Anyone who grew up watching Schoolhouse Rock has a pretty straightforward idea of how bills become laws – an idea is proposed, a legislator brings it forward, and it is either voted up or down. While the truth is much messier and contains far more steps, this basic sequence reflects how legislation travels through the cycle to end up on the governor’s desk to either be approved or vetoed. Over the past few years, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges has been much more involved in tracking and supporting or opposing legislation, and with the end of the two-year legislative cycle for 2017-18 in sight, local senates should be aware of how the ASCCC takes positions on bills, some of the bills that garnered the attention of the ASCCC, and their outcomes.
Bills that are relevant to the California community colleges in areas of academic and professional matters, or the 10+1, are monitored by the ASCCC Legislative and Advocacy Committee as well as the Executive Committee. Each month, the chair of the Legislative and Advocacy Committee—traditionally the ASCCC Vice-president—provides an update to the Executive Committee on bills that are working through the cycle, that have been introduced, or that have reached a conclusion.
The Legislative and Advocacy Committee also recommends to the Executive Committee which bills to watch and which may have a potential impact, either positive or negative, on the California community college system as a whole. Because the ASCCC is a resolution-driven body, support for or opposition to bills usually comes through the plenary sessions and through resolution. For example, Senate Bill 1009 (Wilk, 2018) and Assembly Bill 1935 (Irwin, 2018), both focused on areas of tutoring and apportionment. However, the senate bill was more expansive in its initial version, including allowing for self-placement of students and providing apportionment for basic skills tutoring as well as regular tutoring. As a result, at the Spring 2018 Plenary, the delegates voted to support SB 1009 and remained neutral on AB 1935. The assembly bill was then modified to reflect some of the ASCCC interests, and when the senate bill was held in suspense—meaning that it was essentially dead for the cycle—the Executive Committee agreed that supporting the assembly bill would be acceptable given that the two bills had become much more aligned. Ultimately, AB 1935 (Irwin, 2018) was also moved to the suspense file, meaning that other methods, including possible new legislation, would be necessary to achieve what the bill had sought.
Bills also can change completely during the legislative cycle, which is why all bills listed in resolutions are referenced as of the date of the writing of the resolution. For example, AB 809 (Quirk-Silva, 2018) began as a bill intended to ensure that veterans have priority registration in the California community colleges and California State Universities; however, midway through the cycle, the bill instead became the Cyber Secure Youth Act, specifically about grades K-12. Prior to the change, the ASCCC was tracking AB 809; after the change, while the bill might still have some relevance for some programs, it was not a bill that required consistent monitoring.
The ASCCC was particularly interested in a number of bills in the most recent legislative cycle. One was AB 1805 (Irwin, 2018), which involved the publication of placement policies for California community colleges as well as a reporting out of placement results. This bill was tied to AB 705 (Irwin, 2017), and while the ASCCC had opposed AB 705 prior to it becoming law, the plenary delegates did not take a position on AB 1805, and that bill was signed into law by the governor on September 19, 2018. Two other bills of interest to the ASCCC were SB 1071 (Roth, 2018) and AB 1786 (Cervantes, 2018). Both of these bills call for work around credit for prior learning: Roth’s bill focused specifically on credit for prior learning for military veterans, while the Cervantes bill was much broader in its scope. While the initial ASCCC position was in opposition to the Cervantes bill, that opposition was based on other aspects of the bill, including the creation of a statewide articulation officer; once that language was dropped, the ASCCC was more than willing to work with the Chancellor’s Office and other interested stakeholders to ensure that, if passed, the bill would be faculty-driven. Both the Roth bill, which specifically called for the ASCCC to work with the Chancellor’s Office, and the Cervantes bill were signed into law on September 20, 2018. Finally, SB 1406 (Hill, 2018), which called for an extension of the baccalaureate pilot program, was signed into law on September 20, 2018 as well.
While these bills offer very specific examples of the types of legislation that the ASCCC Legislative and Advocacy Committee and the ASCCC Executive Committee track, recent monthly reports have also included a wide range of others– bills on mental health counselors (SB 968, Pan, 2018), part-time office hours (AB 310, Medina, 2018), and online application processes (AB 3101, Carrillo, 2018). Some of these bills might not appear to be part of the 10 +1 areas under the purview of the Academic Senate as listed in Title 5, but they touch more broadly on academic and professional matters and are therefore of interest to the faculty of the California community colleges and to the ASCCC. The current legislative cycle ended on September 30, 2018, at which point the governor must sign or veto all bills on his desk. A new legislative cycle then begins, with new bills introduced after the first of the year. The ASCCC Legislative and Advocacy Committee will continue to track bills of interest to the faculty around the state and will keep local senates informed of all significant developments.