Opt Out Bill Passes Committee

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday April 28, 2006

Despite the absence of public speakers in opposition at a hearing held this week in the state Assembly Education Committee, a high school military recruitment notification bill co-sponsored by Bay Area Assemblymembers Loni Hancock and Sally Lieber only won the support of committee Democrats, leaving much work to be done if the bill is to become state law. 

The Hancock-Lieber bill would require that school districts within the state place an “opt out” military recruitment notification on the high school emergency information forms filled out each year by parents. 

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, military recruiters are allowed access to high school student contact information unless the student or their parents choose to “opt out,” notifying the school that they do not wish to be contacted by the military.  

Hancock represents Berkeley in the assembly, while Lieber represents San Jose. Both are Democrats. 

At this week’s Assembly Education Committee meeting, Lieber told legislators that when Pajaro Valley Unified School District administrators voluntarily placed the opt out provision on emergency contact forms, parents or students choosing to opt out went from 16 percent of the school population to 63 percent. Pajaro Valley USD is in Watsonville. 

But that argument was not enough to sway committee Republicans. The measure passed 7-3, with all committee Republicans voting against it without comment, and the committee’s eighth Democrat, Tom Umberg of Anaheim, not voting. 

Because Democrats only hold 60 percent of the Assembly seats, at least some Republican support would be needed to prevent a possible veto by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger if the bill were to pass the Assembly on a party partisan vote. 

The next hurdle for the Hancock-Lieber opt out bill comes in the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee. A hearing date in that committee has not yet been scheduled. The bill has already received opposition from one veterans’ organization, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of California.