Capitol Alert

University of California set to raise tuition again after six-year freeze

UC President Janet Napolitano speaks to the editorial board of The Sacramento Bee on March 9, 2016.
UC President Janet Napolitano speaks to the editorial board of The Sacramento Bee on March 9, 2016. The Sacramento Bee file

The last time the University of California tried to raise undergraduate tuition, it didn’t go so well. Officials were met with furious, aggressive student protests and a scolding response from Gov. Jerry Brown. Though UC ultimately won a funding increase from the state that kept fees flat for two more years, the hardline tactics prompted a cascade of political backlash and bad publicity.

But after a six-year tuition freeze that President Janet Napolitano says is no longer sustainable, UC is ready to increase its price again next year by nearly 3 percent. The UC Board of Regents will vote on the proposal, which was announced three weeks ago, at its meeting today in San Francisco.

The tuition hike has been anticipated for some time. And with the adoption last year of a plan to add 10,000 more Californians at its nine undergraduate campuses by the 2018-19 academic year, Napolitano said it was necessary – to hire additional faculty, increase course offerings and provide financial aid.

Whether that makes it any easier to accept for students – many of them unable to afford food and rent and frustrated about being left out of decisions on how their fees are spent – remains to be seen.

WORTH REPEATING: “When we build the wall, we need to build it up the California border.” - Republican Kansas Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, on hearing that California would ban publicly-funded travel to his state because of its religious freedom law.

CULTURE WARS: The fight that erupted in North Carolina last year is set to spread as a flurry of states introduce their own bills restricting transgender people from using the bathroom of their choosing. Meanwhile, California continues to move in the opposite direction on transgender rights: A law requiring that all public single-occupancy restrooms be gender-neutral takes effect in March, and Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, is now seeking to make it easier for Californians to change the gender on their birth certificates and driver’s licenses, including to “nonbinary.” Joined by representatives from Equality California and the Transgender Law Center, Atkins will unveil the measure at 10:30 a.m. in Room 1190 of the Capitol.

MUST READ: After a series of conferences that blurred the lines between taxpayer education and political showmanship, the California Board of Equalization capped its spending on outreach.

FORESTS IN PERIL: A staggering number of trees have died in California over the past six years of drought – more than 102 million as of last November – an environmental crisis that has sparked political clashes over funding and forest management. The U.S. Forest Service argues that its restoration efforts have been hamstrung as a growing portion of its budget is consumed fighting increasingly severe wildfires, but federal discussions have become enmeshed with a push by some conservative lawmakers to allow more commercial logging on public lands. The Little Hoover Commission, an independent state oversight agency, will hold a hearing on the dying trees and how California is responding, 9:30 a.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: Controller Betty Yee chastised Board of Equalization members for using public funds to promote themselves.

LUCKY DOG: Legislative resolutions aren’t just for humans. The latest recipient is German shepherd Phebe, a member of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s K-9 program that assists officers in apprehending suspects during raids of illegal marijuana cultivations. State Board of Equalization Chair Fiona Ma; Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg; and Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, will present the resolution to Phebe and members of the Marijuana Enforcement Team, 10 a.m. on the west steps of the Capitol. The Front Street Animal Shelter will also be there offering free pet adoptions.

MIND THE GAP: What is the best way to reduce the lingering achievement gap for low-income and minority schoolchildren? George Farkas, a professor of education at UC Irvine, will review his research on the effectiveness of different programs – from preschool and tutoring to summer instruction and charters – noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to (brand new) Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who turns 59 today, and to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, who is 52.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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