By Doug Porter
Big money lobbyists are swarming over Sacramento hoping to gain approval by the State Legislature for AB 1407 before anybody notices. This bill is an AT &T backed measure replacing California’s low cost LifeLine program, which provides 1.2 million residents with basic phone service, with a voucher program.
Low income residents will be losing their subsidized landline service, which is currently billed at a reasonable rate set by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
They would instead get a voucher valued at just $11.85—essentially a coupon they could use to offset some of the cost of mobile service or a landline. Because the CPUC has no control over regular telecom rates, telecommunications companies could raise rates or add service fees to such an extent that the voucher wouldn’t guarantee affordable service.
The Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee voted 6-1 in favor of the bill on July 8, and the Senate Appropriations Committee will be voting this coming Monday, so time to act on this bill is short.
On June 27, 2013, the CPUC voted to oppose AB1407. They told the bill’s sponsor in a letter that “the bill would supersede an open proceeding on this topic at the CPUC that is considering the views of all stakeholders and all relevant issues in a deliberate and thorough manner.”
What’s troubling is that the legislation will effectively destroy state regulation of the LifeLine program. As the CPUC put it in its letter:
It removes or limits the CPUC’s ability (a) to keep LifeLine service affordable, (b) to address the unique needs of California’s low-income residents, (c) to resolve LifeLine consumer complaints, and (d) to ensure all households are sufficiently informed of the LifeLine program. The bill would eliminate the current requirement that LifeLine providers must offer “basic service,” as defined by the CPUC, to residential customers.
It further repeals provisions requiring service providers to inform LifeLine subscribers of the availability and terms and conditions of LifeLine service, as well as any safety implications of the service provided.
AARP, the California Labor Federation, and the Consumer Federation of California all have joined forces to oppose the bill. The Los Angeles Times has editorialized against it:
After holding public hearings around the state, the California Public Utilities Commission is expected to propose improvements to California Lifeline — a program that offers discounted phone service to the poor — by year’s end. But state lawmakers, backed by phone and cable companies, are trying to rush through their own update for the program before the commission acts. Their bill has the right goal: giving low-income consumers more choices, including wireless and Internet-based phone service. But the measure is premature and its consumer protections too thin.
As of this morning more than 20,000 Californians have signed a petition urging the legislature to do the right thing and oppose this bill. (h/t Bob Dorn)
The Bay Area’s BeyondCron said it best:
Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg sits on the Appropriations Committee that considers AB 1407 on August 19. If former State Senate leader John Burton were confronted with a bill raising phone rates on the very poor, he would probably have to be restrained from grabbing the bill’s Democratic sponsor and throwing them down a flight of stairs. Few legislators have Burton’s passion for defending the very poor, but Steinberg needs to use his leadership to kill this destructive measure.
Defeating AB 1407 requires increasing public knowledge of its provisions. So spread the word.
Unintended Consequences: Rep. Peters’ Vote Cited as Reason to Repeal Obama Care
A July 17th vote by Congressman Scott Peters on H.R. 2668, legislation delaying both employer and individual mandates, is now being touted in a UT-San Diego editorial calling for the repeal of ObamaCare.
Peter and 34 other Democrats broke party ranks to support the legislation, which was dead on arrival at the U.S. Senate, so the vote was mostly symbolic.
Today’s editorial shows that sometimes symbolic votes can come back to haunt you.
The New York Times cited the proposal as part of a Republican strategy that could end up with a showdown this fall tying repeal or de-funding of the Affordable Care Act to legislation raising the government’s statutory borrowing limit. Such obstruction by the GOP would force the government to go into ‘shutdown’ mode, a strategy supported by Tea Party activists and frowned upon by party leadership.
From The Hill:
Battle lines within the GOP over the strategy have been evident for weeks.
Before the recess began, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) gathered 66 GOP signatures on a letter urging GOP leaders to demand that ObamaCare be defunded in the context of any 2014 funding bill.
Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) wants to go even further. His resolution demands that language defunding ObamaCare be attached to any continuing resolution to fund the government. On Wednesday, his office sent an email to other members seeking support.
Conservative groups such as Heritage Action and Freedomworks have mobilized activists to press members to support the defunding effort.
The activist group MoveOn is still circulating a petition (currently at over 1000 signers) demanding an explanation for Peter’s vote:
The Affordable Care Act, known by friends and foes alike as “Obamacare”, is one of the signature achievements of the Obama administration. It is a step forward in America‘s move toward healthcare for all. San Diego’s Scott Peters voted against it, and we who supported him in his successful bid to depose a Republican incumbent are entitled to understand why.
A Peters spokesperson told SDFP reporter Andy Cohen, “Scott did vote for 2668, which delays the penalty for not signing up for health insurance until January 2015 from January 2014. However, the vote did not repeal the ACA as some people are falsely claiming.”
That’s not how UT-San Diego is spinning it. After citing a litany of the usual false assertions about ObamaCare (they did omit the claim that flesh eating zombies would force fine southern white women to get abortions), the editorial goes on to say:
And this is just some of the vast wave of bad news about the Affordable Care Act in recent days. No wonder polls show support plummeting; just 13 percent of Americans think the ACA will be good for them. No wonder Democrats in re-election fights continue to edge away from Obamacare. First-term Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, was one of 35 House Democrats who last month joined GOP members in voting to delay the individual insurance mandate for a year.
Here’s the wonder: that the president can survey this wreckage and argue with a straight face that he’s the one advancing “an agenda that is going to strengthen our middle class.” That’s not what it looks like to the middle class — to small-business owners, union members, restaurant managers, school administrators and many more.
Obamacare shouldn’t just be defunded. The stinking mess should be repealed.
And the UT’s solution for the only major economy in the world without a healthcare program is: ….[crickets].
All Things #Filner: Believe It or Not Edition
After more than two weeks of lying low a tipster told VOSD’s Liam Dillion last night that Mayor Bob was spotted in the lobby of his downtown condo. The reporter spent the day emailing and calling City Hall trying to ascertain the Mayor’s whereabouts with no luck.
And it was a bad day for hizzoner, with women #15(an attorney) & #16 (a city volunteer) coming forward, a ginned up scandal about credit card receipts (“will it hurt the City’s credit rating?”) and yet another brutal takedown by John Oliver on the Daily Show.
Today a local radio station is joining the fray, sponsoring planes sky writing “Surrender Bob” over Downtown, Mission Valley and Rancho Bernardo. And the daily fishwrap is bragging that its crappy video (not worth a link) has had 94,000 hits on YouTube.
The really spooky stuff are the stories circulating about a palace coup. 10News ran with a story about a memo from City Attorney Jan Goldsmith telling the City Council that they could remove Filner from office without a recall using Section 108 of the charter.
Charter Section 108 states:
Every officer who shall willfully approve, allow, or pay any demand on the treasury not authorized by law, shall be liable to the City individually and on his official bond, for the amount of the demand so approved, allowed or paid, and shall forfeit such office and be forever debarred and disqualified from holding any position in the service of the City.
So presumably the Mayor’s purchase of a blender using a city charge card could provide the basis for going to court to remove him.
Weak sauce, very weak sauce.
But “wait!”, as they say in the TV blender commercials, “there’s more”.
Don Bauder over at the San Diego Reader is betting the farm on his credibility with a story claiming “according to excellent inside sources” that the account of the woman (#16) who appeared with Gloria Allred yesterday will be used:
…as the basis of an injunction against Filner on the grounds that he creates a hostile workplace. He would be locked out, according to plans.
The various governmental agencies that have been planning to file charges against him would then present him with their deal: presumably, he could accept it or resign. If he did not accept the deal, he could probably be wiped out financially. Now, Monday could be D-Day (decision day) for him.
The comments on the story are… very conspiratorial. But, hey, if he’s right, he’s scooped us all. If he’s wrong, I’m gonna have to ‘unfriend’ him.
UPDATE: (Saturday Morning) The LA Times has a story up saying much the same thing…
“It is a possibility as a last resort,” Michael Giorgino, interim communications director for City Atty. Jan Goldsmith, said Friday.
Goldsmith, in several media interviews, has predicted that Filner’s ouster as mayor will occur, with the only question being when and by what method.
On This Day: 1777 – During the American Revolutionary War, the Battle of Bennington took place. New England’s minutemen routed the British regulars. 1923 – Carnegie Steel Corporation put into place the eight-hour workday for its employees. 1977 – Elvis Presley died at the age of 42 in Memphis, TN.
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