California Gov. Jerry Brown today vetoed A.B. 811, a bill that would have required the government to provide youth in state care—be they juvenile halls or foster homes—with reasonable access to computers and the Internet for educational purposes. In some cases, juveniles would also have been able to use computers to stay in touch with their families and for extracurricular and social activities.
The bill, authored by Assemblymember Mike Gipson, was supported by the Youth Law Center, EFF, and Facebook, and received no opposition when it landed on the governor's desk. More than 250 supporters sent letters to the legislature and the governor asking for this bill to become law.
The good news is that Brown took the concept to heart. In vetoing the bill [PDF], he left the door open for future legislation:
While I agree with this bill's intent, the inclusion of state facilities alone will cost upwards of $15 million for infrastructure upgrades. Also, the reasonable access standard in this bill is vague, and could lead to implementation questions on top of the potentially costly state mandate created by the legislation.
I therefore urge the proponents to revisit the local aspects of this bill in the future, taking these concerns under advisement. In the meantime, I am directing the Department of Juvenile Justice to present a plan in the coming year to provide computer and Internet access as soon as is practicable, and that can be budgeted for accordingly.
EFF welcomes the governor's commitment to bringing the Internet to state juvenile detention facilities through administrative action, and we are glad to see that he's open to new legislation and budgeting for next year. However, we are disappointed that, in a year when he approved a $3.1 billion injection of funds into K-12 schools and community colleges, improving educational opportunities for these at-risk youth was not seen as an immediate statewide priority.
EFF is proud to have lent our technological and policy expertise to this campaign, and we thank the hundreds of Californians who stood up for the rights of youth. We hope you will join us again next year as we continue this campaign to bring Internet access to children in these challenging environments.