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Melissa Griffin: Pension Reform, Foie Gras Ban Coming To California

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California State Capitol in Sacramento (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California State Capitol in Sacramento (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — If the governor’s tax proposal has any chance of passing in November, a government reform measure is due and legislators only have until June 28 to vote on any such measure.

The battle is already heating up. Also, look out for specials on foie gras at restaurants all over town as they prepare for the statewide ban on the substance that will go into effect on July 1.

Last week Republicans and Democrats duked it out on the floor of the State Senate over the governor’s pension proposal. You may recall that last October Jerry Brown introduced a 12 point plan to overhaul public employee pensions and a special committee was created to discuss the issue.

Highlights of the Governor’s Plan

1. Hybrid plans that are part defined benefit/part 401(k)-type savings account

2. Use final 3 years of service to determine pension income

3. Government cannot pay on employee’s behalf

4. Employees must pay at least 50 percent of annual cost

5. Raise retirement age to 67

After months of inaction by that committee, in February 2012, Republican lawmakers introduced legislation that tracks the Governor’s proposal. That legislation too, has languished in a committee.

Last week, Republicans in the Senate attempted to pull the legislation out of committee to force a vote, noting that they only have until June 28 to pass a measure that will appear on the November ballot. (This needs to be voted on by Californians because it involves a Constitutional amendment.)

Democrats blocked the Republicans’ attempt to force a vote on the legislation and pointed out that the whole issue has created a strange alliance between Republicans and the Democratic Governor.

One Republican lawmaker simply stated that even a stopped watch is right twice a day.

Even Democrats acknowledge that the Governor’s tax proposal has very little chance of passing unless it is accompanied by pension reform.

Democrats say they will propose their own version of reform in time for the June 28 deadline. So, we can expect to see it this week. Like the budget, the Democrats will negotiate the terms in private, introduce it at the last minute and slap it on the ballot. Now, this may have worked to get a budget passed, but voters don’t get to weigh on in the budget. Whether the voters will accept what promises to be a watered down version of the governor’s pension plan is the real question.

Speaking of being force-fed, the state’s foie gras ban is finally about to take effect. Passed seven and a half years ago, July 1 is the final deadline for restaurants in California to sell thier stock of foie gras. Some restaurants (pic attached) are having farewell specials to celebrate the dish before it is off the menu.

In the time it took California’s ban to take effect, Chicago passed a similar ban and repealed it after chefs “ducked” the law by offering $20 salads with a free side of foie gras. (It’s only illegal to sell it, giving it away is fine.) Not content to simply game the system like Chicagoans, California chefs are trying pushing for an alternative law called the “Humane and Ethical Foie Gras Act,” which would require farmers to hand feed the animals in a cage-free environment and impose limits on fattening. Farms would also be required to submit to regular inspections by “independently certified animal welfare experts.”

Still, in this economic environment and having had over 7 years to figure out an alternative, attempts to prevent the ban probably won’t get very “foie.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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