Broadband and other hot, unfinished business might send the California legislature into overtime. But don’t bet on it

10 September 2020 by Steve Blum
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Chp horses capitol 3feb2016

The California legislature might not be done with broadband for the year. Or with other major issues it failed to address as the regular session collapsed into inter-house and partisan acrimony last week. Governor Gavin Newson is being asked to call the legislature back into topic-focused special sessions and broadband is on the list, along with housing, policing and other disputes. It’s also possible that the legislature will come back on its own. They can do that for particular kinds of bills, mostly ones that need a two-thirds majority such as “urgency” legislature or tax measures.

It’s typical talk in Sacramento, when hard fought, important bills stall as times runs out. Or, as with a key broadband deployment and access bill, particularly powerful lawmakers – in this case assembly speaker Anthony Rendon (D – Los Angeles) and democratic floor leader Ian Calderon (D – Los Angeles) – worry more about the money AT&T, Charter Communications, Comcast and other big telecoms companies pay them than with doing their job.

I hope Newsom does call the legislature back to deal with California’s broadband divide. History doesn’t make me optimistic, though. Special session talk follows legislative meltdowns, but it’s just talk.

The first time I heard it was in 1977 when I was an intern working for a Sacramento radio news bureau, during Jerry Brown’s first term as governor. Negotiations on a bill to tax commercial and residential property separately – split the tax rolls – died on the table. It was a dire problem for many Californians at the time, as skyrocketing real estate values were sending residential property tax bills into the stratosphere. There were constant rumors of a special session, but Brown never called it.

The following spring, voters took matters into their own hands and passed Proposition 13, rolling back and all but freezing property tax rates. The first attempt to amend Prop 13 in a big way – again, by splitting the tax rolls – is on this November’s ballot, 42 years later.

The safe bet in Sacramento is on inaction.