Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Franchise Bill Passes in House

Correction 6/5/05: A reader email alerts me to an error in this article: Trahan voted for the bill, not against it as I originally reported in the summary table below. I must have misread the officially tally that I'd linked to in the paragraph above. My bad. (Strikethroughs denote the original mistake and red text the corrections.)

The state-wide franchise bill backed by BellSouth moved through the bowels of the House today. (You may correctly assume I think this bill s__t. Insert appropriate scatological jokes here.)

This is the same bill that strips localities of their property rights in regards to Telecom (and only telecom) companies. Local governments ability to make contracts that serve the interests of local citizens based on their ownership of local rights of way would be usurped by and handed over to corporations. The most immediate effect will be to exempt AT&T/BellSouth from the current rules that require that cable service be offered to all in a community by any corporation that leases their property. AT&T has been insisting that it won't pay a dime in franchise fees, and doesn't have to pay attention to local desires about how its land is used and what is placed on that land. In some places it has sued to forbid local governments from exerting their property rights and in others it has been sued for ignoring them. In all cases it is clear that AT&T believes it has no obligation to pay franchise fees. This will have a huge impact on local income. Lafayette gets $900,000 a year and New Orleans got $5,000,000. That's based on cable income. Every dollar BS takes from Cox will mean another dollar in taxes that someone in those cities has to pay.

There has seldom been so raw an example of our state representatives selling out the interests of localities to boost the profit margin of one of the world's largest corporations. Their mothers would be ashamed.

The bill passed 73 to 26. If you like to see a list of the heels and heroes visit the page detailing the final vote. If your representative is a heel you really ought to let him or her know.

Here's how Lafayette's reps did. Even up. That sad showing is twice as good as the state average. I expect that's pretty much a product of Lafayette's first hand experience with the untrustworthy nature of BS. No better than the state's average and that's a real shame.

Ernest J. Alexander Hero Republican
Clara Guilbeau Baudoin Hero Democrat
Wilfred T. Pierre Heel Democrat
Gillis J. Pinac Heel Democrat
Joel C. Robideaux Heel
Independent
Donald Mark "Don" Trahan Hero Heel Republican

Pinac, who represents the sliver of Lafayette that includes Duson was particulary embarrasing though. As the chair of the committee he has used his leadership role to pretty consistently help the telecos out on several bills. Maybe the mayor of Duson should give him a call. though. As the chair of the committee he has used his leadership role to pretty consistently help the telecos out on several bills. Maybe the mayor of Duson should give him a call.

2 comments:

GumboFilé said...

1) a unit of local government is not equivalent to a locality governed by such a government.

2) neither localities nor their governments have rights. people have rights. governments have power.

3) local government units are technically and legally creations and units of the state government. local governments are therefore subordinate to the power of the state government.

4) I don't necessarily agree with the way things are but I do believe that history shows that we are better served when service providers are allowed to compete with fewer impediments rather than with more.

Congrats on your nomination for best blog.

David

John said...

Hi David,

I'm trying not to be too inflammatory...:-) Maybe I ought to say that the state in its majesty is stepping in to strip us all of our property rights. That might be closer to your formulation.

But really, my usage here is common, accepted usage. Corporations talk about their "rights" all the time. And in actual, material fact, they DO have enforceable rights. I can't see that we can't say the same about local governments.

Local governments are regarded as creations of states...as once was the federal government (but, hey we had a little war over changing that definition). In point of fact this presumption has been a pretty big bone of contention over the years. Louisiana is a "home rule charter" state and the independence of local governments that opt for home rule is guaranteed (in different degrees) for home rule governments.

Lafayette, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and a host of others are home rule localities. There are real legal issues about skirting this principle and "pre-74" home rule charter municipalities are included in this law by weird and possibly illegal language that grants them the constitutionally demanded legal exemption on the one hand but takes it away by forbidding them to do anything in "contradiction" to this law. Talk about talking with a forked tongue. (Why bother? Because not making a stab at making it a law that applies to all would underline the injustice done to vulnerable non-home rule localities and give local folks a way to get back control of their property if you just admitted that the state was taking control where ever it could.)

Legalities aside my basic point remains: It is WRONG for the state to tell us or any community what we can do with our own property. It is especially wrong to do it in order to favor the prospective future profits of BellSouth which daily demonstrates that our interests are not its interests.

Not liking the way things are but asserting that the alternatives are worse is a form of fatalism that keeps us from acting to make our communities better. I'm not buying.

Oh--thanks for reminding me about the Times competition. I was pleasantly surprised to be nominated.

Best, John