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Assembly Dems to take aim at CalSTRS liability

Assembly Democrats say they’re ramping up an effort to solve the long-term, crushing unfunded pension liability in the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS).

“The Assembly will pursue a solution to the STRS shortfall this legislative session,” Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles, said at a news conference today in Sacramento. “Further delay only means further cost and further exposure for the state’s general fund. We believe there must be shared responsibility for a funding solution between school districts, the state and teachers. Our end goal is a State Teachers Retirement system that is 100 percent fully funded.”

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee he chairs will start holding hearings next month.

“I am eager to begin this process and confident that an equitable and permanent solution can and will be found to the CalSTRS funding problem,” he said. “Ensuring the long term financial security of California’s hardworking and dedicated teachers is a goal we are hopeful we can achieve this year.”

As Jessica Calefati reported Sunday, CalSTRS’ unfunded liability is around $80.4 billion and constitutes a huge chunk of the looming costs threatening the state’s long-term fiscal health.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Controller John Chiang, both of whom serve on CalSTRS’ governing board, immediately welcomed the lawmakers’ call to action.

Perez and Bonta “are spot-on in calling for immediate action and shared sacrifice in addressing CalSTRS’ unfunded liability gap during the coming year,” Chiang said in a news release. “If lawmakers can meet the challenge with courage and fiscal prudence today, Californians can avoid a risis tomorrow that imperils not only teachers, but taxpayers and the education system in which they have entrusted our children’s future.”

It’ll be interesting to see how the state’s teachers’ unions buy into this (or don’t) especially regarding Perez’s call for “shared responsibility” including teachers.

The CalSTRS shortfall “does not have to be paid overnight,” the California Teachers Association states in its retirement position paper. “Like a mortgage, this is an amount that will need to be closed over a 30-year period. The shortfall has to be addressed, and teachers are committed to partnering with CalSTRS in finding a long-term funding solution.”

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Drug charges against Nadia Lockyer dismissed

An Orange County judge dismissed drug charges Friday against former Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, wife of state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, according to reports from the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times.

OC weekly coverA court spokeswoman told the AP the charges were dropped at prosecutors request; the Times reports she agreed to attend a drug diversion program.

Lockyer early in 2012 had claimed Stephen Chikhani attacked her in a Newark hotel room, but the state Justice Department investigated and eventually declined to charge him with any crime. As details emerged about Lockyer’s lengthy affair with Chikhani and their drug use, she resigned her supervisorial seat in April 2012.

Bill Lockyer filed for divorce a few months later, citing “irreconcilable differences” and seeking joint physical and legal custody of their son. Then Nadia Lockyer was arrested in August 2012 in Orange County and charged with felony methamphetamine possession and three misdemeanors: being under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and child abuse and endangerment. She spent several months in a residential rehabilitation program and has been under court supervision ever since.

Nadia Lockyer also was the subject of a lengthy cover story in this week’s OC Weekly.

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Bill Lockyer has a new private-sector job

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer has joined the Orange County office of an international law firm, where he’ll practice law part-time until his term in office ends in January 2015.

Lockyer 2012 (no background)“I’m excited to join Brown Rudnick,” Lockyer said in a news release issued by the firm. “I’m attracted by the firm’s reputation for excellence, its entrepreneurial spirit and collaborative culture, and I like the people. Brown Rudnick only recently established an office in California, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of helping my colleagues grow the firm’s presence here on the West Coast. I will continue to devote all of the considerable time and attention necessary to carry out my responsibilities as State Treasurer, as I have throughout my time in public service.”

Lockyer, 72, of Hayward, announced in June that he would not run for state controller in 2014, ending a 46-year political career that began with a local Democratic committee and culminated with 16 years in statewide office. “It’s time to do something different,” he had said at the time. “Being controller has its unique challenges, but it’s not what I want to do next in my life. … It’s different but it’s still fiscal management, and I need a new challenge.”

He also had said his troubled relationship with his wife, former Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer – whose extramarital affair and drug addiction had put them in the headlines and their marriage temporarily on the rocks – didn’t influence his career decision.

Lockyer will serve on the government law and strategies team at Brown Rudnick, which has about 200 attorneys in cities including Boston, New York, Washington, London and Dublin. Chairman and CEO Joseph Ryan said the firm is delighted to welcome Lockyer to a capacity “which will fully accommodate his duties as State Treasurer.”

“Over the last 45 years, Bill has distinguished himself as one of California’s most admired and trusted leaders,” Ryan said in the release. “He has proven himself to be an exceptional public servant and our employment agreement will ensure that he can continue to discharge his public responsibilities free from distractions, conflicts or time constraints while being associated with Brown Rudnick. Even though Bill will be able to devote only limited time to private practice over the next year, I am sure he will quickly become a highly valued adviser to our clients.”

Ron Rus, head of Brown Rudnick’s Orange County office, added Lockyer’s knowledge and experience “will be of enormous importance to our clients working to develop and implement their business strategies in California and beyond.”


UPDATE @ 3:11 P.M.:
Read my full story on this, including an interview with Lockyer and questions about possible conflicts.

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Bill Lockyer endorses Eric Swalwell for re-elction

Lest you think Rep. Mike Honda’s 17th Congressional District is the only Bay Area race where incumbents are trying to get an early leg up on their challengers, Rep. Eric Swalwell fired a shot across his challenger’s bow Monday morning.

Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, announced he has the endorsement of state Treasurer Bill Lockyer for re-election to his 15th Congressional District seat.

“I’m for Congressman Eric Swalwell because I’ve seen him bring great energy and smart thinking to his job, and the determination to listen well to the people and work very hard for them every day,” Lockyer said in Swalwell’s news release. “Eric is getting good things done in Washington and at home, he has earned another term in Congress, and his re-election will be good news for his district and the nation.”

Lockyer’s endorsement is significant not only because he’s the longest serving statewide elected official, but also because he’s a powerful figure in Alameda County politics – particularly in the areas where Swalwell’s challenger, state Sen. Ellen Corbett, runs strongest.

Corbett, D-San Leandro, is looking to her home base on the west side of the hills for strength, but Lockyer’s word could carry significant sway there: He served many of the same areas during his 25 years in the Legislature that Corbett now does. He lives in Hayward now, but started his career in elected office (in 1968!) as a San Leandro Unified School District board member. Corbett as a college student did an internship in then-Assemblyman Lockyer’s office; he spoke at Corbett’s Senate swearing-in ceremony in 2007.

Eric SwalwellSwalwell said he’s honored to have Lockyer’s support.

“He has always been a fierce defender of his constituents and committed to improving the lives of the middle class and those less fortunate,” Swalwell said. “I admire Treasurer Lockyer’s unwavering commitment to his Democratic ideals while also working toward compromise if it will benefit the people. He has provided steady stewardship of California’s finances as Treasurer and I share his priorities to improve our economy and responsibly manage the people’s money.”

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Nadia Lockyer interview to air later this week

Former Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer – wife of state Treasurer Bill Lockyer – apparently has given a Bay Area television station an interview on her recovery from methamphetamine addiction.

Lockyer, 42, of Hayward, posted a message on her Facebook page Monday indicating that KGO ABC7 News will “will be airing a 2-part story about my life,” with the first segment airing during the 11 p.m. newscast Thursday and the second at 11 p.m. Sunday.

Lockyer early in 2012 had claimed Stephen Chikhani attacked her in a Newark hotel room, but the state Justice Department investigated and eventually declined to charge him with any crime. As details emerged about Lockyer’s lengthy affair with Chikhani and their drug use, she resigned her supervisorial seat in April 2012.

Bill Lockyer, 72, filed for divorce a few months later, citing “irreconcilable differences” and seeking joint physical and legal custody of their son. Then Nadia Lockyer was arrested in August 2012 in Orange County and charged with felony methamphetamine possession and three misdemeanors: being under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and child abuse and endangerment. She spent several months in a residential rehabilitation program and now remains under court supervision; her next progress report is scheduled for Nov. 14.

But her husband announced in March that he had withdrawn the divorce papers in hope of reconciling for their son’s sake. When he announced in June that he’ll not seek the state controller’s office next year and instead retire from public office, he said he was “looking forward to family reunification.”

Nadia Lockyer in April 2012 gave the Bay Area News Group an exclusive, videotaped interview in which she apologized to her constituents and promised to focus on her family and recovery from addiction, but many of her troubles were still ahead of her at that time. It’ll be interesting to hear what she says now that she (hopefully) has finished this awful roller-coaster ride and started moving on with her life.

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Honda’s endorsers & Khanna’s ‘digital advocates’

The battle for the 17th Congressional District continues as Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, rolls out a new batch of endorsements and Democratic challenger Ro Khanna fires up his digital grassroots.

honda.jpgHonda on Tuesday announced the endorsements of state Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Controller John Chiang, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, and 14 current and former state lawmakers. He’d previously announced he has Attorney General Kamala Harris’ endorsement, while Khanna last month announced he has Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s nod.

Perez said Honda “has been a thoughtful and effective leader, with a distinguished track record of bringing both parties together to find solutions for the very difficult challenges facing our country. Our state is lucky to have such a phenomenal representative fighting for us in Congress, and I am proud to support him for reelection.”

And Torlakson said Honda “is working to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in our classrooms, which will provide our children with a 21st century education and keep our country a leader in the global economy. I am proud to support Mike’s campaign for Congress and look forward to continue working with him to ensure that each and every child has the opportunity to get a quality education.”

Honda said he’s grateful for the state officials’ support: “We will continue working together for quality jobs, good schools, and a bright future for California’s families.”

Ro KhannaMeanwhile, Khanna is continuing his effort to “bridge the gap of digital and traditional involvement” by inviting people to become “digital advocates” to spread word of his campaign throughout Silicon Valley. The campaign’s first digital training for volunteers is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, May 7, at 43255 Mission Blvd. in Fremont; more trainings will be held in the coming months.

And Khanna will hold a meet-and-greet to answer district residents’ questions at noon this Friday, May 10, at 3333 Bowers Ave., Suite 130 in Santa Clara.