Mr. Wagner, It’s Okay to Say “My Bad” on AB 296 #Nix296

The last time I checked, politicians are human (seriously) and human beings make mistakes.  Somewhere along the line the American public decided that politicians can’t make mistakes, or rather, can’t admit when they’ve made a mistake without inciting a massive backlash complete with torches and pitchforks across traditional and social media.

After the public outcry, the next people to jump on the bandwagon are political opponents along with the 24-hour sound-clip-lovin’ news cycle.  Immediately we start hearing accusations of back-peddling, flip-flopping, or being wishy-washy on an endless loop with little substance or real discussion.

Rather than honor the courage it takes to publicly admit a misstep, we’ve inadvertently taught our political figures that, even if they make a mistake, never admit it.  And so, they don’t and we continue this vicious cycle of deception and cover-your-ass-at-all-costs politics.

Look  no further than the desperate measure made by the Texas Legislature during the epic Wendy Davis Filibuster.  Rather than admit defeat, Republicans in the Legislature opted to illegally alter public record to pass the bill under the deadline.  The altered document didn’t stand, but it’s reprehensible behavior regardless of what your stance is on the bill itself.

And in the case of special interest groups, like us, the military community, we have to be aware that our political advocates might have the very best intentions when it comes to sponsoring legislation that “helps” us, but if they don’t engage us in the conversation and crafting of their legislation, they might actually be hurting us, as in the case of AB 296.

What You Need To Know About AB 296:

In late January 2012, the Military Spouse J.D. Network sent a proposal to the State Bar of California for the passage of a licensing accommodation to allow military spouse attorneys to practice law in the state of California without having to take the State Bar Exam.

This proposal was hardly revolutionary.  The State Bar of California already makes accommodations for exemptions on examinations for two other groups of attorneys, Public Interest Attorneys and In-House Corporate Attorneys.  MSJDN sought a similar exemption status for military spouse attorneys.

MSJDN has already had success working with State Bars in several other states including North Carolina, Arizona, Texas, Idaho, and Illinois. And there’s a reason why MSJDN works directly with the State Bar rather than opt for a legislative change: state bar rules are relatively easier to change and laws are notoriously difficult to make or change – which brings us to AB 296.

AB 296 originated from Republican California Assemblyman Don Wagner’s Office (68th District) and appears to borrow some of MSJDN’s proposal repackaged as legislation.  In its original form, AB 296 would have granted military spouse attorneys exemption from the state bar exam, but in May 2013, the bill was revised.  The revision basically made the entire bill pointless.

As it stands, AB 296 grants military spouse attorneys temporary licensure and requires that they take the next available bar exam, which totally negates the accommodation MSJDN is fighting to achieve.

Why All Military Spouses Must Stand Up to #Nix296

I do not object with Mr. Wagner’s intent behind sponsoring and pushing AB 296.  What I object to is the fact that he continues to push this bill knowing that military spouse attorneys, the people he believes he is helping, are in opposition to the bill as it stands.  

1. We have to make our voice heard so that politicians know it’s okay to just say no to AB 296 by drowning out all the inevitable finger pointers decrying nay-voters as unpatriotic, un-American, or against the military community. It’s really tough to say “no” to a bill presented as a support piece for military families, even if the actual result of the legislation does more harm than good.  Nobody wants to ever be on the opposing side of helping the military community.

2. If this bill passes, regardless of how committed Mr. Wagner’s office is to continuing to fight to amend this future law (if passed) to extend the state bar exam exemption indefinitely, we know how painstakingly slow the legislative process is.  Changing an already existing law is difficult and requires a hell of a lot more support and signatures to make happen.

3. States look to precedent set by states.  If California goes this route when it comes to military spouse attorneys, do not doubt that other states are watching.  This piece of legislation creates a slippery slope that could extend to other professions that require state licensing like teachers and medical professionals.

4. The military community, and in this case, military spouses, need to be heard and talked to before coordinating or sponsoring any piece of legislation that is intended to “help us.”  If you’re not talking to us you have no idea how to help us.

5. As an extension from the reason above, if they’re not going to take the time or initiative to reach out to the military community to find out what we need, we owe it ourselves to stand-up, speak-up, and get heard.

How You Can Make Your Voice Heard to #Nix296:

From the MSJDN Blog

The Military Spouse J.D. Network is coordinating a grassroots effort to spread the word about nixing AB 296 and they need you!

You can call Senator Noreen Evans, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and tell her “I would like to state my official opposition to AB 296.” Then, call the other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee — their contact info is below.

  • Senator Noreen Evans (916) 651-4002,
  • Senator Mimi Walters (916) 651-4037,
  • Senator Joel Anderson (916) 651-4036,
Senator Ellen Corbett (916) 651-4010,
  • Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (916) 651-4019,
  • Senator Mark Leno (916) 651-4011,
  • Senator Monning (916) 651-4017,

And Mr. Wagner, it’s cool with us if you say you got it wrong.  It’s not too late to do the right thing.  We’d have your back and would be glad to come to the table to work with you and help you learn how you can effectively advocate for our servicemembers and their families.



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