Bonta tackles worker co-ops, community college accreditation in new bills

Bonta tackles worker co-ops, community college accreditation in new bills

Michele Ellson
Rob Bonta

Bills that would revamp the community college accreditation process and permit worker cooperatives are among the nearly two dozen proposed so far by Alameda Assemblyman Rob Bonta during the second half of the 2013-14 legislative session.

The 22 pieces of legislation that Bonta, who has announced he plans to run for re-election this fall, has introduced since February include bills that seeks to boost the amount of produce available to people living in "food deserts," grant the Oakland Unified School District more time to sell surplus property to help pay off a $100 million loan from the state and grant union-friendly changes to bargaining rules.

Authored in the wake of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges’ decision to revoke City College of San Francisco’s accreditation – a move that could shutter the school – Bonta’s community college bill would allow community college districts to choose another accrediting agency to review their operations and would require the agency to make its findings at a public hearing. In a press release, Bonta said the accrediting agency “compromised and unfairly singled out community colleges in an inconsistent manner.”

The state’s 112 community colleges are all required to undertake accreditation proceedings with the commission, which conducts much of its work in secret. The bill would also require the accrediting agencies to disclose its employees’ and contractors’ income and expenditures and would allow colleges to appeal accreditors’ decisions.

The bill has the support of the California Federation of Teachers and also, representatives of San Francisco’s community colleges and Bonta’s old employer, the San Francisco City Attorney’s office – which is reportedly suing the accrediting agency over its actions.

Another Bonta bill, co-authored by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, would make it easier for workers to set up cooperative businesses that they can control. The bill creates a special limited liability corporation category for the cooperatives that will require workers to own and control the business.

Other bills seek to establish the “intent” of the Legislature to enact laws promoting job and business growth and to incentivize owners with unused property to allow local entrepreneurs to start businesses on it.

Bonta’s proposed legislation includes a bill that would allow cities and counties to establish an “urban agricultural incentive zone” where small-scale urban farming would be permitted on vacant, blighted or unused property and where incentives could be offered to grocers, farmers markets and other small businesses in an effort to increase the availability of fresh produce in areas regarded as “food deserts” for their lack of it.

It also includes bills that would extend state reimbursements to crime victims who seek outpatient counseling and eliminate the fee requirement for the state’s part-day preschool program.

Bonta – who helped mediate a contentious contract dispute between the Alameda Unified School district and its teachers – has also proposed a bill that would require school districts to provide unions representing non-teaching staff 15 days’ notice of any plans to change the terms of workers’ employment and another that would allow one party to seek a mediator if contract talks fall apart instead of requiring that both parties agree it is needed.

Another Bonta bill would slow the Bay Area Rapid Transit district's contribution to retiree health benefits for workers – including BART board directors – hired after January 1, a move a Bonta staffer said would save the district $13.8 million over 30 years.

Five bills Bonta authored at the beginning of the current session continue to wind through the Legislature. Those include a bill that would put condoms in prisons, which passed the Assembly in late January and has been referred to a Senate committee.

Comments

Submitted by The elephant (not verified) on Thu, Mar 20, 2014

Too little, too late for Bonta. Don't forget his support of the BART unions come November, attempting to undercut the negotiating by BART management. His constituents are the public employee unions, not the residents of Alameda. Shame on you Rob Bonta!