Community and Government Report - May 2012
Interest Rates on Stafford Loans May Double
Interest rates on federally subsidized Stafford student loans will double on July 1, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, unless legislation is passed to keep the rates at 3.4 percent, the level they have been at since 2007, when legislation was passed to cut the rate in half. Both President Obama and likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney oppose the rate increase and have vowed to fight it. However, even with high-level bipartisan agreement on the matter, it has been mired in Congressional conflict.
In response to the possible increase in interest rates, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a Republican-sponsored bill on April 27 that would prevent the interest on student loans from doubling in July. The bill, which was approved on a largely party-line vote of 215 to 195, would pay the $6 billion cost of keeping the interest rate at 3.4 percent by using funds for preventive health care that are part of Obama’s health care overhaul. Obama has vowed to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.
The bill now advances to the Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats. Many doubt that the House version will pass the Senate. The uncertainty of the interest rate increase has many students and families watching this issue very closely. My office will continue to monitor developments on this matter.
Fight Goes On to Maintain Cal Grant Funding
On March 7, the state Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Higher Education Finance rejected the governor’s original proposal to reduce funding for Cal Grants by 44 percent. At a subcommittee hearing prior to the vote, SMC student Alana Armstrong ’12 provided compelling testimony on the importance of Cal Grant to her and other Saint Mary’s students. The state Senate accepted testimony on the measure in an April 19 budget hearing but took no action. Instead, the Senate plans to wait until the governor releases his “May Revise” budget later this month before acting on the proposal.
In an effort to keep this issue in the forefront of the legislature, Brother Ronald hosted four members of the California legislature on campus on April 20 to review the matter with students directly impacted by the proposed cuts. State Senator Mark DeSaulnier and Assemblymembers Susan Bonilla, Nancy Skinner and Joan Buchanan all expressed support for continued full funding of Cal Grants.
Races Set for June, November
The 2012 Congressional elections will be conducted under the new district maps approved by the citizens commission formed to take the politics out of the map drawing. As a result of these new districts, Rep. George Miller will seek reelection in the new 11th Congressional District, which includes Moraga and Saint Mary’s. Miller will have two challengers in the Democratic primary, Cheryl Sudduth and John Fitzgerald. Virginia Fuller is the only Republican to file in the 11th District. In California’s new open primary format, the top two candidates in the primary, regardless of party, will advance to the November general election.
Rep. John Garamendi, who had represented Moraga and Saint Mary’s, will seek reelection to the House of Representatives in the new 3rd Congressional District, which lies primarily in the Sacramento Valley region.
Democratic State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier will be challenged by Republican Mark Meuser in the state’s 7th Senate District.
Running in the new 16th Assembly District, Democratic Assemblymember Joan Buchanan will be challenged by Republican Al Phillips. Both Assembly members Susan Bonilla and Nancy Skinner did not draw any opponents, so they are deemed elected and will have little election activity.
County Supervisor Mary Piepho of District III and Federal Glover of District V were unopposed and therefore will not face the voters this year. Running to replace retiring Supervisor Gayle Uilkema for the 2nd supervisorial district are Tomi Van de Brooke, Sean White and Candace Anderson. County Board of Supervisors elections are nonpartisan.
Any U.S. citizen who is 18 years old on Election Day (June 5, 2012) may and should vote. You must be registered by May 21 in order to vote. Voter registration forms are available at the Registrar’s Office and in my office, 121 Brother Jerome West Hall.
On April 19, Brother Ronald Gallagher gave his State of the College address to the community in Lafayette. This annual event was attended by many community leaders. During the address Brother Ronald reviewed recent SMC accomplishments, outlined the College’s plans for the next five years and announced plans for the upcoming sesquicentennial year.
Congratulations to Ellen Beans for being selected Moraga’s Citizen of the Year. Ellen has been a friend of the College by sending out timely email bulletins to the Moraga community announcing many College events, such as athletic team arrivals and departures for special events, including this year’s NCAA appearance by the men’s basketball team.
Senator Dan Boatwright Dies
Contra Costa and California suffered a great loss with the recent death of former State Sen. Dan Boatwright. The Concord Democrat served 16 years in the state Senate after serving eight years in the state Assembly. He was a legislative giant the likes of which probably will never be seen again. During his legislative career, Boatwright secured $1.05 billion of state funding to widen Interstate 680 and reconstruct the I-680-Highway 24 interchange, making it easier to access Saint Mary’s from Central Contra Costa and the Sacramento region. Additionally, he pushed for expansion of Mount Diablo State Park, and he secured funding to extend BART to Pittsburg. Lastly, he was an early advocate for property tax reform before the landmark Proposition 13 was imposed by the voters in 1978. Many believe that had the Boatwright proposals been adopted in the late 1970s, the local financial situation would not be as dire as what we are experiencing today.
Director of Community and Government Relations