New bill passed by California Legislature may affect Cal Grant recipients

Matthew Urner

The California Legislature closed the legislative year Thursday after passing some monumental pieces of legislation for Cal Grant recipients, especially those recently disqualified.


Assembly Bill 1287, authored by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva will make it easier for students to re-establish Cal Grant eligibility, if Governor Jerry Brown doesn’t veto it within in the next month.


Meredith Vivian, Director of Government Relations for the California State Student Association, said Governor Brown has until Oct. 13 to sign AB 1287 into law.


Vivian said, “[California State Student Association is] optimistic he’ll sign it.”


However, the bill would require about $30 million in spending out of the General Fund and an additional $132,000 in administrative costs. Vivian said this expense should decrease after the 2014-15 budget year.


About 20,000 students who currently qualify for the grant, can’t receive it because at one time their family income exceeded the cutoff. This is an unintended consequence of the 2011-12 Budget Act, which the bill addresses.


Debbie Cochrane, Research Director for The Institute for College Access and Success, wrote a letter to Senator Kevin de Leon, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, stating Cal Grant recipients whose family income is too high for one year are permanently ineligible to receive the Cal Grant.


Even if the student’s income drops back down below the eligibility cutoff, they still cannot re-enroll.


“They have permanently lost their grant because they were temporarily ineligible,” Cochrane wrote.


Senate Bills 284 and 285 authored by Senator Kevin de Leon, are also seeking to increase Cal Grant availability. In order to work, these bills depend on tax credits given to taxpayers contributing to the College Access Tax Fund.


While they have a slower and smaller impact on students, Senate Bills 284 and 285 don’t have extra costs associated. They might be more likely to get signed than AB 1287, Vivian said.


The benefit for students who depend on Cal Grant money to pay for college is never having to pay it back. In order to qualify, students must meet financial and minimum GPA requirements.  The money can be used at any University of California, California State University or California Community College, and even some private technical schools.


Many of the other bills passed on Thursday night had nothing to do with financing college endeavors.


Sen. Darrell Steinberg, President pro Tempore, had his Senate Bill 743 pass with bipartisan support. Steinberg said the bill will relax some regulations imposed by the California Environmental Quality Act streamlining the process to develop the downtown Sacramento arena that will house the Kings and enable business growth throughout the state.


After the bill passed, Steinberg said to the press, “What are we about? What are we trying to improve? It’s about culture and sports. It’s not only a boost for Sacramento, but it’s a boost for the state.”


Additionally, Steinberg passed an assault weapons ban.


Assemblyman Luis Alejo authored a bill that would allow non-legal immigrants in the United States to obtain drivers’ licenses. As it was announced AB 60 had passed, the support for the bill was evident when Senators De Leon, Norma Torres and others crowding the Assembly Floor, shouted “Si se puede,” the motto for the United Farm Workers union.


Alejo also authored the bill increasing minimum wage, passed by the legislature last week.