Legislative Report

Legislative Report…Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

Back in July we mentioned SB 17, the Drug Price Transparency Bill. It came up for a vote on September first and passed. Once into law, SB 17 will require drug makers to give 60 days’ notice to California state purchasers (CalPERS, DHCS, CDCR, DGS), health plans, and insurers before raising prices on most prescription drugs.

SB 17 also requires drug makers to report additional information to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD), including justification for price increases, marketing budgets, previous price increases, sales volumes, and relative efficacy, and for this information to be made available to the public. AARP research shows that in 2015, retail prices for 268 brand name prescription drugs widely used by Medicare beneficiaries increased by an average of 15.5 %, when the general rate of inflation rate was only 0.1 % over the same period. We Californians deserve to know when and why the prescription drug prices are being raised.

Another bill that has caught AARP’s attention is SB 649 (Huesos). This is a telecommunications bill that unnecessarily and unconstitutionally strips local authority over public property and shuts out public input and local discretion by eliminating consideration of the aesthetic and environmental impacts of “small cells” (read Microwave towers).

SB 649’s use of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) definition of a “small cell” include other “small cell” equipment such as electric meters, concealment, telecom demarcation boxes, ground-based enclosures, battery backup power systems, grounding equipment, power transfer switches, cutoff switches, cables, or conduits.  The proposal allows for an unlimited number of antennas of less than three cubic feet each or six cubic feet for all antennas, while placing no height restrictions on the pole. While proponents argue that an individual “small cell” has very little impact, the cumulative size specifications of all the small cells and associated equipment far exceed the perceived impacts from a single cell.

This bill strips local government of the authority to protect the quality of life of our residents, and to protect public property and the public right-of-way from relatively unconstrained access by small cells.   Local governments typically encourage new technology into their boundaries because of its potential to dramatically improve the quality of life for their residents. However, SB 649 goes too far by requiring local governments to approve “small cells” in all land use zones, including residential zones, through a ministerial permit, thereby shutting the public out of decisions that could affect the aesthetics of their community and the quality of their environment. Naturally, AARP opposes this bill as it concerns public safety and we are the public. Expect a call to action soon!