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Mayors cleared to get pension reform signatures for ballot
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SACRAMENTO  (AP) — San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and four other California mayors were cleared Tuesday to start gathering signatures to get their proposed statewide pension reform initiative on voter ballots in November.

The move comes a day after Attorney General Kamala Harris issued a summary for the initiative, which would allow cities across the state to renegotiate public workers' future pension and retirement benefits.

Pension reform supporters now have until June 5 to collect more than 800,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Both supporters and opponents feared Harris would use loaded words that could lead voters down one path or another since her title and summary is seen on petition sheets and other official voter guides.

Instead, she kept the title, "Public Employees. Pension and Retiree Healthcare," vague.

However, both groups expressed disappointment with Harris' description.

Harris' summary said the proposal would "eliminate constitutional protections" for public workers such as teachers and peace officers. It also said the initiative would allow government employers to cut benefits and increase worker contributions during hard times.

Those details were mentioned too low for union leaders who have called the proposal extreme by letting public employers cut the retirement benefits promised to workers.

"The title should have prominently noted the elimination or cuts to pensions and retiree health care that this measure authorizes," David Low, chairman of the opposition group called Californians for Retirement Security, said in a statement.

Reed, who is spearheading the initiative, called the summary bogus and maintains it would not take away public workers' constitutional rights.

"Voters deserve to have an accurate description of the initiative free from poll-tested words and phrases that confuse and distort the specific language of the initiative," he said in a statement.

In addition to Reed, other mayors behind the initiative include Bill Kampe of Pacific Grove; Pat Morris of San Bernardino; Miguel Pulido of Santa Ana; and Tom Tait of Anaheim.

Supporters expect to announce by the end of January whether they will start collecting signatures for the November ballot or delay their plans until 2016.