Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Legislative Overview Update

Louisiana Legislation Dept.

There are a couple more bills for those interested in municipal telecommunications to track. One is a new wireless bill newly introduced by LaFonta, one of New Orleans' representatives that would exempt wireless technologies from the provisions of the (un)Fair Competition act and another two by Ellington, Telecommunications Corporation's representative, that just sits out there as blank checks to be used if needed.

In broadest overview: nothing is moving. No repeal Bills are up for a hearing. No noxious franchising bills are scheduled to be heard and no new onerous amendments to the (un)Fair Competition bill are being offered. That's odd. With Lafayette's fiber-optic bond ordinance set to become unchallengeable on April 24th (thirty days after its passage and publication) the window is closing on one important tool that BellSouth/AT&T has used to stop the crucial sale of bonds: suing to prevent the bond sale. There had been every indication that BellSouth would challenge the latest ordinance as well...after all the bond market is still getting more expensive and any delay hurts LUS and the citizens that spurned BellSouth's arguments. Even without a good case everyone expected BellSouth to sue. I hear the gears of the sausage-maker grinding in the background. I wish their song were clearer. (Thoughts?)

LaFonta's wireless New Orleans bill looks like an evolution of the New Orleans' bill last seen during the special session. The thrust of the bill is to exempt wireless from the provisions of the (un)Fair Competition act and to vest control in the elected parish executive. There are some confusing sentences about a minimum speed of one meg and about raising the speed during an emergency. If there is no upper limit then the second sentence is unnecessary. I've got a query in on this point and if I get clarification I'll let you know.

Ellington's two bills seem as senseless as some of his public remarks. For instance, the instrument that modifies the state's regulation of bonding authority for local governments looks like an utterly meaningless bill which proposes only to insert a dash between words so that it would read "revenue-producing" instead of "revenue producing." A waste of time? Only if that change is the actual purpose of introducing the bill. If, instead, your purpose is to make sure that you've got a bill parked in the proper committee that will allow you to later put in any amendments your clients might desire that could restrict local bonding authority it makes pretty good (if despicable) sense. His second bill, the one that amends the (un)Fair Competition law, makes the same sort of twisted sense. You can read and re-read the bill and you can't figure out how the changes make any meaningful difference. That's because it doesn't make any meaningful difference and isn't supposed to...right now. These bills are blank checks made out to the sponsoring corporations who'd like to make sure that they've got a legislative instrument to ride if they need it. (Ellington has written blank checks before. In fact the (un)Fair Competition act was originally a bill to promote rural broadband before Ellington endorsed it over to BellSouth and Cox.)


Here is your updated list of muni-related telecom bills.

Repeal or anti-repeal in various degrees and flavors:
  • HB 244, Robideaux, SB 192--Michot, Poison Pill, Would apply most of the rules that apply to municipal telecom entrants under the Local Government Fair Competition Act to "subsidized" private telecom providers. (Senate Commerce, House Commerce)
  • HB 245--Robideaux, SB 495--Michot, Repeal!!, Would Repeal the Local Government Fair Competition Act. (Senate Commerce, House Commerce)
  • HB 257, Robideaux, SB 243--Michot, Exemptions Would exempt Lafayette from the Fair Competition Act and exempt all wireless technologies. (Senate Commerce, House Commerce)
  • HB 537, Robideaux, Exemptions Redux, Would repeal all restrictive clauses of the fair competition act except the feasibility study and referendum provisions. Would exempt all wireless technologies. (House Commerce) [This version of the bill has several Acadiana co-sponsors: Representatives, Robideaux, Pierre, Trahan, and Alexander as well as Senator Michot]
  • New! SB 395, Ellington, Blank Check, A placeholder bill that allows the incumbents to come in after the filing deadline and introduce any amendments to the (un)Fair Competition Act they might desire. (Senate Commerce)
  • New! SB 585, Ellington, Blank Check Too This bill would would allow the incumbents to come back in and, should the (un)Fair Competition Act be substantially repealed, get another bite at the apple by restricting the bonding capacity of municipalities. (Senate Commerce)
Wireless-only Repeal Bills
  • SB 211, Murray, Wireless Exemption, Would exempt all wireless technologies from the Fair Competition Act. (Senate Commerce)
  • New! HB 1174, LaFonta, Wireless Exemption for Parish Executives, Would exempt all wireless technologies from the Fair Competition Act and vest decision-making power in elected parish executives. (No Committee Assignment)
Bills that would move cable franchises from local to state control
  • SB 386--Ellington, HB 699--Montgomery, State Video Franchise-panel, Would eliminate local video franchises and vest control in a panel appointed by the governor. (Senate Commerce, House Commerce) [co-sponsored by in the Senate by Smith]
  • HB 258, Farrar, State Video Franchise-PSC, Would eliminate local video franchises and vest control in the Public Service Commission. (House Commerce)
Emergency Telecommunications bills with implications for municipal broadband
  • HB 540--Burns, Emergency Preparedness, Would mandate the development of a an emergency preparedness system. (House Commerce)
  • HB 619--Burns, Emergency Preparedness-Coastal, Would mandate the development of a an emergency preparedness system in coastal regions. (House Commerce)

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