Bill Text: CA AB2991 | 2017-2018 | Regular Session | Amended


Bill Title: Department of Veterans Affairs: veterans’ services.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Democrat 1-0)

Status: (Introduced) 2018-08-27 - Re-referred to Com. on HIGHER ED. [AB2991 Detail]

Download: California-2017-AB2991-Amended.html

Amended  IN  Assembly  August 24, 2018
Amended  IN  Assembly  March 23, 2018

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2017–2018 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill No. 2991


Introduced by Assembly Member Cervantes

February 16, 2018


An act to add Article 7 (commencing with Section 92165) to Chapter 2 of Part 57 of Division 9 of Title 3 of the Education Code, relating to postsecondary education, and making an appropriation therefor. An act to add Section 972.3 to, and to repeal and add Section 972.1 of, the Military and Veterans Code, relating to veterans, and making an appropriation therefor.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 2991, as amended, Cervantes. University of California: law school. Department of Veterans Affairs: veterans’ services.
Existing law requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to disburse funds, appropriated to the department for the purpose of supporting county veterans service officers pursuant to the annual Budget Act, on a pro rata basis, to counties that have established and maintain a county veterans service officer in accordance with the staffing level and workload of each county veterans service officer under a formula based upon performance developed by the department.
This bill would define a workload unit for purposes of these provisions to mean a specific claim activity that is used to allocate subvention funds to counties, which is approved by the department, and performed by county veterans service officers. The bill would appropriate on an annual basis the sum of $7,000,000 from the General Fund to the Department of Veterans Affairs to be available for allocation to counties to fund the activities of county veterans service officers, as specified. The bill would also delete obsolete provisions and would make conforming changes.

The California Constitution provides that the University of California constitutes a public trust administered by the Regents of the University of California, a corporation in the form of a board, with full powers of organization and government, subject to legislative control only for specified purposes.

This bill would appropriate an unspecified sum of moneys from the General Fund to the Regents of the University of California each fiscal year, commencing with the 2019–20 fiscal year, to be expended only for the creation, construction, and establishment of a public law school in the County of Riverside administered by the University of California.

Vote: 2/3   Appropriation: YES   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Since 2001, the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Africa have created a new generation of veterans who may be eligible for federal veteran’s benefits because of their wartime service and their physical and mental conditions.
(b) Californians make up to 10 percent of the federal military forces deployed in these conflicts. Furthermore, the California National Guard and other California-based reserve units have made significant contributions to these current conflicts.
(c) Many of the more than 400,000 returning California veterans are not aware of the federal and state benefits that are available to them.
(d) Additionally, it is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of veterans, as well as their widows or widowers, in California, who are unaware that they may be eligible for pensions from the federal government based upon their or their spouses’ past military service in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or the Gulf War.
(e) California’s county veterans service officers are the initial local point of contact for claimants accessing the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
(f) California’s veteran benefits delivery model is similar to many other states that have a close partnership between the state and the county veterans service officers. These county veteran service officers are the “boots on the ground” and act as the distributed network for outreach, claim initiation, and development.
(g) A California Department of Veterans Affairs report to the Legislature in 2007 titled, “Strategies to Improve California’s Utilization of Veteran Benefits,” noted that in comparison to Florida and Texas, two other states with comparable veterans populations, California could increase federal benefits into the state if it put more trained, professional veteran service representatives in the field. This finding was also supported by independent research.
(h) Performance metrics gathered from when county veterans service officer funding was first authorized shows a direct correlation between increased state funding for new hires and increased monetary benefits for veterans.
(i) The cost of maintaining county veterans service officers are shared between county general funds and state reimbursement to the counties. In 1997, in order to track performance, the Legislature enacted, and the Governor signed into law, Senate Bill 608, which required the California Department of Veterans Affairs to annually report the amount of monetary benefits paid to veterans by the federal government that are attributable to the assistance of county veterans service officers. Senate Bill 608 also required the Department of Finance to consider an increase in the annual budget for county veterans service officers of up to $5 million, if approved in the annual budget process. In 2009, the Legislature enacted, and the Governor signed into law, Senate Bill 419, which raised this amount to $11 million, if approved in the annual budget process.
(j) As a result of this annual reporting, by the end of 2016, it was determined that from 1995 to 2016, inclusive, the state had cumulatively budgeted $58.2 million for its share of the cost of the county veterans service officers. As a result of this investment, county veterans service officers were able to assist local veterans in obtaining $5.4 billion in new federal moneys. This is a return of about $93 for every $1 the state allocates to county veterans service officers. Furthermore, the $5.4 billion only reflects the actual monetary benefits qualified for in a given year. The monetary benefits qualified for in prior years are not tracked, and yet veterans and their dependents may continue to receive those benefits for the rest of their lives. Added to this stellar return on the state’s investment, but not counted in the annual reporting, are the Medi-Cal cost avoidance savings incurred as a result of county veterans service officers qualifying and shifting veterans away from Medi-Cal and into the appropriate federal veterans program.
(k) County veterans service officers accomplished all of this without ever reaching the allowable state budget allocation of $11 million set in 2009. To date, county veterans service officers have not received more than $5.6 million per year from the state.
(l) It is critical that the county veterans service officers receive a steady stream of funding because there continues to be a large number of underserved veterans and dependents who are not aware of the federal benefits available to them as a result of their military service. Studies from other states show that increases in county veterans service officers result in larger amounts of federal moneys to veterans. These new federal moneys and benefits are paid directly from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to the qualifying veterans or their dependents and are used in the local economy.

SEC. 2.

 Section 972.1 of the Military and Veterans Code is repealed.
972.1.

(a)The sum of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) is hereby appropriated from the General Fund to the Department of Veterans Affairs for allocation, during the 1989–90 fiscal year, for purposes of funding the activities of county veterans service officers pursuant to this section. Funds for allocation in future years shall be as provided in the annual Budget Act.

(b)Funds shall be disbursed each fiscal year on a pro rata basis to counties that have established and maintain a county veterans service officer in accordance with the staffing level and workload of each county veterans service officer under a formula based upon performance that shall be developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs for these purposes, and that shall allocate county funds in any fiscal year for county veterans service officers in an amount not less than the amount allocated in the 1988–89 fiscal year.

(c)The department shall annually determine the amount of new or increased monetary benefits paid to eligible veterans by the federal government attributable to the assistance of county veterans service officers. The department shall, on or before October 1 of each year, prepare and transmit its determination for the preceding fiscal year to the Department of Finance and the Legislature. The Department of Finance shall review the department’s determination in time to use the information in the annual Budget Act for the budget of the department for the next fiscal year.

(d)(1)The Legislature finds and declares that 50 percent of the amount annually budgeted for county veterans service officers is approximately eleven million dollars ($11,000,000). The Legislature further finds and declares that it is an efficient and reasonable use of state funds to increase the annual budget for county veterans service officers in an amount not to exceed eleven million dollars ($11,000,000) if it is justified by the monetary benefits to the state’s veterans attributable to the effort of these officers.

(2)It is the intent of the Legislature, after reviewing the department’s determination in subdivision (c), to consider an increase in the annual budget for county veterans service officers in an amount not to exceed five million dollars ($5,000,000), if the monetary benefits to the state’s veterans attributable to the assistance of county veteran service officers justify that increase in the budget.

(e)This section shall become operative January 1, 2016.

SEC. 3.

 Section 972.1 is added to the Military and Veterans Code, to read:

972.1.
 (a) Funds shall be disbursed each fiscal year on a pro rata basis to counties that have established and maintain a county veterans service officer in accordance with the staffing level and workload of each county veterans service officer under a formula based upon performance that shall be developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs for these purposes.
(b) For the purposes of this section, “workload unit” means a specific claim activity that is used to allocate subvention funds to counties, which is approved by the department, and performed by county veterans service officers.
(c) The department shall annually determine the amount of new or increased monetary benefits paid to eligible veterans by the federal government attributable to the assistance of county veterans service officers. The department shall, on or before October 1 of each year, prepare and transmit its determination for the preceding fiscal year to the Department of Finance and the Legislature. The Department of Finance shall review the department’s determination in time to use the information in the annual Budget Act for the budget of the department for the next fiscal year.
(d) The Legislature finds and declares that it is an efficient and reasonable use of state funds to increase the annual budget for county veterans service officers up to a total of eleven million dollars ($11,000,000) if it is justified by the monetary benefits to the state’s veterans attributable to the effort of these county veterans service officers.

SEC. 4.

 Section 972.3 is added to the Military and Veterans Code, to read:

972.3.
 Notwithstanding Section 13340 of the Government Code, the sum of seven million dollars ($7,000,000) is hereby appropriated annually from the General Fund each fiscal year commencing July 1, 2018, to the Department of Veterans Affairs to be available for allocation to counties to fund the activities of county veterans service officers pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 972.1.

SECTION 1.Article 7 (commencing with Section 92165) is added to Chapter 2 of Part 57 of Division 9 of Title 3 of the Education Code, to read:
7.Construction of a University of California School of Law in the County of Riverside
92165.

(a)The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(1)A robust and functioning legal system is an essential element to a free and democratic society.

(2)Schools of law are not only invaluable institutions of legal education, but also as centers of regional legal systems and communities. These schools of law serve as hubs for the sharing of legal ideas and as drivers of local legal economies.

(3)The last school of law established by the University of California was at the University of California, Irvine, in 2008. The only other school of law operated by the University of California in southern California is located at the University of California, Los Angeles.

(4)The Inland Empire, with a population of more than 4.2 million people, is one of the most populous regions of the state. The unique needs and concerns of the Inland Empire are distinct and different from those even in other parts of southern California, including the Counties of Los Angeles and Orange.

(5)The geographical distance between many Inland Empire communities and Westwood or Irvine, especially with traffic congestion factored in, makes attendance at the schools of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, or the University of California, Irvine, logistically difficult for prospective law students in the Counties of Riverside and San Bernardino.

(6)There is currently no school of law in the Inland Empire operated by the University of California. Indeed, there is only one school of law in the entire region that is accredited either by the American Bar Association or by the Committee of Bar Examiners.

(7)The lack of a public school of law in the Inland Empire is detrimental not only to prospective law students, but to the health of the legal community in the region.

(b)The sum of ____ dollars ($____) is hereby appropriated from the General Fund to the Regents of the University of California each fiscal year, commencing with the 2019–20 fiscal year, to be expended only for the creation, construction, and establishment of a public law school in the County of Riverside administered by the University of California.

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