Californication: Hyphen Looks at Gov. Brown's Action on Legislation

October 16, 2011

Photo courtesy of Steve Rhodes, via Flickr

California Gov. Jerry Brown has been a busy man as of late, "clearing his desk" of legislative proposals state lawmakers have passed to him over the last several months. Hyphen updates you on some of the proposals Brown acted on recently.

The bill: AB 131, California's DREAM Act proposal

Gov. Brown action: Signed into law

What the bill does: DREAM stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, and it represents the estimated 65,000 undocumented students who graduate every year from high school, of which about 20,000 reside in California. Thanks to a 2001 California law, undocumented students who wish to attend a University of California or California State University school are eligible for in-state tuition.

With AB 131, California's undocumented students who wish to attend a UC or CSU school will become eligible to receive in-state financial aid in the form of Cal Grants, which provided $4,500 grants to more than 370,000 low-income students last year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

AB 131 would also allow undocumented students to obtain institutional grants from public universities as well as fee waivers from community colleges.

The California Department of Finance estimates that 2,500 additional students will qualify for Cal Grants as a result of AB 131, at a cost of $14.5 million, according to Gov. Brown. 

Congress has stalled on a federal DREAM act, which would provide college financial aid to undocumented students while also offering a path to citizenship.

What's been said: “Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking,'' Gov. Brown said in a statement. "The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us.'' (From the Los Angeles Times)

What's next: The provisions of AB 131 go into effect in 2013. 

The bill: AB 376, the shark fin ban

Gov. Brown action: Signed

What the bill does: The Chinese American community has been torn by the shark fin debate, which pits ecological concerns against cultural traditions as editor Bernice Yeung noted on this blog in February. With Brown signing AB 376 into law, that debate is all but over.

The new law, introduced by Assemblymember Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, bans possessing, selling, trading and distributing shark fins. An exception to the ban allows shark fins to be used for scientific or educational purposes. California joins Hawaii, Oregon and Washington as states that have implemented shark fin bans.

What's been said: “The practice of cutting the fins off of living sharks and dumping them back in the ocean is not only cruel, but it harms the health of our oceans.” (From Gov. Brown on KQED)

What's next: Under the new law, restaurants must stop collecting shark fins by the new year and must stop serving shark fin by Jan. 1, 2013. Brown also signed into law AB 853, which allows individuals to collect shark fins until 2012. Shark fin stocks must be sold by July 1, 2013.

The bill: AB 1088, on API data collection

Gov. Brown action: Signed

What the bill does: Under AB 1088, collection of Asian Pacific Islander data collected by the California Department of Industrial Relations and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing would be separated into additional ethnicity categories used by the Census Bureau. These state agencies are crucial to protecting individuals against employment discrimination, labor disputes and public housing discrimination.

Ethnicities to be added under the new data collection standards would include Bangladeshi, Fijian, Hmong, Indonesian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, and Tongan. AB 1088 also provides that data would be made more accessible online.

What's been said: "With this passage, the Governor recognizes the disparities within the Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander communities, and the role that the State of California has in addressing these issues.” (A statement from Assemblymember Mike Eng, D-Monterey Park, who introduced AB 1088).

What's next: The provisions of the legislation go into effect on July 1, 2012.

The bill: SB 185, affirmative action for California public universitiy admissions

Gov. Brown action: Vetoed

What the bill proposes: California has been a focal point of the affirmative action debate ever since Proposition 209 passed in 1996. Proposition 209 barred the use of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, public education and public contracting.

SB 185 would have allowed University of California and California State University campuses to consider race, ethnicity and gender in student admissions. Brown said in his veto message that he agreed with the goal of the proposal but that signing it into law would have not had any effect on the ongoing court case with Prop. 209.

What's been said: "...while I agree with the goal of this legislation, I must return the bill without my signature. Our constitutional system of separation of powers requires that the courts -- not the Legislature -- determine the limits of Proposition 209." (Gov. Brown in his veto message of SB 185).

What's next: The bill is likely dead. A veto override, which would allow the state legislature to sidestep the governor, would require a two-thirds majority from both the state Assembly and the state Senate. That's pretty much like asking two out of three Dodgers fans and two out of three Giants fans to get along. The legal battle over Prop. 209, currently before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, is probably the best chance for proponents of affirmative action.

Did we miss anything? Let Hyphen know in the comments below!


Kevin Lee


Kevin Lee is slumming it in the anachronistic industry of journalism. Before landing back in California, he had gigs covering politics in Illinois, Wisconsin and Texas. He's currently grappling with the decision of whether or not to buy a car.