AB 302 Clears the Senate Judiciary Committee
One of this year’s most controversial community college bills continues to make its way through the legislative process, passing out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week on a 7-1 vote with one abstention.
Assembly Bill (AB) 302 (Berman, D-Palo Alto) would on or before April 1, 2020 and until December 31, 2022 (sunset date), require a community college campus, except for those that provide specified housing services, to grant overnight access to campus parking facilities for any homeless student who is enrolled in at least six units, has paid enrollment fees that have not been waived, and is in good standing with the community college, for the purpose of sleeping in the student’s vehicle.
The bill has been significantly amended in the past two policy committees, but is still opposed by numerous community college districts, individual colleges, and community college management and liability organizations including the Association of California Community College Administrators, the Community College League of California, and the School Excess Liability Fund.
The amendments taken in the Senate Judiciary Committee would require community college districts to:
- Provide a form to the participating students that clearly and conspicuously indicates that the community college district cannot ensure the safety of a student who participates in overnight parking
- Establish overnight parking rules that participating students must follow, including a zero-tolerance policy for use of drugs or alcohol
- Establish a procedure for registering and verifying the identity of eligible students and their vehicles
- Establish a procedure for identifying participating students who have engaged in behaviors that pose a substantial threat to the physical safety of other participating students and, as necessary, warning such students to correct their behavior or revoking their eligibility to participate in overnight parking
- Develop a document that clearly and concisely describes the rules and procedures established and provide this document to the participating students
The amendments also stipulate that community college districts that comply with the bill’s requirements are not civilly liable for a district employee’s good faith act or omission that fails to prevent an injury to a participating student that occurs during the hours and operation of overnight parking. This immunity, however, does not apply to gross negligence, intentional misconduct, or violations of other provisions of law.
While the committee members conceded that the job of community college campuses is to educate, they also feel that since homeless students have nowhere else to go, they are safer on campus than the alternative. Other members argued that community college campuses are already liable for the safety of students and that this program would be an extension of the liability that they already have.
The chair of the committee, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), believes that the committee amendments give community college districts an assurance that they will be protected from liability if they implement the program with fidelity.
The bill will now go to the Senate Appropriations Committee where its fiscal implications will be scrutinized.
The Legislature is officially on Summer Recess, having met the deadline for policy committees to hear bills introduced in the opposite house by July 12, 2019. When the Legislature returns on August 12, 2019, they will have three weeks to move bills through the Appropriations Committees and five weeks to complete floor votes. The last day for the Legislature to send bills to Governor Gavin Newsom for this year’s session is Friday, September 13, 2019.