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San Diego files suit against state over Social Security benefits

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The city of San Diego is suing the state of California to try to invalidate a new law requiring the city to provide Social Security coverage for its new employees.

The litigation arises from June's passage of Proposition B, in which most new municipal employees will be offered 401(k)-style retirement plans instead of being enrolled in the debt-ridden pension system. The city's unions can negotiate to take Social Security, instead.

City employees pulled out of the Social Security system in 1981 in order to join the pension system.

After voters passed Proposition B, Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, authored the bill to require San Diego to provide Social Security. AB 1248 was approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said Hueso's bill directly violates the constitutional protections of a charter city to negotiate compensation with its employees.

"This is the state trying to get its nose under the tent of charter cities throughout the state," Goldsmith said at a news conference.

The city lobbied against Hueso's bill and, if the lawsuit proceeds through the legal system, it will receive backing from charter cities around the state, he said.

He said the issue was not about Proposition B or whether Social Security is appropriate, but the right of a charter city to determine employee compensation.

Three of the city's labor unions -- representing white-collar workers, firefighters and lifeguards -- are joining the lawsuit as parties with financial interest in the outcome, according to Goldsmith.

He said he couldn't speak to why the other unions did not get on board. One of them, the San Diego Police Officers Association, is not affected by Proposition B, as its new officers will still be enrolled in the pension system.

The City Council backed the legal action unanimously in closed session, he said.

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