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California Court Jobs Won’t Be Outsourced

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - In a veto message Monday morning, Gov. Jerry Brown said a new California law restricting trial courts' ability to outsource jobs "goes too far."

The bill passed last month, AB 566, placed conditions on courts when outsourcing court jobs to private contractors. It required a showing that outsourcing would in fact save money.

Unions representing court workers argued that outsourcing of court jobs simply transferred public money into private pockets, while saving no money overall. The standards imposed by AB 566 are similar to those in place for community colleges, public libraries and school districts in California.

With the veto, court leaders immediately expressed relief.

"We're grateful to the Governor for recognizing the fiscal damage the bill would have had on us, said Presiding Judge Laurie Earl of Sacramento. "The veto letter was exactly the message we've been trying to get out which is this bill as its written is unworkable would impose significant fiscal burdens on the courts."

Representatives for two unions that represent court workers could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Among its provisions, AB 566 required each court to report to the Legislature's Joint Legislative Budget Committee and the chairs of both the Senate and Assembly judiciary committees on whether the contract resulted in court employee firings and whether their work is being replaced by contractors.

"This measure goes too far," Brown wrote in his veto message. "It requires California's courts to meet overly-detailed and -- in some cases -- nearly impossible requirements when entering into or renewing certain contracts."

The decision came down to flexibility in reducing costs to the courts, Brown argued.

"The courts, like many of our governmental agencies, are under tremendous funding pressure and face the challenge of doing their work at a lower cost," he said. "I am unwilling to restrict the flexibility of our courts, as specified in this bill, as they face these challenges."

Assembly member and bill author Bob Wieckowski called AB 566 a transparency measure to ensure courts are working in the public's best interest. He was unavailable for comment Monday.

The bill was primarily backed by the California Court Reporters Association and the Service Employees International Union and was considered a response to Placer County Superior Court's firing of its entire court reporter staff and replacement with private contractors.

But it also generated great opposition from the trial courts, as presiding judges from dozens of courts, including Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego, wrote to Governor Brown urging a veto.

"The Legislature wants us to do the best we can not to outsource our work and keep our employees close," said Judge Earl in an interview. "Nobody wants to go outside and get this work outsourced, but we're tying to think of ways to live within our budget."

Earl said judges are amenable to continuing to work with Wieckowski on the issue. "We're willing to sit down with Assembly member Wieckowski and to talk about his motivation behind the bill and his concerns, and to share our concerns. He's a friend of the courts and we've appreciated the work he's done on behalf of the courts in the past."

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