Friday, June 09, 2006


You know Senators Ellington and Hollis were at great pains to say that HB 699, the state-wide cable franchising bill that won Senate approval yesterday, was not a BellSouth bill. No, they claimed, that just wasn't fair. Repeatedly. Loudly. And in mildly aggrieved tones. Cravins and other opponents were caustic in their replies.

Senate watchers know the truth. John Hill, writing for the Gannett chain, knew who he should ask about the future of the bill: John Sutton, BellSouth lobbyist, not Montgomery or Ellington who authored the bills. Here's what Hill reports without any apologies whatsoever in the the story's lead paragraphs:
The bill that would make it easier for telephone companies to compete with cable communications firms for television services through broadband lines cleared the state Senate 27-10 Thursday afternoon after a two-hour debate.

But lobbyists for BellSouth, the prime backer of the legislation, said they would have to study the Senate changes to House Bill 699 by Rep. Billy Montgomery, D-Haughton, before asking for the necessary House concurrence.

"We just don't know yet. We have to study these amendments," said George Sutton, BellSouth's chief lobbyist on the bill that has been fought by the Louisiana Police Juries Association, cable communications firms and mayors.
Now it was obvious that Ellington didn't understand the bill before him during the debate. Or at least wasn't sure what he could admit about particular clauses. Under close and extended questioning by Willy Mount, for instance, he would occasionally go off camera to try and get requested information. I'd have given a dollar to have been able to see who he was talking to but I bet it wasn't some other senator. (Comments by attendees welcomed!)

I don't like that the special interests write the bills that give them, in this instance, unbridled abilities to run over the rights of local governments for their own advantage, but I find it absurd that their agents don't at least know the bill well enough to defend it and and find it absolutely outrageous that no, no one --not the lobbyist, not a senator, and not the reporters-- seems to question that it is BellSouth who will make the decision about whether or not to seek concurrence in the House or fight the Senate changes in conference committee.

Of course it was BellSouth's bill. And it will be BellSouth's law...

That's just plain outrageous.

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