Court Reverses Furloughs of California Hazardous Waste Employees
An Alameda County court ruled that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was prohibited from implementing furloughs of state employees in hazardous waste-related positions beginning in 2009 in response to the state’s fiscal and cash crisis. These employees worked in positions related to the oversight and support of hazardous substance management and remediation work at military bases. The court held that the legislation providing for the furloughs appeared in budget bills, but had an effect of amending or repealing both the state Water Code and the Health and Safety Code. This was not permitted under the “single-subject rule,” which prohibits budget bills from being used to expand a state agency’s authority or amend a statute. In this case, the budget acts impermissibly reduced funding to the agencies employing the workers who were eventually furloughed. The legislature’s action was not permitted regardless of whether it had the intent to abuse the legislative process, so long as the budget bill had the effect of undermining or amending existing law. The State will likely appeal the court’s decision.
By Russell Naymark