Governor signs one reform bill, cuts other
October 18, 2007 12:36 PM
Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed on Friday a bill that aimed to bring more transparency and oversight to California State University Board of Trustees meetings.
Schwarzenegger signed another piece of reform legislation, Senate Bill 190, but chose not to sign Assembly Bill 1413, which would have required ex officio trustees to delegate a representative to attend CSU board meetings, which are often held the same day as University of California Board of Regents meetings, in their absence.
“CSU Board of Trustees’ meetings are already open to the public and therefore, it is unnecessary to statutorily authorize a staff person to attend in a member’s absence,” Schwarzenegger wrote in a letter to the California State Assembly. “I do not believe we should be micromanaging the hiring practices at University of California or the California State University system.”
SB 190, the so-called sunshine bill authored by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), requires the CSU Board of Trustees to discuss all executive compensation packages in open, public meetings. In signing the bill into law, the governor said it “provides some additional openness and accessibility for the public.”
The veto of AB 1413 was a blow to the California Faculty Association, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi and many assembly members, including Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) and Leland Yee, who supported the bill and rallied aggressively for SB 190 since its introduction last spring.
In September, the CFA held several news conferences, pushed for students and faculty around the state to flood the governor’s office with phone calls and e-mail, and launched a series of YouTube videos depicting executive pay raises and the need for reform. CFA President Lillian Taiz also challenged CSU Chancellor Charles Reed to a debate, which he declined.
“Of course we are terribly disappointed,” said CFA President Lillian Taiz, who also teaches at CSU Los Angeles. “We have a governor who has advocated for reform and this is a bill that would have done that. We see his veto as a shortsighted mistake.”
The bill was authored by Assemblymember Anthony Portantino, who is also Chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education.
“As a strong advocate of higher education, I am extremely disappointed with this veto,” he said in a press release Friday. “The governor’s action today, coupled with a litany of inappropriate actions by the CSU Board of Trustees over the past few years, has made it much more difficult to fight for limited resources to benefit our students.”
AB 1413 contained three major governance reform components. The most prominent aspect of the bill, in many supporters’ opinions, was the allowance of ex officio trustees such as speaker of the assembly and the lieutenant governor to designate a representative to attend board meetings on their behalf.
Other components of the bill included the requirement that all executive contracts be approved in public session revealing all benefits, not just salary and housing, and the elimination of the practice known as “ghost professorships” in which CSU executives are paid for classes that are never taught.
Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who serves as both an ex officio trustee for the CSU and regent for the University of California system, has been a vocal supporter of the bill. In a September letter to Chancellor Reed, he outlined the need to set different dates for meetings.
“Once again, the CSU Trustees and the UC Regents meetings occur at exactly the same time and in opposite parts of the state,” Garamendi wrote. “Both meetings have critical issues that deserve the attention of the ex officio members, the press, and parties interested in higher education.”
Taiz said that in her 10 years of attending board meetings, she had never once seen a governor or assembly speaker present.
“It’s impossible for them to attend every meeting. These people are busy, they work in Sacramento, the CSU meetings are in Long Beach, and the UC meetings are in Davis. Where do you think is easier for them to go?”
The CSU administration opposed both bills since their introduction and hired a lobbying firm to kill the bills, arguing that, although they weren’t required by law, such policies were already in place.
“We are pleased the Governor has vetoed AB 1413,” Chancellor Reed said in a statement, calling the bill “largely redundant and unnecessary.”
CSU spokesperson Clara Potes-Fellow said she felt the bill would have diminished the effectiveness of ex officio members and the CSU would not have been served well by the delegates.
“It should be the ex officio member or no one,” she said. “We have an objection to someone who is neither elected or appointed by the Governor. We would not be well served by the someone in that position.”
The CSU administration also argued that the bill would put CSU meetings as a second priority to those of the UC.
Taiz disputed the administration’s claims. “If these rules were already in place, we wouldn’t have some of the incidents happening, like the President of Cal State Dominguez, who was given $103,000 to leave for another job in Maryland.”
“SB 190 is a step in the right direction, but these folks need more guidance.”
Steve Boilard, who works with the bipartisan Legislative Analyst Office in Sacramento, said that the veto leaves some stones unturned.
“The Legislature has taken an interest in transparency and accountability in the governance and administration of UC and CSU,” Boilard said. “The Governor’s veto [of AB 1413] leaves unaddressed an area the Legislature wanted to address.”
Taiz said the faculty union, assembly members and some legislators will continue to work for CSU reform. The next step, she said, will be to assess the findings from a report that will be released November 6.
“We live to find another way to fix this,” she said. “The issue is not going away.”
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