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Judge Rules State Pension Law Conflicts With Local Power

A Superior Court judge today upheld her tentative ruling to strike down a state law enacted in reaction to voter passage of a pension reform initiative in San Diego.

Judge Joan Lewis said the law, which required the city of San Diego to enroll employees not covered by the pension system into Social Security, conflicted with local powers given to charter cities.

Among other things, San Diego's pension reform initiative — passed by two-thirds of voters in June 2012 as Proposition B — closed the city's debt-ridden pension system to new employees other than police officers.

City workers agreed decades ago to opt out of Social Security in favor of the pension system. The new hires who will no longer receive pension benefits are instead being given retirement plans similar to a 401(k) in the private sector.

Backers of the law, introduced by then-Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, contended in court that providing workers with a sufficient retirement income was a statewide concern.

The judge pointed out that the law only applies to the city of San Diego.

"This lawsuit was about local control," San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said. "We will defend the right of a charter city to negotiate terms and conditions of employment with our labor unions without Sacramento dictating those terms."

He said the provisions of Proposition B were implemented despite the law written by Hueso, now a state senator.

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