Legislative Update, September 2005:
by Charles P. Nash, VP-External Relations and Eric Hays, Director External Relations
AB 992: Law Enforcement Surveillance (T. Spitzer, R-Orange)
In January of 2004 the University administration asked the 2003-2004 Academic Council to review and comment upon a request from the UC Police Officers Association for UC to sponsor legislation that would have given the UC and CSU campus police forces the same authority to overhear and record communications that virtually every other law enforcement agency in the State already had under existing law. At that time the Academic Council believed that the proposed legislation did not impinge on academic affairs, and consequently decided not to take a position on it.
The legislation in question (AB 992, Spitzer) was introduced in February, 2005, whereupon some members of the 2004-2005 Academic Council had second thoughts about the broad authority that the UC police would have if the legislation were enacted. The current Academic Council began to consider the matter at its March meeting, and at its April meeting voted to oppose AB 992, reversing the position taken in 2004.
The turnaround on AB 992 was expressed in a letter from Academic Council Chair George Blumenthal to Senior Vice President Joseph Mullinex dated May 19, 2005. In it, Professor Blumenthal wrote that because the Academic Council had not instructed him to communicate its opposition to the bill anywhere other than to Mullinex, he had "no plans to pursue this matter outside the University." He noted, however, that the letter in question was "a public document" so that other faculty members who "may choose to oppose this bill as individuals" could "use this letter as evidence of Council's views."
On the same day that the Academic Council's letter was written, AB 992 passed out of the Assembly by a vote of 65 ayes to 3 noes and went to the Senate for their consideration. In spite of the daunting Assembly vote, some faculty members continued to oppose the bill-now with the Academic Council letter as ammunition-and contacted CUCFA seeking our support. Very shortly thereafter the CUCFA Board voted its own unanimous opposition to the bill.
CUCFA's lobbyists from the firm of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe contacted Assemblymember Spitzer's staff, conveying our specific objections to the bill that had passed out of the Assembly. In the Senate the bill was assigned to the Public Safety Committee. We sent a formal letter of opposition to the Chair and members of that committee, as did other organizations, including the ACLU and the California Faculty Association (the CSU faculty union). Individual UC faculty members also lobbied the Senate committee staff, making good use of the Academic Council letter. As a result of all these efforts the version of AB 992 that had passed the Assembly so handily was voted down in the Senate Committee on June 14, 2005 by a vote of 2 ayes to 3 noes, 2 members not voting.
The Senate Committee granted the author's request for reconsideration, and on June 22 he introduced a heavily amended version of the bill that would have limited UC and CSU police officers' authority to the overhearing or recording of communications only in criminal investigations related to sexual assaults or other sexual offenses. Through our lobbyists, CUCFA then withdrew its opposition to the bill.
The amended bill was considered by the Public Safety Committee on June 29 and again failed to get a majority "aye" vote. This time the vote was 3 ayes, 2 noes, 2 members not voting. By the rules of the Legislature, a bill that fails to get the necessary votes to pass it out of committee "may not be considered further during the session." The current session is now over for all practical purposes, but a new one will convene in January and it remains to be seen whether or not AB 992 is truly dead.
SB 724: California State University Doctoral Degrees (J. Scott, D-Altadena)
As originally introduced in February of 2005, this bill would have authorized the California State University to award free-standing professional/clinical doctoral degrees, which were defined as post-master's degrees that would qualify their holders to enter professional practices other than university faculty research and teaching.
This is not the first time that CSU has tried to extend its authority to include the award of independent doctoral degrees. The ostensible motivation for this latest attempt was the looming need in the state for a professional doctoral degree in audiology. The national accrediting body for audiology has decreed that two years from now a master's degree will no longer be accepted for certification/licensing in that field.
The UC administration vigorously opposed SB 724 as being contrary to the provisions of the venerable Master Plan for Higher Education. They argued that the projected demand for professional degrees in audiology, education, and other fields was exaggerated, and what needs there really were could be met by the proper implementation of planned or existing UC/CSU joint doctoral programs. UC also questioned the plausibility of the proposed funding strategy whereby CSU proposed to pay for the new programs at no additional cost to the state by combining the existing formulaic capitation funding with a fee that would be higher than the standard CSU fee but lower than UC's graduate program fees.
CUCFA also formally opposed this bill in letters to the Senate Education Committee (chaired by Jack Scott, the bill's author) and the Senate Appropriations Committee. Contrary to the administration's rigid position, ours acknowledged the possibility that at some point there could be needs "that might be met most effectively by using the expertise and resources of CSU acting on its own." To us, however, the legislation then at issue had inadequate mechanisms and criteria for addressing this question on a case-by-case basis. We also doubted that quality programs, particularly in fields with significant library or equipment requirements, could be created or sustained at the bargain-basement costs that the bill projected.
Over the opposition of UC, a bill authorizing the CSU to award doctoral degrees "in selected professional fields" passed out of both Senate committees with no dissenting votes and on May 31 passed on the Senate floor by a vote of 34 to 3. During the next month, UC and CSU reached a compromise whereby CSU would be authorized to offer only an independent Doctor of Education degree. The bill as amended in that manner was passed by the Assembly Higher Education Committee in mid-July by a vote of 5 to 2, the Assembly Appropriations Committee without dissent on August 25, and on August 30 the Assembly as a whole by a vote of 73 to 3. Because the current version of SB 724 is totally different from the one that was originally passed by the Senate, the bill has been returned to that body for its concurrence.
The probable final version of SB 724 will require the CSU to fund the program with resources derived from enrollment growth budgeted at the marginal cost of instruction, and without changing the ratio of graduate to undergraduate enrollment in the system. Students can be charged fees no greater than those charged for students in the UC or joint UC/CSU Ed.D programs, and CSU will be required to pay startup costs from existing academic support budgets without diminishing either the quality of the support for or the enrollment in its undergraduate programs.
Update 9/23/05: The Governor signed SB 724 on September 22. The final bill did indeed read as we projected it would in the paragraph above.
ACA5: Public Retirement Systems (Richman, R- Northridge)
ACA5 is a proposal to eliminate all defined benefit retirement programs for new public employees in California, replacing them with defined contribution plans. As part of Governor Schwarzenegger's "year of reform" - legislation backed by voter initiatives - ACA5 received considerable press attention. Many people may think the issue died when Schwarzenegger withdrew his support of the supporting voter initiative when it became clear the wording of the initiative might result in the elimination of death benefits for the families of police and fire fighters. However, ACA5 is not dead. It has been placed on the calendar for legislative consideration next year and is a high priority item among Republican legislators.
SB5: Student Bill of Rights (Morrow, R-Carlsbad)
This bill, along with similar ones throughout the country, was formally opposed by the AAUP. It failed in the Senate Education Committee at the end of April by a vote of 4 ayes, 6 noes, with one member not voting. However, it is probably NOT dead. By a vote of 11 to none the Committee granted the author's request for reconsideration, so in some form or other it will more than likely be revived in 2006.
President Dynes' July 11, 2005 newsletter and messages from the various campus Chancellors have discussed budgetary outcomes at some length. By comparison with the recent past, it was clear almost from the outset that UC was going to be treated relatively well in the 2005-2006 final budget. We met with Vice President Hershman before the budget hearings began and assiduously monitored activities on that front in the Capitol. Contrary to recent past practices, this year we saw no need to meet separately with legislators or legislative staffers.
Governor Schwarzenegger's January budget proposal mirrored the "compact" that he had reached with UC and CSU. It ended four years of budget cuts and, among other things, included funding for faculty and staff merit and salary increases, systemwide student enrollment growth of 5,000 full-time-equivalent students, and increased employee health-care benefits. The final budget also provided funding for capital improvements and restored the funding for "academic preparation" programs. On the downside, the Governor blue-penciled the miniscule funding for the Institute for Labor and Employment.
Proposition 75: Public Employee Union Dues, Required Consent for Political Contributions
If passed in the November special election, Proposition 75 would apply to the Santa Cruz Faculty Association and all of the public employee labor unions in the state, including those in the UC system. Any of these organizations would be required to get the written permission of each of its members if it wanted to contribute any of his/her dues money to political causes. There is no companion proposition on the ballot that would require employers or corporations to get a piece of paper signed by each employee or each shareholder before spending money on political campaigning. Accordingly, we urge you to vote NO on Proposition 75 on November 8th.
Update 11/9/05: Proposition 75 was defeated at the polls.