeeze is as severe as de León would have us believe, or is just a convenient rationale for political housecleaning.

His aides have refused to say exactly, in dollars and cents, what the shortfall may be. . . . . . . .

It’s reasonable to assume that at the very least, a contributing motive for the staff cuts is to clear away some of those hired under previous regimes. . . . . . . .


All of this is, of course, inside baseball, but one of de León’s reductions, the virtual elimination of the office that writes analyses of bills pending on the Senate floor, will have an impact on the public. The office was created decades ago to provide nonpartisan, objective and informed analysis – including the interest groups supporting and opposing bills – not only for the senators, but also for the larger public.

Those analyses replaced the partisan bill summaries senators had used and have proved to be far superior to those produced in the Assembly, which are written by committee staffers beholden to their political employers. And now the Senate plans to adopt the Assembly’s system. Erasing the Senate floor analysis office may save a few dollars, but the real cost will be much less transparency about what the Legislature is doing for – or to – the public in hundreds of bills each year.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Bay Area): San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, re-election campaign, "unlawful" fundraiser, commentary (Matier & Ross): "D.A. Gascon fundraiser might have been unlawful" ....:

* San Francisco Chronicle (Matier & Ross):  "D.A. Gascon fundraiser might have been unlawful" - From the Chronicle:

District Attorney George Gascón’s deputies appear to have stepped over the line when they hosted an after-hours re-election fundraiser for the boss the other evening at Ted’s Sports Bar & Grill across from the Hall of Justice.

Seventeen prosecutors — mostly misdemeanor deputies — lent their names to the party invitation that was circulated to the rest of the office. From what we’re told, a number of attendees felt they had no choice but to give or risk damaging their careers. The event reportedly brought in about $10,000 for Gascón’s 2015 re-election campaign.

Some of the eager deputies made a direct appeal for contributions from the 50 or so fellow prosecutors and office employees who attended the Nov. 13 gathering, an apparent violation of city and state political conduct rules. Gascón himself was on hand at the event, and after the money pitch from a homicide deputy, he thanked the crowd for showing up to support him.

In September, City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a 10-page memo with updated rules governing political activity, and he warned that “city officers and employees may not solicit political contributions from other city officers and employees, even while off duty.”

No sooner did we point out the the rules to Gascón’s office than his political team shot off an e-mail thanking everyone who had cut a check, but telling them that “in an abundance of caution, we are returning your contribution to assure compliance with the California Good Government Code.”

Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the D.A.’s office, referred our queries to Dan Newman of the political consulting firm SCN Strategies, which is handling Gascón’s campaign..........


POLITICS/LEGAL: California Supreme Court, Jerry Brown nomination of Leondra Kruger: "Jerry Brown names Obama administration lawyer to California Supreme Court"; also, "Governor nominates L.A.-born US attorney for state Supreme Court"; "Governor names top Obama administration lawyer to California Supreme Court"; "Expected California Supreme Court nominee a real 'mind blower'" ....

***Sampling of coverage, Jerry Brown nomination of Leondra Kruger to fill vacancy of California Supreme Court....

* Sacramento Bee:  "Jerry Brown names Obama administration lawyer to California Supreme Court" - From the Bee:

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday nominated Leondra Kruger, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration, to the California Supreme Court. Kruger, 38, will be the first African American justice on the court since Justice Janice Rogers Brown left the court in 2005.

Kruger will replace retired Justice Joyce Kennard. She is Brown’s third selection to the court of his third term. His two previous selections, Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar and Goodwin Liu, were both law professors. Like Brown, Kruger is a Democrat.


Kruger, of Washington, D.C., was previously an assistant to the solicitor general and acting principal deputy solicitor general in the U.S. Department of Justice. The governor’s office said she argued 12 cases for the federal government before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kruger, who was born in the Los Angeles area, was a visiting assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School in 2007 and once clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court.


Kruger earned a law degree from Yale Law School and a bachelor’s from Harvard University.


* Los Angeles Times:  "Expected California Supreme Court nominee a real 'mind-blower'"

* KPCC Radio:  "Governor nominates L.A.-born US attorney for state Supreme Court"

* San Jose Mercury News:  "Governor names top Obama administration lawyer to California Supreme Court"


SACRAMENTO: SB 270, statewide ban, single-use plastic bags, referendum, commentary (Dan Walters): "Plastic bag referendum is no-lose situation" ....

* Sacramento Bee (Dan Walters):  "Plastic bag referendum is no-lose situation" - From the Bee:

Superficially, it would seem to make little sense for the plastic grocery bag industry to spend millions of dollars on a referendum to overturn the state’s new ban on their products. After all, dozens of cities have already imposed plastic bag bans of their own, and a recent poll by the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Times found that voters support a statewide ban by a nearly 2-1 margin. But bag companies are spending heavily to gather the hundreds of thousands of registered-voter signatures they need to place the issue before voters in 2016.

Spending on the signature drive, which has a Dec. 29 deadline, is already approaching $3 million, with South Carolina-based Hilex Poly providing more than half of the war chest. Assuming the signature drive succeeds, it’s really a no-lose situation for the plastic bag folks and their allies in the paper bag industry. The latter don’t like the new law because it authorizes grocers to charge 10 cents a bag for customers who can’t use plastic but don’t want to supply their own reusable bags, saying it will drive them out of the grocery business as well.

Just qualifying the referendum would put a nearly two-year hold on the new law, which means its sponsors would have an additional two years of selling bags to grocers in areas without local bans. That alone would probably more than cover the cost of qualification, thus making it financially worthwhile even if the referendum fails to overturn the law.

And one shouldn’t discount the possibility that the bag companies would win in 2016.......................