On August 19, tenants from San Francisco’s Central City SRO Collaborative (CCSRO) hit the halls of the state capitol and got the Senate Appropriations Committee to stop AB 1407, the Anti-LifeLine bill, in its tracks. There has been growing opposition to AB 1407 as word spread that it would shift control of LifeLine from the California PUC to AT&T, raising phone rates for 1.2 million Californians. SRO tenants would be particularly impacted, which is why the CCSRO brought a van full of tenants to tell the legislators that AB 1407 should be defeated. The Appropriations Committee appeared to share the tenants concern, suspending the bill until it could have more time to assess its impact. In Sacramento terms, that’s a big victory for LifeLine.

A delegation of SRO tenants walked the halls of the state capitol on August 19 to stop the progress of the fast moving AB 1407, which would hurt them and other low-income Californians. The tenants, Kevin Stull, CW Johnson, Dan Jordon, Bryan Johnson, Nappy Chin, La Tonya Jones and Jun Chang Tan (the latter was from Chinatown Community Development Center, the rest from the CCSRO), made a powerful impression on legislators both through their testimony and meetings with the staffs of key State Senators.

Sponsor Bradford Taken By Surprise

AB 1407’s sponsor, Democratic Assemblymember Steven Bradford, did not anticipate that opponents of the bill would attend the hearing. It was the first item on the agenda, and he assumed nobody would show up in time to speak.

But he was wrong. The San Francisco delegation arrived thirty minutes before the hearing was set to begin. Thinking there would be no opposition, Sponsor Bradford waived his testimony, only to see opponents lining up to speak against his bill. He then requested the chance to rebut their testimony, but the tenants had already swayed the committee to their side.

The tenants met with aides to Senate leader Darrell Steinberg as well as with their own representative, State Senator Mark Leno. Leno has long championed SRO tenants and has made it clear he finds the current version of AB 1407 unacceptable.

Priya Sawhney of the CCSRO gathered 500 signatures on a petition opposing the bill, and these petitions were given to the legislators. She gathered those in a matter of days, reflecting the widespread concern among SRO tenants that AB 1407 will return them to the days when phone service was unaffordable.

Joining the SRO tenants in opposing AB 1407 was Mark Toney of TURN (The Utility Reform Network). The Los Angeles-based Coalition for Economic Survival and its Director, Larry Gross, have also been battling the bill, but its much easier to take a van from San Francisco to Sacramento than to make the long trip from Los Angeles.

While suspension of the bill is a victory, pressure must continue. Groups that have yet to contact Senate leader Steinberg to express their opposition should do so.

AT&T is a powerful force in Sacramento---it sponsors an annual Speaker’s Cup golf tournament in Pebble Beach to raise money for Assembly Speaker John Perez--- so SRO tenants still face a struggle to defeat AB 1407. But after Monday’s hearing, AT &T may need to revise the bill to exclude the provisions undermining LifeLine.

Randy Shaw is Editor of BeyondChron, which is published by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. The CCSRO is a project of THC.