This morning veteran political columnist George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times has a column, Commit A Crime, Collect a Pension, in which he spotlights the fact that current law in California allows people convicted of felonies with a nexus to their government jobs to continue to collect their pensions. He cites the accused teachers in the sex abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District as just one example.
In the piece, Skelton refers to the fact that one of Jerry Brown’s pension reform proposals would end this unfortunate status quo. Also in the column, Skelton quotes Senate President Darrell Steinberg as saying he does not a problem with Brown’s proposal in this regard.
Nowhere in Skelton’s piece, however, does it mention that last year Republican Tony Strickland actually authored legislation, Senate Bill 115, that was a modest proposal that said that a public employee convicted of any of the following felonies would lose their pension, similar to an elected official: accepting, giving, or offering to give a bribe, embezzlement of public money, extortion or theft of public money, tampering with a witness, money laundering, preparation of false documents, or conspiracy to commit any of these crimes.
Nowhere in Skelton’s piece does it mention that SB 115 never made it out of its first policy committee in the Senate because while two Republican Senators, Walters and Gaines, voted for the bill — all three Democrats on the committee, Negrete-McLeod, Padilla and Vargas, all conveniently chose not to vote at all, dooming the bill to die in committee.
Now it is entirely possible that some version of “commit a felony, forfeit your pension” might pass this year. But it will only happen because the public employee union bosses that control the Democrats in the legislature decide that a minor concession here might be a better strategy for them than defending the indefensible.
That having been said, I think it is fair to negatively critique Skelton for taking the time to write this entire column but yet omitting the fact that Republicans have been trying to solve the very problem he identifies in his column long before Governor Brown decided to pursue it.