Monday, April 23, 2007

S.B. 117 Check-in

Senate 117 being the bill that would effectively eliminate local authority over cable franchising.

Tomorrow the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee is hearing supporter/opponent testimony in their third hearing. They’ve scheduled the hearing to start at 4:00 p.m., so it doesn’t sound like they intend to listen to a lot of witnesses.

The Senate Committee vote looks about as wired as a vote ever is. By my count, proponents have signed on as co-sponsors four of the six Republicans (Niehouse, Spada, vice-chair Buehrer and Jacobson who is lead sponsor) and two of three Democrats (Mason and Ray Miller.) Since lawmakers rarely vote against bills they sponsor, I think we can count on this one getting out of committee unscathed.

At this point, the House side is less certain. The House Public Utilities Committee has a couple obvious utility friends on the R side, but aside from that I can’t tell much. One artifact of the last election is that the House is more closely divided than the Senate – as are the committees. Whereas the Senate committee is 6-3 R’s to Dems, the House Public Utilities Committee is made up of 12 Republicans and 11 Dems. If opponents of the bill can keep a Dem coalition together and turn a couple Repubs, the bill may quietly die in committee.

If. Unfortunately, telecom and cable legislation tends to be awfully arcane to build a grassroots effort against. I am hearing a swell of grassroots cross-party opposition based mostly on the threat to PEG access. (That’s public/educational/governmental cable access. Public access in the vernacular.) I just don't know that there is enough time, energy or money to translate that into a lobbying force that can counter the campaign time largess the telecoms are capable of wink-nudge offering.

If you are unclear on what the bill would do, start by listening to the Meet the Bloggers podcast, then surf over to Bill Callahan’s blog where he has a new post on Senate 117 nearly every day. Meanwhile, check out the House Committee listing and, if you see your Rep. there, start emailing. Now.


Daniel Jack Williamson said...

Yes, the utilities tend to buy up legislators from both parties, especially the ones who sit on utility committees.

I am SO against this bill.

Jill said...

Scott, you've probably seen this by now but here's a link to Cleveland City Councilman's Matt Zone's testimony.