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Pérez, Steinberg Back Suit Challenging Governor's Veto of Mental Health Mandate for Special Needs Students

December 2, 2010

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) and State Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) this week announced they have directed the Legislative Counsel to submit an amicus letter on the California Legislature’s behalf to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, urging the Court to directly take a case challenging Governor Schwarzenegger’s attempt to unilaterally suspend a state mandate, rather than requiring the case to come up on appeal from a trial court.

In October the Governor vetoed mental health services that counties are required to provide for children, including psychotherapy, individual and group therapy and support for medication. Article XIII B, section 6(b)(1) of the California Constitution requires any suspension of this mandate to occur through legislative action, not a governor’s veto. Because of the critical timing to ensure the mandated services continue, the legislative leaders are asking the Appeals Court to hear the case directly.

“Not only was this cut unwise, leaving counties and children who need services in limbo, it’s also unconstitutional,” Pérez said. “The Governor has overreached his constitutional authority by asserting he can suspend a mandate through a line item veto. It’s a shame Governor Schwarzenegger would want to cut mental health services for special needs students so badly that he would break the law to do it.”

“The Governor’s veto was cruel, fiscally foolish, and illegal,” Steinberg said.  “Due to the Governor’s action, thousands of children with disabilities and mental health needs will be denied help, including children with autism spectrum disorders, children with other developmental disabilities, and mental health needs.  The Governor’s action should be reversed and reversed quickly.”

Key issues raised by the Legislative Counsel in the amicus letter include the points that as a recipient of Individuals with Disabilities Act funding, California is obligated by federal law to provide necessary mental health services to pupils having exceptional needs, that 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 and that 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.

The case is California School Boards Assn. v. Commission on State Mandates.

Source:  Office of the Assembly Speaker