Golden State Legislative Committee Approves CalSTRS Board Nominees

January 26, 2006 ( - Two of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's appointees to the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) board have walked off with a key endorsement from a legislative panel.

The Senate Rules Committee, in a unanimous 4-0 vote, approved sending onto the full state Senate the nominations of Roger Kozberg and Jerilyn Harris to the board of CalSTRS’ $132-billion program – the nation’s third largest public pension plan, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Kozberg and Harris, who sailed through the 40-minute hearing and were praised by their local senators, would be Schwarzenegger’s first appointees to gain legislative backing for the 12-member board. Three other gubernatorial nominees await Senate review.

Kozberg, a longtime Beverly Hills insurance executive, has been chairman of the California Transportation Commission and board president of the California Science Center. Harris, a middle school and high school science teacher for 20 years, also has served on state boards, including as a chairwoman of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which handles disciplinary hearings.

Wednesday’s hearing was in contrast to a year ago when five previous Schwarzenegger appointees found themselves embroiled in political controversy (See  Political Infighting Leaves CalSTRS Board with 7 Members ). Schwarzenegger forced out four of the nominees after they opposed his proposal to replace the state’s traditional pension program. Senate Democrats then pushed out his remaining appointee. The shake-up left trustees shorthanded to deal with important issues, including bridging a $24 billion long-term funding shortfall.

Harris and Kozberg said that their confirmation would help stabilize a board that saw a revolving door of new faces in 2005. Both cited the shortfall as a top issue this year.  “We’ve got to at least stop that from growing,” Harris told the Bee. “We have this huge amount of money … we’re going to have to come up with. I’m afraid that it will be painful.”