Sometimes legislation sort of flies under the radar. Stakeholders keep their eye on the bills that have major consequence, and the small bills don’t get attention.
But sometimes small packages can accomplish good things.
So it was this year with AB 2164 (O’Donnell and Cooper), a bill to amend California Education Code 68120(a)(4).
This is known as the Alan Pattee Scholarship Act of 1970.
AB 2164 was sponsored by the California Professional Firefighters. Ed Code 68120 previously provided for waiver of University of California and Cal State systemwide fees (and enrollment fees at community colleges) for children of active law enforcement or fire suppression personnel whose parent was killed in the performance of their duties or died as a result of an accident or injury “caused by external violence or physical force” incurred in the performance of their duties.
The problem with this? There were instances where children of a parent that died of industrially-caused conditions were denied tuition and fee relief.
For example, in 2014 the statute was interpreted by Cal State so as to preclude tuition and fee relief for a child of a firefighter whose parent died of industrially-presumed cancer. The university took the position that the firefighter death due to industrial cancer was not covered under the fee waiver language.
The Alan Pattee Scholarship Act had not been updated to reflect changes in California workers’ comp law that provided causation presumptions for certain law enforcement personnel.
Back in 2014 I was asked by the firefighters legislative staff to consult on the issue. In the course of doing that I filed a Public Records Act request with the California State University Office of the Chancellor. As a result the university produced records pertaining to how the Ed Code Section 68120 provision for fee waiver had been allowed or denied by some campuses. Cleary there was some inconsistency and harsh application of the waiver among various campuses.
AB 2164 provides a fix so that tuition and fee waivers will no longer be denied to children of law enforcement or fire personnel who die of occupational disease. The bill also expands the fee waiver to include campus based fees.
Congratulations are in order for the California Professional Firefighters leadership and legislative folks who kept up the efforts on this issue. The bill received bi-partisan support, with no recorded no votes. Governor Brown signed AB 2164 on September 21, 2016.
According to the Assembly analysis, the tuition and fee waiver is currently used by less than 20 UC students, 36 students at CSU and around 350 community college students. It is unknown how exactly how many more will be eligible for the tuition and fee waiver since it is unknown exactly how many were denied waivers by all three education systems and their component campuses.
Whatever the numbers, this bill will be very meaningful to some deserving kids.
Here is the link to the California legislative website with the bill details: