Area politicians’ bills get nod from governor

Assisting at-risk youths in getting their GED diplomas and ensuring that San Luis Obispo County is reimbursed for the costs of court trials for offenders with mental disorders are the two latest achievements claimed by local state representatives.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills making those goals law over the weekend along with hundreds of other measures in the final rush of the legislative season.

Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, shepherded SB 461, a bill to allow students enrolled in state high school dropout recovery programs to earn a high school equivalency diploma at the age of 17.

The age limit for students to take the GED was raised to 18 in 2008 in an administrative policy change, and the number of students taking the test dropped dramatically — prompting Blakeslee to bring the legislation forward.

The original purpose of the bill was to help students enrolled in Camp San Luis Obispo’s Grizzly Academy, but it was expanded to include all dropout programs throughout California.

Grizzly Academy is a voluntary five-month residential charter high school run by the National Guard and the county Office of Education for at-risk youths ages 16 to 18.

Students at the Los Alamitos Youth Academy and the eight campuses of the School for Integrated Academics and Technologies will also benefit from the new law.

Brown also signed another bill co-authored by Blakeslee — anti-bullying measure AB 1156, which would require school staff to train in prevention methods.

“Students deserve to go to school without the fear of being terrorized,” Blakeslee said in an email.

Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, authored AB 1016, which will guarantee that San Luis Obispo County and other counties are reimbursed by the state for the trial costs of “mentally disordered offenders.”

Atascadero State Hospital houses about 90 percent of the state’s mentally disordered offenders, according to a news release issued by Achadjian, and San Luis Obispo County conducts 500 such trials each year on behalf of the state.

Such trials occur when a violent offender serving parole in a state mental hospital files a petition with the court to be released back into the community.

Legislation to reimburse counties has been in place since 2006, but the state controller last year said it was unclear which state account should provide the money.

“While I was able to work with the state controller to secure payment of unpaid reimbursements from 2010, this legislation is crucial to ensure that the controller has the authority to continue making the reimbursements on an ongoing basis,” Achadjian wrote in a statement. “Thanks to the governor’s action, the San Luis Obispo County district attorney will have the resources he needs to keep these dangerous offenders off our streets.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.