By: Christy Grellas

I am one of the many Americans who is staying up to date with the college admissions scandal. It combines celebrities, elite universities, and fraud into a perfect media storm. Throughout the scandal, many wealthy parents across the United States paid Rick Singer roughly $25 million, in total, to get their children admitted through Singer’s “side door.” Lori Loughlin, an actress known for her television role on Full House, faces up to forty years in prison for conspiracy charges because she allegedly posed her daughters as crew team recruits to get them admitted to the University of Southern California.

AB 1312, the College Consultants Act, strives to make the college admissions process transparent by holding private college consultants accountable for their services. Historically, state and federal governments have not kept track of or classified independent educational consultants as a specialized professional group. Although California enacted the College Consultants Act to bring transparency to the college consultant profession, societal and institutional obstacles will impede the law’s ability to accomplish its goal—equal opportunity. Three key societal elements contributed to the scandal: parents, independent college consultants, and socioeconomic status. As a consequence of today’s meritocracy, being a quote-unquote good parent can conflict with being a good citizen. Independent college consultants profit from the inequitable—but legal—ways parents can purchase opportunity in the college admissions process.

This particular scandal comes in a higher education admissions environment that already feels like a rat race to many would-be college applicants. Many schools, in an effort to improve their rankings and applicant pools, find inventive ways to manipulate their data. For example, to improve standardized test score medians, schools give out more merit-based aid. But, that comes at the expense of students who require need-based aid. That shift creates an unfair advantage because wealthy families can afford college consultants who prepare their clients for standardized tests, consequently increasing the students’ scores. Ultimately, the college admissions system can deny deserving, but less affluent, students the benefits of a top education.

Misplaced meritocracy rewards having the money to access additional resources rather than the hard work and individual aptitude of students. College consultants capitalize on the resources and privileges wealthy families have at their fingertips. Their industry is made possible by elite universities running admissions systems that favor students with financial means rather than giving equal consideration to all applicants from all walks of life. The triple threat of misplaced meritocracy, college consultants, and unfair admission systems is exacerbated by socioeconomic disadvantages, making the College Consultants Act’s goal to promote equal admissions opportunity an unlikely feat. The College Consultants Act’s Task Force may eventually provide a more even playing field for all students applying to colleges and universities, but it has no binding authority yet. The College Consultants Act is a step in the right direction for equal opportunity in higher education, but it may not be sufficient to correct systemic social and institutional inequalities.

You can subscribe to the In Session podcast and listen to my broader conversation about AB 1312 and related legislation with Thomas Gerhart on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, or on your favorite podcast app.

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

Article IV, Section 10(e) of the California Constitution explicitly gives the Governor of California a power that not even the President of the United States has, the line-item veto.

The exact language of Article IV, Section 10(e) reads, “The Governor may reduce or eliminate one or more items of appropriation while approving other portions of a bill. The Governor shall append to the bill a statement of the items reduced or eliminated with the reasons for the action. The Governor shall transmit to the house originating the bill a copy of the statement and reasons. Items reduced or eliminated shall be separately reconsidered and may be passed over the governor’s veto in the same manner as bills.”

In other words, California’s Governor can reduce a line item of appropriation or eliminate the item of spending entirely. In the budget bill, the Governor can reduce or eliminate one or more lines items, but still approve the budget bill in total. And just as with other bills the Governor may veto, they must explain the reasoning for reducing or eliminating an appropriation with a line-item veto.

Similarly, as with bills vetoed by the Governor, the Legislature can override a line-item veto with a two-thirds majority vote in each house of the Legislature. This applies to any budget or appropriations bills in which items of spending were reduced or eliminated by the Governor. All of these may be subject to a veto override and then the items reduced or eliminated must be separately considered for purposes of the veto override. If the veto override is successful, then the reduced or eliminate appropriation is restored as originally approved by the Legislature.

You can find a full transcript of today’s podcast here.

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

In the California Legislature, as with many other legislative bodies across the country, there’s often an initial question regarding whether amendments to an existing bill are germane to the subject matter of the existing bill.

In California, the office of the Legislative Counsel, who serve as the lawyers for the Legislature, may opine on germaneness. However, the actual determination of germaneness is decided by the presiding officer in either the State Assembly or the State Senate and that determination is subject to an appeal by the membership. This means that ultimately a majority of the Assembly or a majority of the Senate may rule on germaneness. Each house of the Legislature has its own rules to determine whether amendments are germane and ultimately, it is then up to a majority vote in each house of the Legislature to rule on germaneness.

In the Assembly, pursuant to Assembly Rule 47d, the Budget committee may introduce a bill that is germane to any subject within the jurisdiction of the committee in the same manner as any Assemblymember, which is pretty broad. Any other committee may introduce a total of five bills in each year of the biennial session that is germane to the committee’s subject matter. Assembly Rule 92 spells out in further detail when a specific amendment to a bill is or is not germane to the bill.

In the Senate, Senate Rule 23a functions similarly to Assembly Rule 47d. Senate Rule 23b goes on to state that a committee may amend into a bill related provisions that are germane to the subject and embraced within the title, with the consent of the author, and that it may then constitute a committee bill.

Senate Rule 38.5 requires specifically that every amendment proposed is to be germane and that in order to be germane, an amendment must relate to the same subject as the original bill, resolution, or other question under consideration. The rule also sets deadlines for action should the Senate President Pro Tem – or the Vice Chair of the Senate Rules Committee in the case of the Pro Tem not being present – decides that a point of order on the issue of whether an amendment is germane. If they decide the point of order is well taken, the question of germaneness is referred to the Rule Committee for consideration. The Rules Committee must then make its determination by the following legislative day unless the point of order and referral is made on the last legislative day preceding a recess. In that case the Rule Committee must make its determination because adjourning.

You can find a full transcript of today’s podcast here.

Greensheets Staff Writer Maddy Orlando who wrote on California's "PG&E Bailout" billBy: Maddy Orlando

California seemingly cannot escape wildfires. Wildfires are to California what hurricanes are to Florida and tornadoes are to Texas. The Tubbs fire in 2017 broke the record for most destructive wildfire in California history, only for 2018’s Camp Fire to break that record one year later. In addition to being the most destructive wildfire, the Camp Fire is also California’s deadliest wildfire. Combined, California wildfires in 2017 and 2018 killed 139 people, destroyed communities, and changed the lives of tens of thousands of Californians. Rich Ellison, a longtime Paradise resident, explained the devastation the town felt after the fires: “Those people are gone and it can’t be replaced and that’s the sad part right there. They’ve lost everything.” There is an insurmountable amount of issues that result from a fire like the town of Paradise saw in November of 2018. However, the issue that’s kept most everyone’s attention is not the death toll or property destruction, but rather the impact these fires had on utility companies, mainly PG&E, which filed for bankruptcy in January 2019.

Fires are expensive. Fighting them is one part of the cost, but moving on from them is another. Fires destroy houses, cars, and property, and that does not even begin to account for the injuries and deaths to humans and animals. In California when a utility company’s infrastructure sparks a wildfire the company is required to pay for the destruction its infrastructure causes. Staring down the barrel of the billions of dollars of liabilities from recent wildfires, utility companies face real threats of insolvency. And despite the utilities’ questionable treatment of ratepayers, there is no question that the Legislature had to act or risk facing another serious energy crisis.

That is where AB 1054 comes in. The idea behind the bill is to help ratepayers by creating a wildfire fund that pools capital into one place that utilities like PG&E and Southern California Edison, if they act reasonably and according to government guidelines, can draw from to pay off the claims against them. This would provide quicker access to capital to pay off liabilities and, in turn, quicker relief to victims. It would also promote greater accountability and responsibility on behalf of the utilities by allowing access only with reasonable behavior.

AB 1054 sounds great on paper. But in reality, the bill just provides a cushion for the Legislature and electrical utilities to create better measures and practices for mitigating fire risk moving forward. One of the major critiques of the bill is its lack of requested accountability of the utility companies. In exchange for promises, the companies have access to the wildfire fund without much action on their behalf. For that reason, many people have dubbed the bill the “PG&E Bailout Bill”, as the bill seemingly saves PG&E’s assets by providing it with necessary funds to move forward without requiring specific actions in return. The funds are necessary because utility companies such as PG&E are vital parts of the state’s infrastructure. Without the health of these companies, the health of California’s infrastructure at large is put at risk.

The problem many people have with the bill is that, right now, it is just promises. And while the listed reforms and safety measures to ensure against future disaster for each utility to take sounds like the steps in the right direction, there is no way to know what steps they will actually take and what will work. The wildfire fund provides the necessary capital to be able to take those steps, but once the foundation is laid it is up to the companies to act upon that–something that scares many lawmakers.  Elected officials have warned that the 2017 and 2018 wildfires are the new normal. Californians would hope though that the buffer AB 1054 provides the Legislature and the utility companies would allow time for both parties to find time to implement meaningful change. That is one big if while many people hold their breath amidst another fire season.

You can subscribe to the In Session podcast and listen to my broader conversation about AB 1054 and related legislation with Thomas Gerhart on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, or on your favorite podcast app.

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

In today’s podcast, I look at the different processes laid out in California’s Constitution for amending or revising the Constitution.

California’s Constitution was originally adopted in 1849 and has become one of the longest constitutions in the world, nearly 100 pages in length. This is partly due to the number of voter-approved additions to the Constitution.

An amendment to the state constitution requires passage of a ballot measure that is approved by a majority vote of the state’s electorate. Amendments can be placed on the ballot by legislators or by the voters themselves.

For voters to place an amendment on the ballot, they must collect valid signatures from a number of voters equal to 8% of the votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election. This is one of the lowest thresholds of any state in the United States. For the Legislature to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, each house of the Legislature must pass the proposed constitutional amendment by a two-thirds vote. The Governor does not act on proposed constitutional amendments. Once passed, the amendment is placed on the next statewide ballot. Again, whether placed on the ballot by voters or the Legislature, a constitutional amendment is approved by voters with a majority vote.

The Legislature can also, with a two-thirds supermajority vote, place on the ballot an initiative to revise the state constitution via a Constitutional Convention. If the majority of voters vote yes, the Legislature must provide for that Constitutional Convention within six months. Delegates are voters elected from districts as equal in population as may be practical.

You can find a full transcript of today’s podcast here.

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

With the 2019 legislative session now concluded, let’s take a look at the most recent session by the numbers. Given the Democratic supermajorities in both houses of the California Legislature and the shift from Governor Jerry Brown to Governor Gavin Newsom, I’ll also compare this session to the 2017-18 legislative session.

Let’s start with the number of bills introduced:

  2019 2018 2017-18 Session Total
Assembly Bills 1,833 1,531 3,264
Senate Bills 792 694 1,511
Total 2,625 2,225 4,775

 

Moving on from the number of bills introduced, we can compare the number of bills signed into law and the number of bills vetoed by the two Governors.

 

Number of Bills Signed into Law (Percentage of Bills Introduced Signed into Law)

  2019 2017-18 Session Total
Assembly Bills 574 (22%) 1,228 (37.5%)
Senate Bills 296 (11%) 647 (43%)
Total 870 (33%) 1,875 (39%)

 

Number of Bills Vetoed (Percentage of Bills Introduced Vetoed)

  2019 2017-18 Session Total
Assembly Bills 122 (5%) 86 (2%)
Senate Bills 50 (2%) 233 (5%)
Total 172 (6.5%) 319 (7%)

 

We can now move from a macro view of the sessions to a more micro view of the session. Let’s start by looking at the Senators who authored the most bills in 2019. It was:

  1. Cathleen Galgiani (27)
  2. Ben Hueso (26)
  3. (tie) Bob Hertzberg, Jim Nielsen, Anthony Portantino (25)
  4. (tie) Bill Dodd, Henry Stern, Scott Weiner (24)

In the 2017-18 Session, the most prolific bill authors in the State Senate were:

  1. Jerry Hill (48)
  2. Ricardo Lara (35)
  3. (tie) Cathleen Galgiani, Steve Glazer, Ed Hernandez, Connie Leyva, John Moorlach, Janet Nguyen, Richard Pan, Anthony Portantino, Jeff Stone, and Scott Weiner (40)
  4. (tie) Ben Allen, Steven Bradford, Hannah-Beth Jackson, Nancy Skinner, Henry Stern (39)

In the lower house, the Assemblymembers who authored the most bills in 2019 were:

  1. Jim Frazier (36)
  2. Autumn Burke (32)
  3. Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher (31)
  4. (tie) Rob Bonta, Wendy Carrillo, Marc Levine, Evan Low (30)
  5. Jacqui Irwin, Randy Voepel (28)

In the 2017-18 session, the most prolific bill authors in California’s lower house were led by Assemblymember Phil Ting at 102, due to all of the budget related measures that he carries. Behind him were:

  1. (tie) Richard Bloom, Rob Bonta, Autumn Burke, Eduardo Garcia, Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, Marc Levine, Blanca Rubio (50, the maximum number of bills allowed)
  2. (tie) Joaquin Arambula, Anna Caballero, Monique Limon, Evan Low, Bill Quirk, Miguel Santiago, Jim Wood (49)
  3. (tie) Mike Gipson, Jacqui Irwin, and Patrick O’Donnell (48)

Lastly, we’ll look at the number of bill referrals to committees based on original committee referrals. On the Senate side in 2019, the top committees were:

  1. Education (167)
  2. Health (150)
  3. Public Safety (149)
  4. Judiciary (123)
  5. Governance and Finance (120)

In the Assembly for this past session:

  1. Public Safety (217)
  2. Health (202)
  3. (tie) Education and Transportation (138)
  4. Natural Resources (124)

Looking at the session before last, the Senate committees with most original bill referrals were:

  1. Education (313)
  2. Public Safety (288)
  3. Transportation and Housing (237)
  4. Health (226)
  5. Governance and Finance (223)

In the Assembly:

  1. Public Safety (384)
  2. Health (300)
  3. Education (260)
  4. Judiciary (247)
  5. Transportation (233)

You can find a full transcript of today’s podcast here.

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

Now that the deadline for Governor Newsom to act on the legislation that made it to his desk has passed, we can take a brief overview of how he acted on the bills that made it to the Governor’s desk in his first year in office.

In total, 1,042 bills – out of 2,625 that were introduced – made it to the Governor’s desk. Of that 1,042, 740 were acted upon in the final month of the 2019 legislative session. As a result, 40% of the bills introduced made it to Governor Newsom’s desk, which is about the average. 33% of the bills introduced were signed into law and 6.5% of the bills introduced were vetoed. The percentage of introduced bills being signed is down compared to Governor Jerry Brown’s final year in office in 2018 (33% signed into law in 2019 compared to 45% in 2018), and Governor Newsom’s veto rate was also lower the former Governor Brown’s in 2018 (6.5% vetoed this year compared to 9% last year).

Of the 1,042 bills that reached Governor Newsom’s desk, 870 bills were signed. Of those that were signed into law 66% were Assembly Bills, of which 83% were authored by Democrats, 9% were authored by Republicans, and 8% were committee bills. The remaining 34% of bills signed into law originated in the Senate. Of the SBs, 76% were authored by Democrats, 10% were authored by Republicans, and 14% were committee bills.

On the other hand, Governor Newsom vetoed 172 bills that reached his desk. Of those, 71% were ABs. Of the ABs, 88.5% were authored by Democrats and 11.5% were authored by Republicans. Looking at the Senate Bills that were vetoed, we see that 84% of the vetoed SBs were authored by Democrats and 16% were authored by Republicans.

Greensheets staff writer Mike Adams at McGeorge School of Law

By: Mike Adams

Kids these days with their newfangled smartphones! It’s stunting their brains!

It sounds like a clichéd complaint from an older generation, but that grouchy old curmudgeon might actually be right. Modern social science research is starting to uncover some very serious negative effects of excessive screen time. Depression and lowered school achievement are two of the known effects, let alone the issue of cyberbullying. When that grouchy curmudgeon was growing up bullies might dunk a kid’s head in a toilet. But at least the kid could go home at the end of the day to escape their tormenter. With smartphones and the 24/7 connection to all the various forms of social media that comes with them, bullying follows the victim wherever they go.

If we’re going to try to address these problems, we need to find a place where our intervention would be maximally effective. A nexus where all these problems occur, and where it is possible to provide children with a respite from smartphones—the school system. If the law allowed it, and if schools enforced it, some kind of smartphone ban at school might be really good for kids’ mental health.

That’s what AB 272 aims to do. It gives school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education the power to ban smartphones.

Wait, “Blocking kids from access to their property, and restricting their free speech?” you might ask. How fast can you say “constitutional challenge?” Most people are not aware of how much leeway schools have in regulating the speech and possessions of students. Yes, it turns out that a school can indeed prevent a student from using their favorite medium for speech without running afoul of the First Amendment. The school can even seize the device itself without running afoul of the Fourth Amendment. There are some outer limits that schools cannot cross, but my article sketches out those boundaries, so a school official can steer clear of them.

Now, the weird thing is that California law already allowed schools to ban “electronic signaling devices.” The archaic language indicates that was an old law, and few schools really noticed it or took advantage of that power. What’s worse, the old law was clunky—with gaps in coverage and unclear language—and had the potential to conflict with other education laws. It was written before charter schools were a hot topic and before accommodating students with disabilities was taken so seriously.

AB 272 brings the idea of a school ban on smartphones back into the spotlight, and it broadens the coverage by allowing nontraditional schools to use its provisions. This new law also carves out some important exceptions that would make such a ban work more smoothly with the rest of the education system. It reacts to the problems created by smartphones, while also trying not to overreact. My article suggests some ways for a school to tailor a smartphone ban so that it does the maximum amount of good for students’ mental health while doing a minimum amount of harm.

You can subscribe to the In Session podcast and listen to my broader conversation about AB 272 with Thomas Gerhart on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, and everywhere else podcasts are listened to.

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli was published in the National Law Review. His new article,  A Look at California’s New Labor Employment Laws, was published yesterday. You can also find the complete list of his articles published by the National Law Review here.

Chris Micheli is an attorney and partner at the Sacramento governmental relations firm Aprea & Micheli. As an adjunct faculty member at McGeorge School of Law, he co-teaches the Lawmaking in California and Legislative and Public Policy Clinic courses in McGeorge’s Capital Lawyering Concentration.

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

Most of the powers of the executive branch of California’s state government are found in Article V of the California Constitution. Today’s post and podcast is a description, briefly, of those constitutional provisions affecting the Governor and his or her administration. A smaller sample of the Governor’s powers are discussed in the post, while a broader discussion is in today’s podcast.

Section 4 of Article V provides the Governor can require officers and agencies to furnish information to him related to their duties.

Section 6 authorizes a statute to allow the Governor to reorganize functions among state agencies other than those of the remaining constitutional offices. This is generally known as a Governor’s Reorganization Plan, or GRP.

Section 8 provides the Governor with authority to grant a reprieve, a pardon, and commutation, except for cases of impeachment. The Governor must report to the Legislature any grants, and provide the facts and reasons for doing so. There are no pardons for persons twice convicted of a felony unless the Supreme Court recommends it.

Section 9 of Article V requires the Lieutenant Governor to have the same qualifications as the Governor. The Lieutenant Governor is the president of the Senate, but may only cast a vote on a tie.

Section 10 provides the Lieutenant Governor will become the governor when a vacancy in the office occurs. He or she shall act as the Governor during an impeachment proceeding, when the Governor is out of state, or when the Governor has a temporary disability. There is an order of precedence for succession to the governor’s office or temporarily exercising the governor’s function. The Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction under this section to address any questions.

You can find a full transcript of today’s audio here.