Appellate court dismisses pension measure challenge

A California appellate court has dismissed a case that claimed language used to describe a pension ballot measure was biased.

Sacramento’s 3rd District Court of Appeal “dismissed as moot” former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s appeal of a lower court ruling that Attorney General Kamala Harris accurately described Reed’s ballot proposal to empower local governments to change pension benefits for current workers.

Reed said Friday morning that he assumed the court decided that his case was meaningless because the November election was over.

“I’m disappointed. This means we’ll have to do it all over again, perhaps,” Reed said Thursday morning.

And while he needs to huddle with his attorneys before making a final decision, Reed said “the odds are low” that he will ask the California Supreme Court to take up the matter.

Reed filed a February lawsuit that said Harris used “false and misleading” words to describe the measure for voters. The sentence at issue: “Eliminates constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees, including teachers, nurses, and peace officers, for future work performed.”

Reed and a group of like-minded public officials failed to raise money to fund a campaign, in no small part, they said, because Harris’ ballot language was politically toxic.

Unions vehemently opposed Reed’s proposal. Dave Low, chairman of a labor coalition that lead the fight against the measure, issued a press release declaring the demise of a “misguided initiative to repeal Constitutionally protected retirement rights for teachers, nurses, firefighters and other public employees.”

Reed, however, said he plans a come back.

“We’ll have to do it sooner,” he said, to allow time for a timely court fight. “It adds a year, perhaps.”

Which means to put a proposal before voters in 2016 and Reed will have start his next effort in early 2015.

Call Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1043.