Blocking the passage of bills regarding financial aid for undocumented students and textbook affordability, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued two vetoes on Saturday.
The governor vetoed Senate Bill One, the California Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or D.R.E.A.M. Act, and Senate Bill 832 – the College Textbook Affordability Act. However, he did sign Assembly Bill 1548, an alternative textbook bill which requires both university bookstores to release the textbook wholesale price and for publishers to print a list of revisions made to new editions. This alternative bill known as the College Textbook Transparency Act becomes effective in 2010.
The vetoed textbook bill, SB 832, which was sponsored by the California Student Public Interest Research Group, had similar requirements as the bill that did pass, but it would have also required publishers to issue an estimate as to how long each edition would remain unrevised. The vetoed bill also required university professors to provide this information to students and post lists online immediately.
The approved textbook bill, AB 1548[, which was supported by the Association of American Publishers, will offer information to faculty members regarding wholesale prices and edition changes, but only upon request.
Tessa Atkinson-Adams, a CalPIRG project coordinator for the textbook campaign, said she and the organization feel Schwarzenegger made the wrong choice. However, she also said CalPIRG will plan to tackle the problem in the future by creating projects that will offer textbooks online for free, among other things.
“We’re very disappointed in the governor’s decision,” Atkinson-Adams, a third-year political science and environmental studies major, said. “AB 1548 does nothing to correct the market imbalance. It just goes to show that the publishing companies really are making an effort to not disclose their prices and to continue to use unfair business practices.”
In his veto message, Schwarzenegger wrote that he signed AB 1548 because it dealt with not only the publishing industry, but bookstores and professors as well.
“This bill [SB 832] focuses strictly on textbook publisher policies and fails to recognize that the affordability of textbooks is a shared responsibility among publishers, college bookstores and faculty members,” Schwarzenegger wrote. “Many of the same concepts in SB 832 are included in AB 1548, but AB 1548 recognizes the shared responsibility and attempts to address the issue in a more comprehensive manner.”
Additionally, Schwarzenegger vetoed the California D.R.E.A.M. Act, which would have provided financial assistance to undocumented college students who possess a high school diploma and went to a California high school for three or more years.
The University of California Student Association has served as a major supporter of the bill and Associated Students On-Campus Rep. Paulina Abustan said the governor’s decision surprised her.
“We were not expecting this,” Abustan said. “We’ve been tabling and had a bunch of people sign the petition telling the governor to support it and all of our representatives were supporting it.”
Yet, the bill has failed in past attempts. First introduced in 2005, Schwarzenegger did not sign an earlier version of the bill in September 2006. With this new veto, the bill cannot appear again on the legislature’s agenda until next year.
Currently, under another bill passed in 2002 – AB 540 – non-resident students who graduated from California high schools are allowed to pay in-state tuition rates at California colleges and universities.
Gov. Schwarzenegger noted that law and emphasized the financial difficulties that would have arisen with the passage of the act in his veto statement.
“At a time when segments of California public higher education … are raising fees on all students attending college in order to maintain the quality of education provided, it would not be prudent to place additional strain on the General Fund to accord the new benefit of providing state-subsidized financial aid to students without lawful immigration status,” Schwarzenegger said.
Meanwhile, the federal D.R.E.A.M. Act will appear on the Senate’s agenda on Nov. 16. If passed, it would allow students who entered the U.S. illegally to follow a path toward acquiring a legal status. Under the proposed federal bill, undocumented residents under 30 who entered into the U.S. before turning 16 could reach legal status by living in the U.S. for five years, receiving a high school diploma and serving in the military for two years.