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California Capitol Hill Bulletin

                           Volume 7, Bulletin 9 — March 16, 2000    [or see pdf version]

H-1B Visa Bill Introduced by Californians
House Budget Committee Reports FY01 Budget
California County and City Officials Make Congressional Visits; State Legislators to Arrive Next Week
Field Hearing On Border Patrol and Drug Trafficking Held in San Diego
Education Secretary Focuses on High Latino Dropout Rates
PPIC California Issues Forum Focuses on Education Finance and Equity

To expand communications between Washington and California, the California Institute provides periodic faxed bulletins regarding current activity on Capitol Hill which directly impacts our state. Bulletins are published weekly during sessions of Congress, and occasionally during other periods. The e-mail edition is made possible in part by in kind donations from Sun Microsystems and QUALCOMM, Inc.

H-1B Visa Bill Introduced by Californians

A bipartisan cross-section of the California congressional delegation, led by Reps. David Dreier (Covina) and Zoe Lofgren (San Jose) introduced H.R. 3983 on Wednesday, March 15 to increase to 200,000 the number of H-1B visas available for skilled foreign workers. Reps. Cal Dooley (Visalia), Anna Eshoo (Atherton), Nancy Pelosi (San Francisco) and 17 other members of the House were also original co-sponsors.

In addition to raising the number of visas to 200,000 (85,000 more than the current year’s level) for the next three years, the bill sets aside 70,000 H-1B visas for aliens with a Master’s degree or higher and specifies that 10,000 visas are to be used by institutions of higher education. H.R. 3983 would increase the fee paid by employers from $500 to $1,000, and earmark revenues from this fee to the following four areas:

1) $66 million annually to increase funding for the Stafford Student Loan Forgiveness Program – doubling the forgiveness program to $10,000 for math and science teachers in low income schools;

2) $34 million annually to increase funding for the Upward Bound Math & Science Program;

3) $30 million annually to National Science Foundation Scholarships for low income undergraduate and graduate students studying math, engineering, and computer science; and

4) $50 million annually to increase funding for the Regional Skills Alliances worker training programs.

The Senate Judiciary Committee reported its version of the bill, S. 2045, last week. Although the bills are similar, the Senate bill raises the number of visas to 195,000 (with up to an additional 20,000 for institutions of higher education) and does not raise the visa application fee from the current $500 level. See, Bulletin, Vol. 7, No. 8 (3/9/00).

House Budget Committee Reports FY01 Budget

The House Budget Committee on Wednesday, March 16, reported a $1.8 trillion FY01 budget by a vote of 23-18. The resolution calls for $596.5 billion in discretionary funding for FY01, which is about $10 billion more than the FY00 budget. It includes $10 billion in FY01 tax cuts, and projects a total of $150 billion in cuts over the five years of the plan. Tax cuts could rise to about $250 billion, however. The bill sets aside an additional $50 billion in a reserve fund for either debt reduction or tax cuts, and would allow for greater tax cuts depending on the Congressional Budget Office’s June revised surplus numbers. The tax cuts would come from projected non-Social Security surpluses, with the proposal making any Social Security surplus off limits.

During the markup, Democrats offered about 20 amendments to the bill, all of which were defeated along mostly party lines. One amendment attempted to offer Presidential candidate George W. Bush’s budget and tax plan as a substitute. Bush’s plan calls for about a $483 billion tax cut over five years. A parliamentary procedure avoided a vote on the amendment.

California County and City Officials Make Congressional Visits; State Legislators to Arrive Next Week

More than 50 California County officials, including the leaders of the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) visited Washington in early March during the annual National Association of Counties conference. CSAC officials met with key congressional aides to discuss federal priorities, such as Title XX (Social Services Block Grant), the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant, and other county-related issues. The CSAC contingent met with Rep. Wally Herger (Marysville) with regard to Title XX and Internet sales tax, as well as with Governor Gray Davis’ Washington office staff, agreeing to continue to work closely with the Governor’s Washington office on issues of mutual interest. This year’s CSAC Caucus featured Zina Pierre, special assistant to the president for Intergovernmental Affairs, and Chad Calvert, director of the Western Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. The caucus is chaired by Rep. George Radanovich (Mariposa), a former county supervisor from Mariposa County. In addition, CSAC’s Washington representatives, Waterman & Associates, conducted an issues briefing at the caucus.

The California League of Cities spent the early part of the week of March 13 in town, attending the National League of Cities annual meeting. During their visit, the members of the League held a breakfast on Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill. In addition to remarks by Rep. Jerry Lewis (Redlands), James Lee Witt, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) addressed the group. While assuring the city officials that FEMA was seriously considering all of their comments with regard to the Public Assistance Insurance rule, Director Witt emphasized that FEMA would proceed with its rulemaking. He pointed out that on average FEMA spends $2.5 billion annually in federal assistance for disasters, and state and local governments must now begin to pay some portion of that cost through public building insurance.

The State Legislature will make its annual trip to Washington from Sunday, March 19 through Wednesday, March 22. During its visit, the state Assembly members and Senators will meet with White House and Congressional leaders. Several roundtable discussions on issues ranging from transportation to e-commerce are planned with members of the California congressional delegation.

Field Hearing On Border Patrol and Drug Trafficking Held in San Diego

On Tuesday, March 7, the Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resource’s Subcommittee on Government Reform held a hearing in San Diego discussing the efforts to decrease smuggling of illegal drugs across borders and the impact of those efforts on local communities in California. Rep. Brian Bilbray (Imperial Beach) and Chairman John Mica (FL) hosted the hearing at which local and federal officials testified.

Witnesses at the hearing included: Diane Jacob, San Diego County Supervisor; Greg Cox, San Diego City Councilman; Lt. Bob Kanaski, San Diego Police Department; Jack Campana, Director, Comprehensive Health and Physical Education, San Diego School District; Tom Hall, Chief of Police, San Diego Unified School District; Judge Bonnie Dumanis, Superior Court Judge, San Diego, Ca.; Undersheriff Jack Drown, Executive Committee Chair, California Border Alliance Group; Captain Robert Allen, Commander, San Diego Activities, U.S. Coast Guard; Edward Logan, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Customs Service; William Veal, Chief Patrol Agent, San Diego Sector, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

One of the witnesses, William T. Veal of the INS testified to the recent success border patrol has had with a law enforcement initiative, Operation Gatekeeper, which was established in 1995. “Operation Gatekeeper combines an immediate, highly visible border presence with improved infrastructure consisting of all-weather border roads, improved fencing, stadium lighting, night vision scopes and electronic sensors…operating at the aforementioned checkpoints leading north to Los Angeles and the interior of California.” In 1995 when the Operation was established, San Diego seized close to 2,000 pounds of cocaine and 80,000 pounds of marijuana. Four years later, drug seizures dropped to nearly 400 pounds of cocaine and 25,000 pounds of marijuana.

Another witness, Edward W. Logan of the U.S. Customs Service, discussed the Border Coordination Initiative (BCI), which integrates law enforcement agencies and has proven effective in pooling the expertise among agencies. Also a shared resource, tactical intelligence through Intelligence Collection and Analysis Teams (ICATs), helps to establish patterns in smuggling and concealment methods, Mr. Logan stated. He further discussed the challenges that Customs faces: ecstasy and marijuana proliferation, Mexican pharmaceuticals, and stolen cars being driven into Mexico.

At the local level, Dianne Jacob, Chairwoman of the San Diego Board of Supervisors testified concerning the effects Methamphetamine has had on the San Diego community and their efforts to combat Meth’s proliferation. In San Diego, 43 percent of people arrested for crimes were under the influence of Meth in 1997. Every week in San Diego, two people die from an overdose of Meth. As a result, according to Ms. Jacob, San Diego has taken a four prong approach called the Meth Strike Force, to combat Meth usage: prevention, intervention, interdiction and treatment. Meth Strike Force combines law enforcement, health officials, and educators at the federal, state and local levels. Since its creation in 1996, Meth-related deaths have dropped by 30 percent, Meth-related drug arrests decreased by 14 percent, availability has dropped by 14 percent, and local cleanups and seizures have decreased by 50 percent, according to Ms. Jacobs.

Greg Cox, a Supervisor for San Diego County, expressed the need for more funds to combat the drug and alcohol abuses in San Diego. He pointed to the Dependency Court Recovery Project, which targets documented child abuse and neglect cases that are a direct result of alcohol or drug dependency and works with drug treatment and weekly monitoring. The successful project, however, has reached its operational capacity and now can serve just two percent of the drug-involved criminal cases in San Diego, according to Mr. Cox. Because drug-related cases coming from the border now account for over half of all felony cases issued in the South Bay, Cox asked for more federal financial assistance to the area to combat drug proliferation.

For more information, contact the House Committee on Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources at (202)225-5074, or at their web site: .

Education Secretary Focuses on High Latino Dropout Rates

Addressing a multicultural high school in Washington DC on Wednesday, Education Secretary Richard Riley focused attention on a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education which finds that the high school dropout rate of Hispanic students is as much as double that of African American students and triple that of white students. The report, entitled “Transforming Education for Hispanic Youth: Exemplary Practices, Programs, and Schools,” is available on the web at .

Citing 1994 census data on 16- to 24-year-olds from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) the report finds that 8 percent of whites, 13 percent of black non-Hispanics, and 30 percent of Hispanics had reported having left school without a diploma. The study also found disparity in college graduations in 1994, with 11 percent of Hispanics, 14 percent of African Americans, and nearly one third of whites holding bachelor’s degrees. Secretary Riley focused on the statistics to bolster his argument for the use of dual language instruction in classrooms.

The report argued that the high dropout rate is the result of various negative factors facing Hispanic students and Hispanics generally in society: “Many Hispanic students live in the nation’s most economically distressed areas. They attend overcrowded schools that are in physical disrepair, are inadequately staffed, and lack sufficient instructional materials. Hispanic youth see the devastating effects of their elders’ limited employment opportunities and job ceilings. They encounter stereotypes, personal prejudice, and social bias that often is part of larger anti-immigrant forces in this society.”

Nationwide, three million students have limited English proficiency, 75 percent of whom are Latino. Riley noted that nearly half of foreign-born Hispanic students drop out, compared to just 16 percent of U.S.-born Hispanics. According to the Census Bureau, roughly one third of California’s population is Hispanic, compared to just 11 percent of the U.S. population, and the state houses more than a third of the nation’s Latino population.

PPIC California Issues Forum Focuses on Education Finance and Equity

In its fourth annual California Issues Forum on Wednesday, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) addressed “Equal Resources, Equal Outcomes? The Progress of School Finance Reform in California.”

In welcoming remarks, PPIC President and CEO David Lyon noted that the Institute has begun long term study of education matters by tracking data down to the student level, an impressive feat in a field typically populated with state- or district-level data. Lyon introduced Dr. John Sonstelie of U.C. Santa Barbara and co-author of the PPIC’s recent report entitled “Better or Worse? School Finance Reform in California;” PPIC Senior Fellow Julian Betts, co-author of the recent report on “The Distribution of School Resources and Student Achievement in California;” and Sacramento Bee Contributing Editor Peter Schrag, who would later offer summarizing remarks.

Dr. Sonstelie noted that, thanks to the State Supreme Court’s Serrano v. Priest decision and then Proposition 13, California has moved from local finance to state of education. While the shift has reduced some disparity between revenues in school districts, the net result of the move to state control has been to reduce voters’ appetites for education spending. He noted that in the 1960s, when education funding was primarily a local venture, property taxes were the source of the “next dollar” spent on education. Since the burden of this new funding was often borne by businesses, voters could raise education spending and not feel the tax pinch as much as now, when state income taxes are the source of that next education dollar. Dr. Sonstelie also noted that per pupil spending has declined in California from about 10% above the national average in the late 1970s to about 5% below the national average today. He suggested that the state’s current school finance system is an anomaly, with governance at the local level (with school boards) but finance at the state level (with the State Legislature), and proposed that both functions should be centered at the same governance level: either state or local.

Dr. Betts focused on the extent to which resources vary across schools, whether poor children receive fewer school resources, and whether unequal resources lead to unequal achievement. The study he co-authored found that there is very little disparity among class size, some among teacher preparation and education, somewhat more among teacher certification. However, the study found that a student’s socioeconomic status was a vastly more significant predictor of academic achievement than any of these school-level inputs. He suggested that efforts to remedy differential achievement levels among schools and school districts through teacher certification and education requirements or teacher-supply efforts such as bonuses for work in disadvantaged areas might have some limited positive impact. But he suggested that efforts to address poverty have the potential to go much further.

In the afternoon, the forum featured remarks by State Secretary of Education Gary Hart, followed by an education policy panel discussion featuring representative from the California Teachers Association, a school administrator, a school board member, and other education experts.

Secretary Hart commented that the State continues to have a key role in equity issues, and needs to focus resources on places where you may not necessarily expect success to occur, as well as on accountability. He suggested that socioeconomic status and poverty indices are the important, as PPIC found, but that there needs to be redoubled focus on areas within the purview of the state, such as teacher quality issues. He also highlighted teacher transience as an important issue, and supported efforts to incent teachers to teach in more challenging schools. He noted that the Davis Administration has proposed $150 million for incentives to get the best and brightest teachers teaching in disadvantaged schools. He also noted the Governor’s efforts to put $100 million into retraining teachers.

Davis Campbell, Executive Director of the California School Boards Association (CSBA), noted that in a system which is 90% state funded, there ought to be adequate state resources to achieve the standards being set, adequate school facilities, and other support such as after school, summer school, Saturday school, math tutors, etc. Regarding the equity issue, he commented that basic core educational issues are the same in poor and more wealthy schools, but there is more support needed in low-performing schools. He also cautioned against simplistic solutions to complex problems.

For further information, visit the PPIC website at .
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