Pension bills advance in NJ Legislature

Three bills that sponsors say are needed to rescue New Jersey’s ailing public worker pension system by tightening payouts to future retirees and requiring workers to contribute to their health care costs have advanced in the Legislature.

A Senate committee approved the bills unanimously Thursday. Senate President Steve Sweeney fast tracked the measures for a vote Monday in the full Senate, where they are virtually assured of passing.

The changes were first proposed four years ago, but never enacted. The pension system is underfunded by about $34 billion and at risk of becoming insolvent unless fixes are made. Retirees are now being paid from the fund’s $68 billion principle rather than the interest.

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“Our present system is no longer sustainable,” said Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, a prime sponsor of one of the bills. [Read the full article]

A California appellate court on Thursday reversed a $6.2 million verdict against the city of Los Angeles in a discrimination lawsuit filed by a black lesbian firefighter.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal issued its decision in the case brought by Brenda Lee of Mission Hills, who sued the city alleging the fire department discriminated against her based on her race, gender and sexual orientation and refused to transfer her after she complained of harassment.

Lee claimed her superiors yelled and made derogatory comments about her and put her through grueling drills without proper safety precautions. She also claimed someone put urine in her mouthwash.

The 2007 jury payout was the largest in a string of settlements in cases that alleged discrimination and retaliation against women and minorities within the Los Angeles Fire Department. The cases have cost taxpayers more than $15 million since 2005. [Read the full article]

So many jobs have been lost that the U.S. must run hard just to keep from losing more ground. Despite the election-year emphasis on job creation by both parties, the short-term outlook is bleak.

While many economists believe the recession is technically over, nearly 15 million Americans remain unemployed. Six million of them have been out of work for more than half a year.

President Barack Obama is asking for almost $300 billion more for recession relief and job formation. The House last December passed a $154 billion spending bill focused on jobs. The Senate is due to debate a far more modest version on Monday, but appears bogged down in partisan bickering. [Read the full article]

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