State Insurance Board Slated For Unemployment Line

By Steven Tavares
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Some termed-out Sacramento legislators, if there are so lucky, spend the rest of their political life on lucrative state-appointed advisory boards. That is, until a better deal opens up in their former districts.

Gov. Brown wants to cut
up to 37 state boards

Gov. Jerry Brown wants to cull the list of boards, including the notorious home of worn lawmakers known as the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, to save up to $10 million. Former Newark Assemblyman Alberto Torrico snagged a seat on the board last year after being termed out. Along with the appointment comes a $128,000 salary for what critics call a one-day-a-month job.

Torrico told the Los Angeles Times this weekend he did not believe the governor’s plan to cut his board amounts to any savings. “We are virtually 100% federally funded,” he said. It seems it is not where the money is coming from, but the perception of extreme political patronage is the unifying critics calling for its abolition.

After her time in the State Senate ended earlier this decade, Liz Figueroa also found a landing place at the unemployment board. Despite the sporadic meeting schedule, the amount of work reading letters from denied applicants for unemployment benefits and issuing rulings was significant and sometimes tedious, she told me during her run for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Record unemployment along with high demand for benefits also made the past few years more difficult than ever.

Because of the nature of the work processing large amounts of paperwork, the attraction of the post seems peculiar to some who cannot imagine a politician going from arguing legislation on the senate floor to sitting in a cafe reading the complaints of unemployed workers.

This is not the first time critics have taken aim at the board. Earlier this year, state Sen. Tony Strickland offered a bill to cut the board’s pay to $100-per-meeting. Aside from Torrico, the latest class of insurance appeals board members include former Sen. Roy Ashburn, who was charged with a DUI last year after leaving a Sacramento gay nightclub, although he had been a staunch critic of gay rights in the past. It proved no matter what you do, lawmakers are always welcome in the state capitol.