Judges' pension reform is dead for the year. No, really. We mean it this time ... maybe.
A proposal to sweeten the pension system for judges appointed after 1994 was swatted down, only to reappear so many times this budget season that it might as well be a whack-a-mole game. On Friday though, a bipartisan committee appeared to deliver the final blow when it refused to fund a plan to drop to the retirement age from 65 to 63 and the service requirement for annuity payments from 20 years to 10 years.
Chief Justice Ronald George has made JRS II reform one of his top legislative priorities this year. And if he has any magic left up the sleeves of his judicial robe, he'll have to unleash it in the coming days when legislative leaders and the governor convene in what is known as the Big 5 to hash out the budget deal.
"We're still hoping that something will happen this year," said Donna Hershkowitz, a lobbyist in the Judicial Council's Sacramento office.
But what about next week? "It's not clear to me that it's going to happen next week," she said.
Unions representing government employees don't like the fact that lawmakers are considering pension improvements for judges at the same time a state committee is considering changes to their members' retirement plans. But George and JRS II reforms have found an ally in Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, who pushed the improvements by reluctant lawmakers for weeks until their apparent demise on Friday. Stay tuned to see if Perata can wedge them into a final budget deal next week.
— Cheryl Miller