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Farnesi

McGeorge students Robert Binning, Alex Khan and Rob Nash decided to take on the lobby industry.

Law student bills advance through California’s Capitol

July 10, 2015

Tags: Legal Clinics, Capital Center, 2015, News

Closing a lucrative Capitol lobbying loophole. Cutting red tape that slows water projects. Making advance healthcare directives readily accessible to doctors.

Those are three of the bills that McGeorge students helped to craft and introduce into the state Legislature in the past year, all aimed at making California a better place to live.

"You just put your head down, do what you're supposed to do and don't look too far ahead or else you might get discouraged," said Alex Kahn, a third-year student who with two classmates decided to go up against California's powerful lobbying industry.

Their bill would close a loophole that has allowed a significant share of Capitol lobbying to take place outside public reporting requirements. On Wednesday, the Assembly voted 79-0 to send the measure to the Senate.

Kahn, of Fair Oaks, is among 13 students in McGeorge's innovative Legislative and Public Policy Clinic. Now in its second year, the program teaches aspiring attorneys to find an issue that can be addressed through legislation, work with advocacy groups to develop a proposed law, find a legislator to introduce it, and lobby the proposal through the Capitol.

"I am pleased that our students are achieving such success," McGeorge Dean Francis J. Mootz III said of the measure championed by Kahn and his teammates. "That bill is a substantial piece of legislation that extends the scope of what constitutes lobbying, and so the result is particularly impressive."

Assemblyman Rich Gordon of Menlo Park introduced the bill. "The students of McGeorge have done the public a huge service," Gordon said in a June 2 Los Angeles Times article. "They've raised an issue which I just think people haven't paid attention to and, like me, weren't even aware of."

Other students spearheaded a measure that would pave the way for law students and licensed attorneys to serve the state through paid fellowships. Clinic students also assisted in efforts to pass SB 128, the so-called "aid-in-dying" bill.

"The results of this clinic demonstrate that even young law students can successfully navigate the difficult legislative process," said Rex Frazier, the clinic's director and an adjunct professor of law at McGeorge. "Good lawyering and knowledge of the process, combined with smart politics, can lead to real legal change."

Last year, students in the inaugural Legislative and Public Policy Clinic crafted five bills. Four were signed into law in 2014 by Gov. Jerry Brown.

One of the new laws convinced the California Supreme Court to grant a new trial to an inmate in prison for decades on the grounds that "junk science" swayed his murder conviction. Another gave victims of revenge porn the right to ask for offending material to be removed from the Internet without having to use their names. A third required state childcare facilities to consider the arrest records of job applicants. And the fourth called for training for police in recognizing and responding to signs of elder abuse.

Here is more information about the current crop of student-driven bills:

AB 1200: Procurement lobbying
The bill would create new transparency in how state contracts are awarded for some $1 billion in goods and services every year. Money spent to influence the government officials who award these contracts would be classified as lobbying, and would have to be publicly disclosed in the same way as legislative and regulatory lobbying.
Author: Assemblyman Rich Gordon
Student lobbyists: Robert Binning, of Auburn; Alex Khan, of Fair Oaks; and Rob Nash, of Bloomington, Illinois

AB 291: Streamlining notice requirements for water projects
Local government agencies right now must file a "notice of approval" or "notice of determination" for certain water projects with the clerk's office of every county in which the water project is located. This bill would allow agencies to file the notice in just one county and mail a copy to other affected counties.
Author: Assemblyman Jose Medina
Student lobbyists: Adam Borchard, of Davis; Stephen Guichard, of Sacramento; and Caroline Soto, of Elk Grove

AB 791: Electronic accessibility of advance healthcare directives
Patients are often encouraged to sign advance healthcare directives, or living wills, spelling out what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves. This bill would replace the current, unused paper-driven registry with an electronic database to store such directives so that a patient's wishes are readily, and securely, accessible to health care providers.
Author: Assemblyman Ken Cooley
Student lobbyists: Charles Deyoe, of La Mesa, and Jason Miller, of Davis

AB 100: California Law Fellowship Program
This bill would create a fellowship program for law school graduates enabling them to work in the Legislature as paid employees for a one year term. McGeorge would provide graduate education for the fellows and enable deferment of law school loans.
Author: Assemblyman Luis Alejo
Student lobbyists: Raihane Dalvi, of Sacramento; Ernesto Falcon, of Camarillo; and Amanda Kelly, of Sacramento.