BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






                          SENATE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
                               Gloria Romero, Chair
                            2009-2010 Regular Session
                                         

          BILL NO:       SB 1075
          AUTHOR:        Correa
          AMENDED:       April 15, 2010
          FISCAL COMM:   Yes            HEARING DATE:  April 21, 2010
          URGENCY:       No             CONSULTANT:Beth Graybill

           SUBJECT  :  Military Service Benefits
          
           SUMMARY   

          This bill requires academic institutions to accommodate and  
          assist students who are called to active military duty so  
          they can meet any and all coursework requirements missed due  
          to military service.  

           BACKGROUND  

          Existing federal law, the Service members Civil Relief Act  
          (SCRA), which expanded the former Soldiers' and Sailors'  
          Civil Relief Act (SSCRA), provides a wide range of  
          protections for individuals entering, called to active  
          military duty, and deployed service members.  The intent is  
          to postpone or suspend certain civil and financial  
          obligations to enable service members to devote "full  
          attention to duty."  Reservists and members of the National  
          Guard when in active federal service are also protected under  
          SCRA.  (United States Code  101)  

          Existing state law provides various protections to service  
          members that are consistent with those found within the SCRA  
          including but not limited to protections regarding court  
          proceedings, credit contract obligations, rental agreements,  
          and eviction protections.  (Military and Veterans Code   
          800-811)  

          The California Military Families Financial Relief Act of 2005  
          protects college students called to active duty from tuition  
          loss by requiring institutions to either 1) credit 100  
          percent of the tuition and fees toward a subsequent academic  
          year or 2) provide a full refund of the tuition and fees if  
          the student withdraws before the withdraw date established by  
          the institution.  (MVC  824)  



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          Existing state law requests the University of California and  
          requires the California State University and each community  
          college to grant priority registration for enrollment to  
          former members of the Armed Forces of the United States  
          within two years of leaving active military duty.  (Education  
          Code 66025.8)  


           ANALYSIS  

           This bill  :

          1)   Revises the definitions of "service member" and  
               "military service" for purposes of the California  
               Military Families and Financial Relief Act.  

          2)   Requires academic institutions, upon request by a  
               student granted an academic leave of absence, to do one  
               of the following:  

               a)        Make arrangements to accommodate and assist  
                    the student so that he or she is able to meet any  
                    and all coursework requirements that he or she may  
                    have missed due to military service.  
               b)        Credit tuition and fee charges toward a  
                    subsequent academic term in an amount that is equal  
                    to 100% of what the student paid for the academic  
                    term in which the student is required to report for  
                    military service.  
               c)        Refund tuition and fees paid for the academic  
                    term, provided the student withdraws before the  
                    withdraw date established by the institution.  

           STAFF COMMENTS  

           1)   Need for the bill  :  California has enacted many  
               protections for California service members serving in  
               the active, reserve, and the National Guard military  
               components.  According to the author, it appears that  
               California Community Colleges and state universities  
               have varying policies concerning academic leaves of  
               absence for students ordered into military service.  The  
               author maintains that there have been instances in which  
               postsecondary institutions have not extended statutory  
               protections to California National Guard members who are  
               ordered into Emergency State Active duty by the  



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               Governor.  

           2)   Who's included  :  This bill applies to members of the  
               active duty and reserve branches of the United States  
               armed forces and the militia of the state who are  
               students enrolled in an institution of higher education  
               and "ordered to duty" by either the President of the  
               United States or the Governor of California.  

          In recent years it has become common to activate reserves for  
               short periods of time to provide service to communities  
               affected by natural or man-made disasters.  While  
               students ordered to federal active duty service may have  
               enough advance notice to plan for and request a formal  
               academic leave of absence, students called to state  
               military active duty service are often called to service  
               for shorter periods within a grading term and may not  
               have sufficient notice to work out arrangements in  
               advance with their instructors.  Students in such  
               situations may miss critical assignments or tests, which  
               can delay their educational progress if their  
               instructors do not allow the students to make up missed  
               coursework.  This bill adds to the protections currently  
               provided with regard to tuition by providing students  
               the option to request accommodations to enable them to  
               meet "any and all" coursework requirements they may have  
               missed due to military service.  Since these students do  
               not realistically have the option of refusing to report  
               to duty, this bill helps ensure they are not treated in  
               the same ways as students who voluntarily choose to miss  
               class or complete required coursework.  

           3)   What's reasonable ?  As written, this bill would require  
               institutions to provide assistance and accommodations to  
               enable a student to meet any and all coursework  
               requirements missed during active duty.  What if a  
               student misses substantial amounts of class time or  
               coursework or what if the course is a drama class in  
               which the capstone requirement is a play?  Could the  
               "any and all" requirement obligate institutions and  
               instructors to make unreasonable accommodations?  

          Staff recommends amending paragraph (1) of Section 824(a) to  
               require institutions to reasonably accommodate and  
               assist the student so that he or she is able to meet any  
               and all coursework requirements that he or she may have  
               missed due to military service.  



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           4)   Other committee action  .  The Senate Veterans Affairs  
               Committee heard SB 1075 on April 13, 2010 and passed the  
               bill by a 4-0 vote.  

           5)   Related and prior legislation  .  

                        SB 361 (Runner, Chapter 351, Statutes of 2009)  
                    limited priority registration for enrollment at the  
                    California State University (CSU) and the  
                    University of California (UC) to former military  
                    members who received an honorable discharge.  

                        SB 272 (Chapter 356, Statutes of 2007)  
                    required the CSU and requested the University of  
                    California to give priority registration for  
                    enrollment to former members of the armed forces as  
                    specified.  

           SUPPORT
           
          American Legion Department of California
          AMVETS: Department of California
          Vietnam Veterans of America, California State Council

           OPPOSITION
           
          None received.