A California lawmaker says he's being harassed online because he altered a bill to restore internet neutrality protections.
Democratic Assemblyman Miguel Santiago says memes featuring pictures of his family represent a "new low" and that Democrats attacking him are behaving like President Donald Trump.
Santiago's Friday remarks are part of a sweeping defense of his actions to change one of the nation's most aggressive efforts to revive net neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission repealed regulations last year that prevented companies from altering content delivery.
A committee Santiago leads removed segments of the bill, leading the sponsor to call it "mutilated" and withdraw support.
Critics say Santiago is selling out to internet providers. Santiago says he's trying to ensure the bill passes legal muster and wants to keep working on it.
Santiago's office issued a written statement on Friday. That statement in its entirety is included below.
Statement from Assemblymember Miguel Santiago:
This morning, Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance, issued the following statement on net neutrality in California:
"Net neutrality lives. It really does.
Earlier this week, amidst some highly unusual moves, my Committee, the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance, made the responsible decision to advance proposed net neutrality protections for California so that we can continue a serious policy conversation.
Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has authored SB 822. It was an incredibly progressive measure with many very valid policy suggestions that should (and now will be) discussed.
I laud the Senator's passion, his drive, and the integrity of his work. As Chair of the Committee, I wanted to engage in a serious policy conversation and deliver a bill that could withstand legal challenges from the telecommunications industry – an industry that sued to block implementation of the 2015 FCC Order implemented under President Obama; most definitely an industry that will sue to block implementation of landmark net neutrality protections in California.
The clock kept ticking but we ran out of time, the author and I simply could not come to a resolution with the same goal of getting a strong progressive net neutrality bill. We worked till the very end. And Senator Wiener was blunt about the fact that he wanted his bill passed and that the committee amendments were not acceptable to him. And, I didn’t want him to drop the bill and walk away from it. I admire his convictions.
If that happened, Californians would end up with no net neutrality protections in the face of President Trump taking actions to roll back our federal regulations.
I simply COULD NOT allow that to happen. The democratic process exists for experts, advocates and stakeholders on all sides of the issues to weigh in at multiple stages so that everyone can have their voices heard. And now we can continue to engage in that work because we met the legislative deadlines.
I was not appointed by the Speaker of the State Assembly to be a committee chair to simply rubber stamp measures that come over to us from the Senate. Frankly, I was not elected by my constituents to rubber stamp anything regardless of the proponents or opponents attached to an issue. My job as Chair is to ensure that strong policy proposals benefit all of California, that those policy proposals have the ability to survive an Assembly Floor vote, that they will be signed into law by the Governor, and that they will withstand legal challenge.
As the clock ticked, my Committee proposed amendments to SB 822 that consist of the FCC regulation as implemented in 2015 which would make SB 822 the nation’s strongest net neutrality legislation. The author assured me beforehand that he would not accept them. Typically, committee amendments are dispensed with at the beginning of bill presentations. Knowing he would not accept ours, my committee took action to insert amendments without his consent to keep the bill moving.
My committee moved the bill forward. By doing this, net neutrality remains alive in California where it will continue to be discussed, debated, and improved so that it can have the benefit of added policy discussions in the Assembly Privacy Committee, the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and on the Assembly Floor — all places where input and changes may still occur.
All through this time, the flash messaging on this measure has been easy. It’s sensational, and anger-inducing. “He gutted the bill!” “SB 822 was eviscerated!” “Santiago killed net neutrality!” But none of those things are true. That level of rhetoric has created a firestorm. I have received threats and my wife has been harassed. My personal family pictures have been stolen from my social media platforms and used to create memes. Really? Using pictures of my kids? This is a new low. Progressives don’t behave that way. We expect this type of disrespect, fake news, and insults from Trump -- not those who support dignity and progressive values.
Public policy is often messy. It is complicated. It involves compromise and working through conflict. In the 36 hours since Wednesday’s hearing, Senator Wiener and I have spoken several times and met. We have hugged, laughed, and had frank conversations. He has pledged to keep moving his bill forward and I have pledged, as Chair of the Committee responsible for this policy area, that I will continue the policy conversation on SB 822 to make it a strong bill that is truly legally defensible and will ensure that Californians have the best shot at net neutrality protections. We have not mended all of our fences, but we will work hard to do so. Because that is the democratic process.
Am I happy about the legislative maneuverings we had to take yesterday? No! And I have expressed that to Senator Wiener. In no way do I, nor any of my legislative colleagues envision policy being created in this manner.
But I stand by my actions and the fact that today, we still have a net neutrality bill to keep working on. I very much look forward to working with Senator Wiener and my colleagues as we CONTINUE to work to implement the strongest net neutrality protections in the nation.
I hope that everyone will keep participating in that process, in a dignified, respectful, and peaceful manner. TOGETHER we make great things happen in California where we continue leading the resistance against Trump. There is a lot of work ahead of us."
SB 822 is next scheduled for a hearing in the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection on Tuesday, June 26th.