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Students in New Political Science Course Draft Bills

Bill Number Two, Winter 2020:

Cal Poly students drafted a second bill that was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 4, 2019, and went into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Senate Bill 467, which was introduced by Senator Bill Monning and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Jordon Cunningham, requires the University of California and California State University systems to place cost of attendance information on their websites.

The students wrote the bill in Cal Poly’s California Bill Project class, which is taught by political science Professor Chris Den Hartog. In the class — which spanned three consecutive quarters — students were asked to choose a problem to address, develop a specific policy that would help, and think critically about its pros and cons.

In the spring of 2019, they traveled to Sacramento to lobby for their proposed legislation. This was the second time a bill project class series was offered and the second time a Cal Poly student-drafted bill became law.

Bill update, August 27, 2018:

AB2385 — the California State Assembly bill written by Cal Poly political science students, requiring textbook publishers to disclose major differences between editions — potentially saving students money statewide has officially been signed into law!

Bill update from Professor Chris Den Hartog, May 11, 2018:

In early May, California Bill Project students traveled to Sacramento to lobby for the bill.

They attended a series of seminars with lobbyists and staff to discuss the bill, along with their roles, career paths and advice for getting into government work. The students also attended a reception with Sacramento Cal Poly alumni.

Three of the students testified at an Assembly Higher Education Committee hearing on the bill; other students stood to briefly express their support after the testimony. The committee voted 12-0 to recommend passage of the bill and sent it to the floor.

We are now waiting for the floor to vote on it. If they pass the bill, which seems fairly likely, it will then go to the Senate.

Students enrolled in a new political science course are drafting a bill that will be sent to the State Legislature in hopes of passing the bill into state law.

The class, California Bill Project, is taught by Professor Chris Den Hartog, with help from former Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian. The class is working together to draft a bill acceptable for legislation.

“A class like this hasn’t been done before. It’s a new class built around this project,” said Den Hartog.

Political Science Students Draft a Bill
Political science students work together on the development of the bill.

The class was formed when Achadijan brought the idea of students drafting a bill to Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong. Den Hartog agreed to teach the class, with help from Achadijan, who has extensive experience in the State Legislature. Achadijan has attended nearly every class to assist the students in writing an effective bill. 

Den Hartog said real-world opportunities like this are not always available in the Political Science Department. This opportunity will give students firsthand experience in the legislative process.

“A lot of us want to go into legislation, public policy, or law school later on, and to
have the opportunity to make such a positive impact at the state level is very powerful,” said political science sophomore Jasmin Fashami.

The bill they are proposing would lower the amount that students at public universities pay for textbooks.

Students were asked to choose a problem they wanted to see addressed, to develop a specific policy that would help and to think critically about the pros and cons. They are also considering who is likely to oppose the bill and other laws that are applicable.

While the students are working diligently to write a successful bill, they are encountering the real-life challenges of getting a bill to the State Legislature.

Former Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and students
Former Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (right) and some of his students
discuss the development of the draft the bill.

“Potentially, it could have a large impact. Things have been moving along well so far, but it’s the nature of the legislative process that’s unpredictable,” said Den Hartog. “One of the things that students will understand by the end of the year is that even if you have a good idea, it’s not necessarily easy to pass it into law. It’s a complicated process. But it’s exciting.”

Students will finish drafting the bill this quarter. After the bill is written, students will travel to Sacramento to lobby state legislators. Den Hartog also hopes to see students testify at committee hearings to move the bill to the governor’s desk and be passed into law by the end of the academic year.

“Hopefully, it’ll benefit students – and not just Cal Poly students. If the class succeeds, it could help thousands and tens of thousands of students in the state,” said Den Hartog.

The opportunity for a bill to pass is exciting for students. However, regardless of the outcome, Den Hartog said the experience will leave students with a deeper understanding of the state’s legislative process.


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