Ca. Tax Lawyer 2017, VOLUME 26, NUMBER 3

Message from the Chair

By Betty Williams

Who else remembers Saturday morning cartoons and Schoolhouse Rock, "I’m Just a Bill" (". . .Yes, I’m only a bill. And I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill…")? Thanks to the lyrics of Dave Frishberg in 1975, that ditty was my first understanding, at an exceedingly young age of course, of how a bill becomes a law. Little did I know that one day I would witness the process first hand, with an [extremely] minor role to play concerning California Senate Bill ("SB") 36 (Jackson). SB 36 is not only the 2017-2018 Bar Dues bill concerning State Bar annual attorney membership fees, but it is also the legislation that serves to sever the 16 Sections of the State Bar of California, and the California Young Lawyers Association ("CYLA") from the State Bar and to form a new nonprofit corporation.

Over the past several months, a small group of interested practitioners from several of the 16 Sections, including yours truly, have met with representatives from Senator Hanna-Beth Jackson’s office, the Office of the Governor, and the Office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California. We have had countless telephonic and in-person meetings, drilling down on recommended changes to the fine print in the draft legislation. The final version of recommendations provided to Senator Jackson by the Council of State Bar Sections ("CSBS") was reduced to three primary requests: to change the proposed name for the new non-governmental entity from the California Bar Sections Association, to either the California State Bar Association or the California Bar Association; to expand our mission as proposed to be more broad to allow the Sections to provide pro bono legal services, mentoring programs that enhance diversity and the ethical practices of law, and other services to members of the public, and to continue to provide expert advice on proposed and existing regulations and legislation; and that the State Bar’s current legal malpractice insurance Affinity program be transferred to the new nonprofit corporation.

I attended the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on May 9, 2017, and observed the legislation gain approval without any voiced opposition. I understand there will be more changes as SB 36 works its way through the legislative process, and I am urged to be patient regarding other substantive change requests as well as the provisions that hurt my ears (for example, numerous references to our new nonprofit’s oversight by a Board of Governors rather than a Board of Directors). I was pleased to read the recent article summarizing Assemblyman Mark Stone’s concerns about some of the requirements the bill would place on the proposed new nonprofit entity for the Sections. Stone, who is the chair of his chamber’s Judiciary Committee, said, "If we are going to move the sections out into their own organization, the less prescriptive we are about how they conduct their business, the better." (Los Angeles Daily Journal, State Senate Unanimously Approves State Bar Funding Bill, Lyle Moran, May 17, 2017). If the legislation passes the full Senate, the Assembly Judiciary Committee, and the full assembly, it will ultimately be up to Governor Brown to sign or veto by October 15, 2017.

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