While the budget battle rages on, some Capitol staffers are looking ahead towards their next job as their bosses get termed out at the end of this legislative session. More than 30 Senators and Assembly members will complete their last terms as legislators this August, leaving staffers at the peril of an uncertain job market.
Capitol worker bees have bigger problems to deal with right now, but employees of termed-out members often have their next job hunt in the back of their minds. Many don't know who they will next work for, but they do know that their current employment is finite.
More senior staffers have less to worry about and usually are sought out by continuing legislators for their experience. Many veterans don't have jobs lined up yet for next session, but they aren't worried.
"There are a lot of people who have been here a long time who have already been recommended to members who have pretty safe seats," says John Casey, chief of staff for Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach. "I've been lucky. I worked for one member for four years, and now I've worked for my current boss for ten years."
Even if a staffer doesn't have to worry about finding a job, they can still feel anxious about the end of the term. Alex Traverso, communications director for Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, says that they might have job security, but job satisfaction is far from promised.
"I was fortunate. I had an assembly member who was a great boss, and once you have that you're a little reluctant to roll the dice at that point"
Some junior staff feel less confident, however, that they will automatically will be selected for a new office, and they worry about the future of their employment at the Capitol. A staffer who declined to be named described the mood around the office. "People are nervous… especially the first-timers are worried. [They're just] feeling their way through, hoping to land someplace good."
"It's human nature to fear uncertainty," says Will Shuck, chief of staff for Patty Berg. "There's a tendency to feel pressured and have a sense of urgency, but it's still very early in the process."
"Some people are more worried than they need to be," he added.
Senior staffers who have "been there" and "done that" agree with Shuck. They know not to get jittery, and advise the freshman in the building not to worry too much either.
"New members will need to staff their offices, and they will try to hire people who were already staffers," says Casey. Staff jobs technically last until December, giving employees and legislators ample time after the November elections to find each other.
But perhaps legislators looking for new hires in the next term should be the anxious ones. Some staffers get exasperated with the bureaucratic hang-ups that come with a Capitol job.
The perennial budget delay costs staffers time and energy every year in the form of paperwork. Without a budget by July 1st, staffers don't receive paychecks from the state. Instead, they have to file with Golden 1 Credit Union by June to receive interest-free payday advances.
"People are getting tired of filling out the paperwork every year just to get their money," says Traverso.
And some staffers are just plain tired. Regardless of whether a job is promised to them or not, the end of a term forces staffers to evaluate their next career step. Some find the decision easier than others. Says Traverso:
"Once you get to my position [where you're] at the end of the term, you start thinking about if you want to run away and join the circus."