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Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee Ignores City Officials’ Opposition and Passes SB 649

July 13, 2017
A growing coalition of community leaders and local elected officials vowed to continue their fight to defeat what the Los Angeles Times called “an audacious power grab” by telecom giants that will undermine local control, and transfer hundreds of millions of dollars from key government services to the bottom line of the world’s largest wireless companies. 
 
SB 649 (Hueso) is backed by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, and is opposed by a broad coalition of local leaders including the League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties, and the Rural County Representatives of California, in addition to 34 counties and over 215 cities. 
 
The Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee took up SB 649 on Wednesday, July 12, and passed the measure 10-0 with three members not voting even as the coalition of opposition continues to grow.  
 
The League was represented by several speakers in the committee hearing. League Legislative Representative Rony Berdugo testified first and reminded the committee that SB 649 forces cities and counties to lease out public property, eliminates the ability of local governments to lease their property at fair market rate by capping that lease at $250 for an attachment charge on municipal property and by eliminating discretionary permits, it eliminates public input and the discretion of cities to impose conditions for public benefit.
 
Several city officials traveled to Sacramento yesterday to voice their opposition to the committee including:
  • Pasadena City Council Member Margaret McAustin;
  • Norco City Council Member Kevin Bash;
  • San Francisco City/County Planner Omar Masry;
  • Apple Valley Council Member Barb Stanton; and
  • Eastvale Council Member Clint Lorimore.
 
SB 649 would incentivize companies to terminate their current agreements and unilaterally replace them with the reduced regulatory and fee structures. This would dramatically cut the fees companies must pay to cities for use of public property and allow them to place equipment wherever they want on public assets. It adds millions to telecom company profits, while exempting them from having to spend money on expanded wireless access for underserved communities.
 
In a press release sent following the hearing, League President and Lodi City Council Member remarked: “This bill shifts power and resources from local governments and our residents to the telecommunications industry. This bad bill would render local residents and municipalities powerless to determine where and how public infrastructure is used by this industry as it seeks to add tens of thousands of new cell phone equipment to street lights, utility poles and public buildings throughout California. As local leaders we are all for progress but not at this cost.”
 
The measure also creates two different sets of rules — one for affluent coastal communities and another for rural and inland communities who would be rendered powerless by this legislation, and stand to lose the most under SB 649.
 
The Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle have joined city and county officials from across the state to urge lawmakers to reject SB 649.
 
For additional information on SB 649, visit www.cacities.org/SB649.


 
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