Capitol Alert

How John A. Pérez can legally serve both in Legislature and UC board

Gov. Jerry Brown and then-Assembly Speaker John A. Perez speak to an Assembly committee in Sacramento, Calif. on April 28, 2014.
Gov. Jerry Brown and then-Assembly Speaker John A. Perez speak to an Assembly committee in Sacramento, Calif. on April 28, 2014. jvillegas@sacbee.com

When former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez takes his seat at the University of California Board of Regents meeting Wednesday, the newly-appointed regent will – for a couple of weeks until his legislative term expires – sit both as a lawmaker and a member of the UC board.

The legality of the arrangement is counter intuitive. The state Constitution prohibits lawmakers from holding other non-elective state offices.

But the University of California is a special entity, identified in the Constitution as a public trust. It is administered by a “corporation known as ‘The Regents of the University of California,’” and the UC system is largely insulated from legislative oversight.

This degree of separation both allows Pérez to serve – courts going back more than 100 years have found regents are not public officers – and constitutes a major source of the conflict he will walk into Wednesday: One thing the UC does rely on from the Legislature is money, and system officials say too little has been forthcoming.

They are considering raising tuition by as much as 5 percent annually over each of the next five years.

Gov. Jerry Brown opposes the tuition increase, and his appointment of Pérez and Eloy Ortiz Oakley, superintendent-president of Long Beach City College, to the board on Monday amounted to a show of force.

Oakley, speaking to public radio station KPCC in Southern California on Tuesday, said he is “very concerned” about the tuition increase, while Pérez flat out opposes it.

He raised the issue of affordability in a prepared statement the day he was appointed.

“I have been privileged to work with the Governor to make college affordable and accessible for every Californian,” Pérez said the day of his appointment, “and I am very eager to continue that work as a Regent.”

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.

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