Californian legislators are off for the next month, heading out of Sacramento this afternoon just ahead of the July 4th holiday and not scheduled to return until early August. At which point, they’ll have a less than month to act on the stack of bills in front of them, which includes two that carry significant implications for public broadband financing in California.
Assembly bill 2272 would about double the cost of broadband projects subsidised by the California Advanced Services Fund, by imposing union pay and work rules, regardless of who is doing the construction. So far, it’s had a painless ride through the assembly and two senate committees, and is now awaiting approval from the last committee – senate appropriations – before going to a vote on the senate floor. It was amended in the senate, which means it’ll have to go back to the assembly for concurrence, but with unanimous support from democrats as well as a handful of republican votes, there seems to be little chance it won’t end up on the governor’s desk in September.
On the other hand, assembly bill 2292, authored by San Leandro assemblyman Rob Bonta, potentially puts more money into the broadband pot (although it too would carry union rules with it). It would allow local governments to use infrastructure financing districts to fund broadband construction, as now can be done with road and water projects. It requires multiple approvals from a super majority of voters, but even so the choice would be in local hands. AB 2292 is waiting for a floor vote in the senate, where there seems to be little opposition, except from taxpayer groups and incumbent carriers (which are often the same thing). We’ll see how it goes in August.