Thursday, September 5, 2013

Total power in the special interests and executive branch...Not in my backyard

The political football game at the U.S. Department of Labor continues. Secretary Thomas Perez's questionable overreach into state government policy and misinterpretation of federal labor law has forced Governor Jerry Brown to support last minute state legislation that would exempt transit employees from California's Public Employees Pension Reform Act.

We'll point out the madness that has unfolded in a moment, but first there's some good news to report.

Good News: Feds to release transit money; service cuts to be averted

The deal sets the stage for the labor department to finally release the federal transit funds designated to our local transit agencies. Therefore, RTA, Omnitrans, and other statewide transit riders will most likely not face grave service cuts caused by the lack of federal money.

Generally speaking, Inland Empire buses will continue normal operations for now. Numerous workers won't face pink slips. Transit riders won't have to wait longer at the bus stop. Both the Labor Department and the Amalgamated Transit Union, the parties responsible for this chaos, indicated support of the deal. RTA has reported that it will cease contingency planning once the deal becomes law.

The fiscal madness and abuse of power continues on...

The pension madness in Washington is far from over. The fact that the labor department under President Obama had the power to indirectly veto state labor laws by exploiting old federal law is an overreach of power. The fact that the president failed to question Perez in the public arena on this matter is irresponsible. The fact that the labor department even had the authority to make a judgement on California state law encroaches the Separation of Powers. Isn't the job of interpreting and making such judgements reserved for the judicial branch? The labor department must not have the power to unilaterally penalize entities by freezing approved funding just because labor unions object to state labor law. An entity accused of violating any law must have its right to go to court, and that's where this case is headed.

It's no question California needs to reform its pension policy. Brown has already reported that the transit worker exemption is only temporary through 2014 and the state and the Sacramento Regional Transit District will be taking the dispute to federal court. The overwhelming evidence shows the pension reform law does not go far enough. The fiscal madness is an epidemic.

The labor department fiasco also clearly demonstrates a disturbing power between the labor unions and the executive branch which runs contrary to the will of the Founding Fathers. Congress needs to revisit federal labor policy, give the labor department authority to better police domestic and global trade, and make it compatible to the U.S. Constitution. The department secretary has no business acting like a judge. Being an agency under the executive branch, the labor department should enforce national and global labor laws and have the responsibility of fining or prosecuting those who abuse the workforce under due process. Heard about the disastrous factory collapse in Bangladesh which is the same place where American brand name clothing is manufactured? Are Perez and the feds holding corporations and international factory operators accountable for such maltreatment of the very workers who make our clothing? If the labor unions want positive attention, that's where they need to go.

Enough's enough!

It is becoming evident that the special interest groups and those in power who pander to their policies live for themselves, paid for by we the people. Today, many elected officials--to be fair, not all--are sold with lavish donations by the special interest groups in return for supporting policies that give them and government workers special favors, giant salaries and pension benefits. This creates a situation where such special interests unfairly have indirect power to run the state, and it's not just labor. Look what's happening in Moreno Valley when logistics developers indirectly dictate city policy. Remember when the Bus Rider's Union had a legal leash over LA Metro last decade? How about the ill-advised 91 Express Lanes non-compete clause in 1995 that stalled infrastructure upgrades for nearly a decade until OCTA bought the facility?

Because of this special interest madness, our state cannot develop or improve transportation infrastructure efficiently. We already pay among the highest taxes in the country. We continue to face the worst traffic congestion nationwide, overcrowded and slow bus routes, infrequent Metrolink train service, numerous potholes, overpriced infrastructure projects, and a state that is well on its way to bankruptcy.

Until this spending madness stops, we will continue to oppose budget-related service cuts, confront mandatory tolls and transponders for carpoolers to use high occupancy express lanes, question future fare hike proposals, and not tolerate any excuse making. Perez, the special interests, and the labor unions are not off the hook.

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