Picasso Lawmaking: SB 820

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The art of lawmaking would be better displayed than the example of SB 820, an omnibus education bill. This so-called budget trailer bill is like a Picasso painting with all weird shapes and sizes of legislation gathered together on one canvas. How can a lawmaker study the details and decide with a simply yes or no vote to pass or oppose the entire package?

I gave up counting the amendments and ad-on sections that the bill includes. Below you’ll find the introductory part of the bill which details all the sections of the law that are amended, repealed or added. It’s more than the state Education Code that is changed. There are also provisions affecting the Government Code and the Health and Safety Code.

Admittedly, a number of the changes are in response to the pandemic which has hit the state education community, like it has hit the rest of us. The school year 2020-2021 is identified often in the bill’s text.

There are many things going on here. To just name a few briefly: the bill gives instruction to the state lottery to allow purchasing of computers; the bill delays the date the UC Regents have to implement statewide policies handling and maintaining of Native American human remains and cultural items under the university’s control; in response to the coronavirus funding crisis, transportation funding for After School Education and Safety Program is waived. The act creating the program was produced by an initiative promoted by Arnold Schwarzenegger the year before he was elected governor. There is a provision that makes it harder for charter schools to gain funding through the School Plan for Student Achievement program. 

There are lot of provisions dealing with money as would be expected in a bill related to the budget. In likelihood, these provisions allow for some policy changes beyond budget needs to go along as free riders in an omnibus bill.

Dan Walters explored one item to do with University of California maintenance in his column, to wit: “Also buried in SB 820 is language that would indirectly prohibit the University of California from contracting-out building maintenance work, a boost to the unions that represent many UC workers. It would prohibit UC from tapping state construction funds if they didn’t use staff workers for all maintenance.”

This bill is being considered at the end of the legislative session, an extraordinary legislative session to say the least. Legislators trying to focus on the coronavirus, fires and the threat of mass renter evictions must work their way through so many changes in the law. If even one change is objectionable, is that grounds for a no vote on the entire package? Or do lawmakers just shrug and go along with a single provision as an act of compromise or to get something they like also housed in the bill’s language?

Is this any way to conduct the state’s business?

Apparently so according to the powers that be but it is fraught with danger and future legislative complications. This Picasso type lawmaking contains many different shapes that don’t always seem to fit together but they each comprise part of the whole.

If you care to try to count the section changes proposed in SB 820 have at it. Here’s how the introduction to the bill reads: 

 

An act to amend Sections 313.3, 8209, 14041.8, 17199.4, 17391, 17463.7, 37700, 41024, 41207.47, 43501, 43502, 43503, 43504, 43505, 43509, 48412, 51461, 52065, 52074, 56836.07, 56836.148, 56836.24, 60010, 69996.3, 71000, and 92495 of, to add Sections 1241, 17199.15, 43502.5, 43506.5, and 92411 to, and to add and repeal Section 92496.1 of, the Education Code, to amend Sections 14900, 14901, 14902, 14903, 14904, 14905, 14906, 14910, and 14911 of, to add Section 8880.4.1 to, and to repeal Section 14905.1 of, the Government Code, to amend Sections 8025, 102426, and 102430 of, and to add Section 8024 to, the Health and Safety Code, to repeal Section 48 of Chapter 29 of the Statutes of 2016, to amend Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 of Chapter 3 of the Statutes of 2020, and to amend Sections 95, 97, 110, 111, 112, 116, 117, 118, and 119 of Chapter 24 of the Statutes of 2020, relating to education finance, and making an appropriation therefor, to take effect immediately, bill related to the budget.

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