Monday, July 22, 2002
Janavs Orders Controversial Homecare Worker Pay Measure Off Ballot
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Los Angeles Superior Court Dzintra Janavs on Friday ordered off the November ballot an initiative on pay for Los Angeles County homecare workers.
Battle over the initiative sparked public outcry against secret county proceedings after it was reported that the Board of Supervisors acted in closed session last year to kill the measure.
The board ultimately voted in June to put the Homecare Protection Act of 2002 on the ballot, but immediately directed county lawyers to challenge the measure in court.
“I’m reluctant always to grant pre-election writs,” Janavs said, referring to her ruling requiring the county registrar-recorder to remove the initiative from the ballot. “In fact, I can’t remember having ever done it.”
But the judge found that the Homecare Protection Act of 2002 would have taken the power to set homecare workers’ wages, specifically delegated by the state Legislature to the county supervisors, away from the county and given it to the electorate.
The homecare workers, who provide in-home health care services for the disabled and elderly, are partially paid but not employed by the county. They are part of the In-Home Supportive Services program, established by the state Legislature in 1973. The state and federal governments pay 65 percent of homecare costs, with the county paying the rest.
Supervisor Gloria Molina said she was not surprised by the court’s decision.
“While I support providing IHSS workers fair wages, from the very beginning it was clear that seeking a raise through the initiative process is inappropriate,” Molina said.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the Board of Supervisors “challenged this initiative based purely on the principles of maintaining the county’s fiscal integrity and control of its own financial destiny.”
“While I believe the homecare workers deserve higher wages, their efforts to set those wages by ballot initiative would bring financial anarchy to Los Angeles County and other governments across the state,” he said.
The Service Employees International Union, Local 434B, which represents 80,000 homecare providers in Los Angeles County, led the campaign to get the initiative on the ballot.
Union representative Timothy Jemal declined to comment on the judge’s ruling until he’d had a chance to consult with the union’s attorneys.
The Homecare Protection Act would have stepped wages for home health care workers up from $6.50 an hour to $11.50 an hour by 2005, costing the county $263 million, according to county Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen.
Statewide, IHSS provides more than 230,000 elderly and disabled patients with visiting caregivers with home-based domestic, personal and paramedical services as an alternative to nursing homes.
The Los Angeles Times reported in March that Board of Supervisors secretly directed County Counsel Lloyd Pellman to kill the measure. The Times reported that the board told Pellman to refuse to write and release the title and ballot summary of the measure.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company