CA Legislature passes facilities bond measure for 2020 ballot

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The California State Assembly and Senate passed AB 48, the “Public Preschool, K-12, and College Health and Safety Bond Act of 2020” on Friday, which would put the first capital improvements funding measure eligible to the UC system since 2006 on the ballot.

If passed by California voters in March 2020, the bill will allocate $15 billion to California pre-K-12 public schools, the community college system, the UC and CSU systems for capital upgrades and seismic retrofitting. The UC system would receive $2 billion from this plan, which would cover about 25 percent of state-supportable outstanding need systemwide, according to ASUC External Affairs Vice President and UC Student Association, or UCSA, President Varsha Sarveshwar, who has been lobbying for the bill.

“AB48 is incredibly important for the safety of UC students, staff, and faculty,” Sarveshwar said in an email. “The UC has over $8 billion in outstanding deferred maintenance and seismic needs.”

According to a statement from the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, the UC system currently has more than $11.8 billion in unfunded capital needs across the 10-campus system. In addition, over half of current UC-owned spaces are over 30 years old.

The bill mandates that funding priority would be directed towards fire and “life safety” issues, seismic deficiencies and critical deferred maintenance issues. It also stipulates that the UC system create a five-year affordable student housing plan in order to receive the money.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has yet to officially approve the bill, although Sarveshwar said it is “very likely” that he will because of his role in the negotiating process.

A lot of effort went into the bill’s passage, according to Sarveshwar, who added that she has been working on the bill for over a year. Students called representatives and lobbied for the bill in an annual Sacramento trip hosted by UCSA in the spring.

Sarveshwar and Aidan Arasasingham, UCSA’s government relations committee chair and UCLA junior, lobbied the governor, the state Senate pro tem’s office and the Assembly speaker’s office in addition to working closely with the UC system in their advocacy efforts.

“We did a TON of work to get this bond passed,” Sarveshwar said in the email. “We at UCSA and ASUC can endorse the ballot initiative and mobilize students to support it, and I plan on doing just that.”

UC Regents also endorsed the bill in one of its early forms.

UCOP released a statement Saturday celebrating the passage of the bill and expressing a need for funding, especially with their increased enrollment over time. UCOP said they also plan to use the money to further expand their capacities, if passed.

“This would be a significant and much-needed investment in the safety and welfare of students in California’s public schools, from preschool through college,” UCOP said in a press release. “Now is the time to make a solid investment in our schools, our students and California’s future.”

Kate Finman is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.