Net neutrality bill is hijacked, gutted

Good morning, California.

“Disney is going for the knockout punch, and they just may have delivered it.” — Los Angeles Times, quoting an investment banker Wednesday on the Burbank-based entertainment company’s $71.3 billion offer to buy 21st Century Fox, a week after AT&T closed on its  $85.4 billion Time Warner purchase.

Net neutrality bill is 'hijacked'

Sen. Scott Wiener on far right at Assembly committee hearing Thursday.

In an extraordinary turn of events, an Assembly committee Wednesday weakened legislation to create a California-only net neutrality standard by forcing amendments into the bill over the author’s strenuous objection.

“I’ve been hijacked,” Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, told me as he left the Capitol committee room after fellow Democrats seized control of his legislation. Earlier, seeing he lacked the votes for his original version, Wiener asked to withdraw it.

Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee Chairman Miguel Santiago, a Los Angeles Democrat, urged Wiener not to act like “a martyr,” and insisted on moving forward with the Assembly amendments.

Wiener: “This has nothing to do with being a martyr. This is about protecting net neutrality.”

Wiener’s bill had sought to ban Internet service providers such as AT&T and Comcast from slowing or speeding up access to websites, based on the amount paid by Internet companies or their users. He said the bill was especially important given the recent mega-merger involving AT&T.

For it: House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, labor and consumer groups believe the legislation would fill a void left when President Donald Trump’s Federal Communications Commissioner scrapped proposed Obama-era net neutrality rules.

Against it: Telecommunications companies, including Comcast and AT&T. AT&T lobbyist Bill Devine said the bill is unnecessary because his company does not block sites or slow access. Internet service providers’ lobbyists contend federal law preempts individual states from regulating the Internet.

What now? Santiago said he, too, wants to protect consumers against manipulation of the Internet. Santiago promised to work with Wiener to come up with a bill. They’ll have to get past the hard feelings.

Money matters: AT&T has donated $230,600 to Assembly Communications Committee members, my tally of campaign money shows.

The Steve Schmidt Californians may know

California politicos know Steve Schmidt’s Republican credentials run deep, though his announcement Wednesday via Twitter that he had quit the GOP would surprise no one.

He has been a vocally disaffected Republican for years, and serves as MSNBC’s go-to Donald Trump critic from a Republican perspective.

Before all that, he managed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2006 reelection, the last time a Republican won a gubernatorial race in California.

At the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis in 2008, he took time from his duties helping to run Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign to visit a Log Cabin Republican gathering and encourage gay and lesbian people to stick with the GOP, calling them “important to the fabric of this party.”

In 2012, Schmidt kept an office in Sacramento and had a couple of notes from his White House days framed on his wall:

“Steve, I meant what I said Thursday. Victory would have been impossible without you. Best, Karl.” — Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s chief strategist, wrote after Bush’s 2004 reelection.

There also were U.S. Senate vote tally cards showing a 78-22 vote in 2005 to confirm John Roberts as chief justice of the United States, and a 2006 card showing the 58-42 vote for Justice Samuel Alito. As an aide to Bush, Schmidt managed the justices’ confirmation campaigns.

“Steve, You do great work. 2 for 2 on the Supreme Court. Dick,” Vice President Cheney wrote.

On Wednesday, Schmidt tweeted: “Today I renounce my membership in the Republican Party. It is fully the party of Trump.” The Washington Post followed that tweet with a story.

Connecting dots? Schmidt is vice-chairman at Edelman, a global public relations firm. Its clients include Starbucks. Howard Schultz is stepping down as Starbucks Chairman next week amid speculation he’ll run for President in 2020. He would need a strategist.

Wanted: Chief investment officer. Pay: $1.77 million

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the nation’s largest pension fund, is prepared to offer its next chief investment officer a pay package of as much as $1.77 million, The Sacramento Bee’s Adam Ashton reports.

That would be a 50 percent increase from the outgoing investment officer.

CalPERS board member Richard Costigan: “Our compensation is just too low. We’re not attracting quality candidates. The quality candidates who want to come here are negatively impacted by the salary levels.”

Bottom line: CalPERS is a $353 billion fund. In April, the Legislative Analyst’s Office cited CalPERS’ figures showing a $60 billion unfunded liability. Managing its investments well is vital to retirees and to taxpayers. All taxpayers ultimately are responsible for covering the cost of pensions promised to state and local workers.

What’s missing from Legislature’s harassment policy

CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall delves into the Legislature’s new plan for responding to – and trying to prevent – sexual harassment in its own ranks. It will make many important changes.

But it’s remarkable also for what it doesn’t do.

The policy doesn’t recommend any strengthening of state law related to public release of documents about the Legislature’s harassment inquiries or findings. That’s left to politicians, who might not willingly part with their internal findings.

Also, the investigative unit will report to the Legislature’s attorney, who is hired by the lawmakers and whose findings are covered by lawyer-client privilege.

Bottom line: The #MeToo movement brought about many changes, not the least of which is raising awareness of the endemic nature of sexual harassment. As Rosenhall’s reporting shows, more changes are needed.

Walters: Democrats’ San Diego play

CALmatters’ commentator Dan Walters digs deeper into so-called budget trailer bills, finding that Democratic legislators from San Diego are using budget-related legislation to take care of political business that has nothing to do with the budget. But it has everything to do with helping Democrats win seats on the Republican-controlled San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Walters: “It is, of course, another misuse of the budget trailer bill process for non-budgetary purposes, and in this case partisan purposes, but it’s also symptomatic of the struggle for political control of the state’s second largest county.”

For the record: WhatMatters misidentified Sutter Brown’s breed on Wednesday. He was a Corgi.

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