Update on California Legislation

Martha Zaragoza-Díaz, CABE Lobbyist
Martha Zaragoza-Díaz, CABE Lobbyist
Photo of the California state capitol building in Sacramento
Image from: http://www.state-capitals.org

I. Legislative Session Over

The first year of the 2015-2016 legislative session is now over. The Legislature will reconvene January 4, 2016. It was a busy “end of session” with many controversial bills awaiting legislative approval. The Legislature failed to pass some bills of importance to the Governor, such as SB 32 (a major climate bill) that sought to significantly increase California’s greenhouse gas reduction targets. On the other hand, some bills with stiff opposition, made it to the governors’ desk such as SB 643 (McGuire) which among other provisions will track and trace medical marijuana and will classify cannabis as an agricultural product.

Governor Brown now has the duty of deciding which of the approximately 640 bills on his desk he will sign or veto. The governor has 30 days or until October 11, 2015 to act on bills passed in the regular session. The governor has 12 days to act on bills passed in a special session.

Among the bills on the governor’s desk is our sponsored bill SB 750 (Mendoza) English Language Education!! Hooray!! In response to concerns expressed by staff to the State Board of Education and some legislative staff, last minute amendments were made to SB 750. The amendments remove the provisions specific to the State Seal of Biliteracy and provide further clarification on criteria to be used in light of the fact that assessment scores will not be available until 2017. The bill had to be amended on the Assembly floor and then passed on to the Senate for concurrence to the amendments. SB 750 (Mendoza) received 79 aye votes on the Assembly floor and 40 aye votes on the Senate floor!!

A legislative “Blast” was electronically forwarded on September 14, 2015 to all persons on CalTog’s distribution list requesting their signature on a letter to Governor Brown requesting his signature on SB 750 (Mendoza) English Language Instruction. To date, the governor has not acted on SB 750 (Mendoza).

[Editor’s note:  The Action Alert is also posted here, on CABE Corner.]

II.  Other Key Education Bills

Education Bills signed by Governor Brown include:

  • AB 163 (Williams) Teacher Credential: American Indian Language-Culture Credential Chapter 64  This bill would require the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, upon recommendation by a tribal government of a federally recognized Indian tribe in California, to issue an American Indian language-culture credential with an American Indian language authorization, or an American Indian culture authorization, or both, to a candidate who has met specified requirements. The bill would authorize the holder of an American Indian language-culture credential to teach the American Indian language, or culture, or both, for which the credential was issued in California public schools in preschool, kindergarten, grades 1 to 12, inclusive, and in adult education courses, and would make the holder of that credential eligible for a clear teaching credential after 5 years, upon application and the recommendation of the tribal government, as specified. The bill would encourage each federally recognized American Indian tribe to develop a written and oral assessment that should be successfully completed before an applicant is recommended for an American Indian language-culture credential with an American Indian language authorization, American Indian culture authorization, or both, as provided.
  • SB 78 (Committee on Budget & Fiscal Review) School Finance Chapter 19  This bill, among other significant provisions, would repeal provisions relating to the revenue limit and would replace references to the former review limit and general-purpose entitlement calculations with the references to the current local control funding formula calculation.
  • SB 200 (Lara) School District Residency Requirements Chapter 174 This bill would provide that a pupil complies with a school district’s residency requirements in instances where the pupil’s parent or legal guardian resides outside of the boundaries of that school district but is employed and lives with the pupil at the place of his or her employment within the boundaries of the school district for a minimum of 3 days during the school week. By requiring a school district to allow those pupils to attend a public school within the school district, thereby increasing the duties of a school district, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
  • SB 232 (Hall) California Collaborative for Educational Excellence: State Administrator Chapter 142  Existing law establishes the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence for purposes of advising and assisting school districts, county superintendents of schools, and charter schools in achieving the goals set forth in a local control and accountability plan. Existing law authorizes the Superintendent to direct the collaborative to advise and assist a school district, county superintendent of schools, or charter school in specified circumstances, including upon their request. This bill would also authorize the state-appointed administrator of a school district to request the advice and assistance of the collaborative.
  • SB 277 (Pan) Public Health: Vaccinations Chapter 35  Among other provisions, This bill would eliminate the exemption from existing specified immunization requirements based upon personal beliefs, but would allow exemption from future immunization requirements deemed appropriate by the State Department of Public Health for either medical reasons or personal beliefs. The bill would exempt pupils in a home-based private school and students enrolled in an independent study program and who do not receive classroom-based instruction, pursuant to specified law from the prohibition described above. This law is effective July 1, 2016.
  • SB 725 (Hancock) High School Exit Exam Chapter 225   This bill would provide that the high school exit examination shall not be required as a condition of receiving a diploma of graduation or a condition of graduation from high school for a pupil completing grade 12 in 2015 and who has met all other high school graduation requirements. This bill takes effect immediately since it is an urgency statute.

Governor Brown has not acted upon the following key education bills and has until October 11, 2015 to act.

  • AB 47 (McCarty): Preschool Expansion Among other provisions, this bill would grant all low-income 4 year olds access to transitional kindergarten or state preschool. A deadline of June 30, 2018 is identified in the bill for this purpose.
  • SB 172 (Liu) High School Exit Exam Suspension This bill would allow former High school students who failed the test as far back as 2008 be awarded diplomas, along as they passed all of their required classes. The bill also would suspend the exam as a graduation requirement for the 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19 school years. SB 725 (Hancock) is a related bill in that seniors from the class 2015 would be allowed to graduate if they didn’t pass the California Exit High School Exam.
  • AB 141 (Bonilla) Teacher Credential: Training. This bill would require all districts and county offices of education to pay for the teacher induction program (BTSA).

III. Proposed Initiatives

The voters will be faced with determining the fate of many initiatives on the November 2016 Ballot. Here are a few that you should be aware of.

Qualified Statewide Ballot measures” include:

  • SB 1174-Lara (Chapter 753, Statutes of 2014) California Education for a Global Economy Initiative  Among other provisions, this bill amends and repeals various provisions of Proposition 227 (such as the currently required parent waivers). The bill also deletes current law stating that Prop 227 may be amended by statute if it furthers its purpose passed by a 2/3 vote of each house of the Legislature and signed by the Governor. SB 1174 deletes the “further purpose” requirement and would revise the vote threshold to a majority vote in each house of the Legislature. Provisions of the bill would become operative July 1, 2017. Additionally, the bill would become effective only upon approval of the voters and would require the Secretary of State to submit this bill for approval of the voters at the November 2016 statewide general election.

Initiatives and Referendum Cleared for Circulation include:

There are many initiatives and referendums cleared for circulation but those pertaining to education and or affecting employees of LEAs are the following:

  1. (15-0033)
    Public Employees. Pension and Retiree Healthcare Benefits. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.
    Summary Date: 08/11/2015 | Circulation Deadline: 02/08/16 | Signatures Required: 585,407
    Chuck Reed, Stephanie Gomes, Carl DeMaio, Pat Morris, Bill Kampe, and Tom Tait (415) 732-7700

Eliminates constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees, including those working in K-12 schools, higher education, hospitals, and police protection, for future work performed. Adds initiative/referendum powers to Constitution, for determining public employee compensation and retirement benefits. Bars government employers from enrolling new employees in defined benefit plans, paying more than one-half cost of new employees’ retirement benefits, or enhancing retirement benefits, unless first approved by voters. Limits placement of financial conditions upon government employers closing defined benefit plans to new employees.

Two proposals have been filed with the Secretary of State to extend the tax hikes of Proposition 30.

A coalition of educators and other groups filed an initiative seeking to extend Proposition 30 tax hikes. “The School Funding and Budget Stability Act of 2016″ is waiting for a title and summary by the office of the Attorney General. The new “School Funding and Budget Stability Act” would boost income tax rates on couples earning more than $500,000 a year for 12 years, with the proceeds deposited into an account to support K-12 schools and colleges. The quarter-cent sales tax increase would not be touched, and expire as planned in 2016.

The proposed tax increase would generate an estimated $7 billion to $9 billion a year, and run though 2030. The Coalition filing the measure includes the California Teachers Association and other education labor groups. The proposal now has to qualify to be placed on the ballot. The approximate date a title and summary will be issued to the Secretary of State is November 18, 2015.

Another competing proposal,“Invest in California’s Children Act”, to extend Proposition 30 has been filed by the California Hospital Association, the SEIU-United Health Care Workers West and Common Sense Kid’s Action. This measure proposes increasing taxes on persons earning more than $580,000 and proposes increasing higher tax rates on persons earning $2 million annually. Half of the estimated $10 billion dollars generated by this measure would go to K-14 public education, 40% to California’s Medi-Cal program that serves low-income people and the remainder to pre-kindergarten and early childhood education programs. The bill also includes a provision that would create a “rainy day” budget reserve modeled on Proposition 2 of last year. The approximate date a title and summary of this measure will be issued to the Secretary of State is November 25, 2015.

It is obvious these proposals compete against each other. It is unclear as to whether Governor Brown will support either proposal in light of the fact that he stated repeatedly to the public that Proposition 30 was temporary and should remain so.

If both measures qualify for the ballot and pass, the one with the most votes would prevail.

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