Conversations about the future of the School Facility Program (SFP) and the State’s role in funding school facilities have been ongoing among members of the Legislature and the Administration. The Legislature does not need to pass a school bond until next year to make the 2016 ballot, therefore we do not expect significant movement and negotiation on bond bill vehicles until next year. However, the three main bond bill vehicles continue to move through the legislative process, having met the first significant deadline of the 2015-16 legislative session, which required bills with a potential fiscal impact had to pass out of their policy committees by May 1. They continue to provide vehicles for ongoing discussion regarding the future of the State program.
The next step is for the bills to be heard by their respective Appropriations Committees, facing a May 29 deadline for passage. If the Legislature chooses not to move the bills forward by that date, they will become “two-year bills,” with a chance to continue moving in early 2016. All bond bills will require a 2/3 vote of the Legislature and the Governor’s signature to be placed on the ballot.
Below are details about the specific bond bill vehicles and the budget subcommittee process:
– SB 114 (Liu) was heard and passed by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, March 25, and heard and passed by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on Wednesday,
April 22. This bill would place a K-12 bond on the November 2016 ballot, and it is silent on the dollar amount. It was recently amended to remove community colleges, CSU, and UC in order to focus the conversation on possible reform of the SFP. SB 114 includes a number of significant policy changes to the SFP, such as requiring all projects to meet an unspecified high performance standard, and funding replacement of facilities under modernization at the new construction grant amount. Senator Liu is Chair of the Senate Education Committee and a long-time member of the State Allocation Board.
– AB 148 (Holden) was heard and passed by the Assembly Education Committee on April 29. It would place a K-14 bond on an unspecified 2016 ballot, and it was recently amended to include a number of the policy proposals from SB 114. No dollar amount is specified in the bill, though Assembly Member Holden has indicated that he is considering a “bridge” bond in the amount of $1.8 billion. Assembly Member Holden is trying to identify a new funding source to reduce dependency on general obligation bond funds. AB 148 includes language regarding intent to consider a pay-as-you-go funding mechanism based on short-term debt, and Assembly Member Holden has also introduced AB 1372 stating the intent of the Legislature to study long-term facilities funding solutions. Assembly Member Holden is Majority Floor Leader, a leadership position in the Assembly.
– AB 1088 (O’Donnell) was heard and passed by the Assembly Education Committee on April 29. It would place a Kindergarten through University bond on an unspecified ballot; the committee staff analysis suggested consideration of a 2018 ballot measure. The bill is silent on the dollar amount, but Assembly Member O’Donnell has indicated that he supports continuation of the School Facility Program funded by a larger bond, approximately $8 billion or $9 billion. The bill was recently amended to include a number of provisions aimed at addressing the Governor’s concerns regarding the School Facility Program, such as intent language to adjust the local match amount based on a district’s ability to raise local funds and authorizing grants to be used for Career Technical Education (CTE), joint use, seismic, and preschool purposes. Assembly Member O’Donnell is Chair of the Assembly Education Committee.
– Budget education finance subcommittees have been meeting to discuss the Governor’s school facilities policy recommendations included in his 2015-16 budget. Both houses also heard the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) recommendations regarding the creation of an annual per-student grant amount for facilities. Education stakeholders, including C.A.S.H., continue to make the point that placing school facilities funding inside of Proposition 98 is a non-starter. While the budget subcommittees have engaged in the discussion, we expect much of the conversation regarding SFP reform to take place in policy committees, outside of the budget process, though it is possible that the Governor may provide additional recommendations in his May Revision budget. We also expect the Governor to propose a significant reduction in Office of Public School Construction (OPSC) staffing in the May Revision. This proposal would be a strong statement regarding the Governor’s lack of support for a school bond; in order to go into effect, any staffing reduction proposal would require the Legislature’s approval.
While C.A.S.H. does not have a formal position on any of the bond bills, we continue to engage with the various bill authors and others to discuss the future of the School Facility Program and the State’s constitutional obligation to ensure all students have access to safe and adequate school facilities. Despite actions in both houses to support the movement of bond bills through the legislative process, C.A.S.H. is not overly optimistic that the bills will continue moving in 2015. In order to pass out of the Appropriations Committee, they would need to be amended to include a dollar amount. Additionally, it is clear that members of the Legislature are not all in agreement with regards to options for program reform, funding mechanism, and more.
The Californians for Quality Schools (CQS) initiative received Title and Summary for circulation of petitions from the Attorney General on March 23, and signature-gathering commenced soon after. The initiative would place a $9 billion state school bond on the November 2016 ballot, with $7 billion for K-12 and $2 billion for community colleges. CQS is a partnership between the Coalition for Adequate School Housing (C.A.S.H.) and the California Building Industry Association (CBIA).
Signature-gatherers are having great success in obtaining signatures, and we hope to have the necessary signatures well before our September deadline. The measure requires 365,880 valid signatures to qualify, which means that we must collect over 560,000 raw signatures. The signature-gathering process bypasses the Legislature and Governor and goes straight to the voters to ask them to place an initiative directly on the ballot.
We are confident that the initiative will qualify if we are able to raise the funds necessary to gather the required signatures. For more information on how you can get involved with this effort, please see www.cashissuesstateschoolbond.com, or contact Aileen Dalen at (916) 448-8577.
~ Rebekah Cearley