Life, Death, and Reincarnation in the Legislative World


Our Fall Plenary Session came after the end of the 2003-04 session of the California Legislature; thus we could review the disposition of legislation considered by the State Assembly and Senate. It is interesting to note the life of a bill: it can die in committee and never see a vote on the floor; it can be approved by the Legislature and then vetoed by the Governor; or it can be approved by the Legislature and then signed into law by the Governor. We tracked the major disposition of bills dealing with community college issues. The Governor vetoed a number of bills that were monitored by the Academic Senate. It is interesting to note that many of his veto messages referred to the recommendations of the California Performance Review (CPR), noting that since the CPR recommendations were then still in the discussion stage, it was "premature to sign new legislation into law on issues that were also being discussed" in the CPR process.

The Academic Senate was highly involved in the discussions and development of several bills on transfer, particularly (SB 1785) and common course numbering (SB 1415). The collaboration between the leadership of the Academic Senate and the California State University Academic Senate (and the constant dialogue with the authors and staff of the bills) was instrumental in crafting legislation that will benefit our students as they make the transition between segments of higher education in California.

In a previous Rostrum article, we pointed to several bills enacting proposals of the Master Plan for Education. Major portions of the original versions of these bills, AB 242 and SB 6, for example, dealt with community college issues.

AB 242 focused on personnel issues in both the K-12 and community college systems. But in the final version of this-and other bills-in the legislative process, community college concerns were gradually erased; in the final version of this bill, all that remained was a statement of intent regarding the retreat rights of community college administrators. The intent language in the bill seeks to grant administrators in a district retreat rights (as tenured faculty) in that district if they had been tenured faculty in another community college district. This retreat right would only be available to administrators seeking retreat within five years of leaving tenured faculty status.

The Academic Senate had concerns that faculty in the second district would have no way of determining the suitability of the administrator for faculty service. The bill was approved by the Legislature but was vetoed by the Governor (his veto message did not touch on our concerns). We feel this issue will come up again in the next legislative session and look forward to working with the authors on this issue.

Community college governance was initially addressed in SB 6 and was a major issue of concern to all of us. This bill was a classic example of "gut and amend." All references to governance and greater autonomy for the Chancellor and Board of Governors were taken out of the bill ("gutted") and the bill was "amended" to provide for settlement of the Williams lawsuit, which dealt with inequities of K-12 facilities throughout the state. However, we do plan to see discussion and legislation on system-level governance in this next session. Concurrent enrollment continued to receive attention in the last session. Several bills proposed to address special admission/concurrent enrollment issues raised by Southern California newspapers. What emerged for legislative approval was SB 905. This bill was also vetoed by the Governor and in his message, he noted that concurrent enrollment in high schools and community colleges is one of the CPR recommendations and therefore, should not be regulated through legislation until the CPR is finalized. Concurrent enrollment is of great interest to many of our colleges, especially those in rural areas, and we can expect continued debate about this matter in the next session beginning in January.

Other legislation would have had direct impact on our instruction. We can expect to see similar bills emerge in the forthcoming session. Textbook prices was the focus of several bills approved by the Legislature this year. The Governor signed one bill calling for study and voluntary efforts (AB 2477); he vetoed another (AB 2678), noting that the bill would permit colleges to assess students additional fees to sustain a campus textbook rental program, whether or not all students used the program.

SB 1331 provided for accountability in all segments of higher education (community college, CSU, UC, and the private colleges and universities) and the Governor vetoed this bill, again adding that the final determination regarding CPR recommendations would affect this legislation. The author of SB 1335 touted it as an "Academic Bill of Rights," but the Academic Senate saw it differently, and this was a hot topic at the Senate's Spring 2004 Plenary Session. The bill died in committee and did not come for a vote on the floor, but it is anticipated to come up in some form, possibly described as a "Students' Bill of Rights."

Do we see a pattern here? Many of these issues discussed in this last session will reappear next year-accountability, textbooks, nursing, concurrent enrollment, transfer. Yes, Yogi, it is "deja vu all over again."

The Legislative and Governmental Relations Committee has its work cut out, and we look forward to serving you. Watch for our Legislative Alerts throughout the coming spring.

For the Veto/Signing messages on bills, go to the Governor's website <;, click on Press Room, then Press Releases. Then click on Legislative Update for the date indicated for the Veto or Signed message. Vetoes-AB 2678 (September 16), AB 2710 (September 18), SB 905 (September 24), SB 1331 (September 16), SB 1442 (September 15), SB 1817 (September 15). Signings--SB 1415 (September 24), SB 1785 (September 24).