Local Government
Court Changes San Jose Pension Measure Language

Court Changes San Jose Pension Measure Language

San Jose’s ongoing legal battles over its proposed ballot measure for the June Ballot made it through the appeals process in short order, where a three-judge panel found in favor of the City’s Firefighter union.

The word “reform” was deemed to be politically charged and was struck. In its place, the court suggested “modification.” Additionally, the introductory language before the question was also found to be biased. It was struck and the court suggested using it as part of the ballot arguments.

“In four separate decisions, the Superior Court and the 6th District Court of Appeal have ruled that Measure B passes the legal test to go on the ballot,” said Mayor Chuck Reed in a prepared statement. “That’s good news for the people of San Jose.”

City officials said that the change in wording doesn’t change the heart of the measure.

“It’s time to allow the voters to decide if they want to continue draining money out of services to pay for retirement benefits,” said Reed.

However, the lawyers representing the employees were also quick to declare victory. “We’re pleased that the court of appeals agreed with us that it’s unlawful for the city to write a biased and overtly partisan ballot title and question,” said Robin B. Johansen, an attorney who represented the employees, in an article published by the Mercury News. “The court ordered that the language of Measure B be changed so that it’s lawful and provides the voters with a fair choice.”

The original version of the ballot measure before the Appeals Court Ruling was:

PENSION REFORM: To protect essential services, including neighborhood police patrols, fire stations, libraries, community centers, streets and parks, shall the Charter be amended to reform retirement benefits of City employees and retirees by: increasing employees’ contributions, establishing a voluntary reduced pension plan for current employees, establish pension cost and benefit limitations for new employees, modify disability retirement procedures, temporarily suspend retiree COLAs during emergencies, require voter approval for increases in future pension benefits?

It will now read:

PENSION MODIFICATION
Shall the Charter be amended to modify retirement benefits of City employees and retirees by: increasing employees’ contributions, establishing a voluntary reduced pension plan for current employees, establish pension cost and benefit limitations for new employees, modify disability retirement procedures, temporarily suspend retiree COLAs during emergencies, require voter approval for increases in future pension benefits?”

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