In Ventura’s Own Words

Dear Legislators,

If ever there was a bill that was inappropriate for rushed deliberation on a gut-and-amend basis but perfectly appropriate for un-rushed deliberation, it is AB 826. But don’t take our word for it — Ventura itself makes that case.

Effective January 1, 2013, the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act (PEPRA) limited the types of compensation that public employers may include when calculating employees’ pensions. Because Ventura believed that PEPRA’s application to legacy employees would be ruled unconstitutional, it chose not to comply with all of the law’s provisions. But after the CA Supreme Court’s Alameda decision on July 30, 2020 upholding PEPRA, the Ventura Board of Retirement passed a resolution on October 12, 2020 implementing the ruling with respect to legacy employees except with respect to a form of compensation known as “flex credits.” As a post by the Ventura County Employees’ Retirement Association (VCERA) reported at that time, the Board continued to include flex credits in pensionable income and sought declaratory relief from the courts.

But declaratory relief was not granted:

Later, VCERA posted that “while the declaratory relief filing was progressing,” the County and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) made efforts to pursue legislation.

But the County and SEIU waited until June 2021 to submit legislation, and chose a gut-and-amend vehicle for that purpose in order to avoid scrutiny.

In summary,

  • Ventura asserts that full inclusion of flex credits in pensionable income is lawful;
  • 11 months ago Ventura unsuccessfully sought declaratory relief to that effect;
  • Ventura says it pursued legislation “while the declaratory relief filing was progressing;”
  • But Ventura actually waited until June 2021 to pursue legislation via a gut-and-amend vehicle.

In other words, via its gut-and-amend bill, Ventura was trying to get you to declare something it couldn’t get a court to declare. That begs two questions:

  • Without full hearings, how could you possibly know whether to declare that Ventura’s full inclusion of flex credits is lawful?
  • Without full hearings, how could you possibly evaluate whether a declaration in favor of Ventura might not lead to adverse consequences for other government entities in California?

That’s why we are pleased that you and the public will now get to consider Ventura’s request with sufficient time and hearings. Our democracy requires no less.

PS: Believe it or not, AB 826’s proponents claimed they proposed a gut-and-amend bill because Ventura employees have been waiting 13 months since July 30, 2020 for clarity on the issue, but of course that just begs the question of why the County waited so long to submit legislation. Also, proponents deceptively tried to sway emotions by emphasizing the value of flex credit inclusion to low income employees but failed to mention that other beneficiaries of the legislation they sought to pass on a gut-and-amend basis include county supervisors and highly paid employees.