Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mental Health Services Update

On November 29, 2010 the California Legislature urged the California Court of Appeal to directly take up California School Boards Association v. Commission on State Mandates, which would otherwise first have to come up on appeal from a trial court.

In the amicus curiae letter, submitted by the California Office of Legislative Counsel, legislative counsel Diane F. Boyer-Vine and Chief Deputy Jeffrey A. DeLand, attorneys for the California Legislature, assert four key points:

1. As a recipient of federal IDEA funding, California is obligated by federal law to provide necessary mental health services to students with exceptional needs.

2. California counties' statutory obligation to provide mental health services is a state mandate that the Legislature is constitutionally directed to either fully fund or suspend each fiscal year.

3. The suspension of a mandate "in a manner prescribed by law" requires that the mandate be identified by the Legislature for suspension in the annual budget act and cannot result from the governor's statement in a veto message.

4. The governor's statement of suspension of mental health services mandates must be declared invalid without further delay, to avoid continuing confusion and harm to local governments and to students with exceptional needs

This lawsuit, filed by the CSBA and two school districts on November 9, was the second filed against Governor Schwarzenegger since he cut the funding for the services on October 8. The lawsuit alleges that the Governor overstepped his authority by vetoing funding for a state school program that provides mental health services to students and that eliminating the program requires a two-thirds legislative vote under Proposition 1A. The school districts involved in the lawsuit are Los Angeles Unified School District and Manhattan Beach Unified School District.

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