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) SB 1075 Page 2 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 SB 1075 Page 3 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. SB 1075 Page 4 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.