February 8, 2013 in Idaho

Ex-lawmaker lobbies for do-not-call change

Current law prohibits cable, phone providers from cold calls
By The Spokesman-Review
 
BETSY Z. RUSSELL photo

Former Rep. Jim Clark, now a lobbyist, speaks to a legislative committee Thursday.
(Full-size photo)

BOISE – Former longtime North Idaho Rep. Jim Clark returned to the Statehouse on Thursday – as a lobbyist pushing to loosen up Idaho’s do-not-call list for phone companies.

Clark was buoyant after winning a unanimous vote from a House committee for the bill, which would allow phone, cable and cellular companies to cold-call their customers to sell them new products – even if they’re on the do-not-call list.

The Idaho attorney general’s office was less pleased, saying Idahoans don’t want their dinner interrupted by telemarketers.

Brett DeLange, head of the Idaho attorney general’s consumer protection bureau, said more than one million Idahoans have signed up for the do-not-call list. That indicates “the overwhelming desire of Idaho citizens to be left alone while they’re trying to eat dinner, while they’re trying to do their homework, they’re trying to have family time,” DeLange said.

Current law only lets businesses other than phone, cable, cellular and telecom companies make calls to their existing clients.

DeLange told the House State Affairs Committee that no one on the do-not-call list has ever called the attorney general’s office to complain that they aren’t getting calls from solicitors.

But Clark told the committee that his client, Frontier Communications, “is spending an awful lot of money doing high-speed Internet, and they cannot tell their Idaho customers on the phone that they’re actually doing that.”

Frontier is the fourth-largest telephone company in the nation. It recently took over Verizon’s landline business in North Idaho.

Clark’s bill, HB 55, would let telecommunications companies call to solicit their existing customers even if they’re on the do-not-call list, but would require them – and any other businesses – to stop calling if the customers say they don’t want any more calls. Failure to comply at that point would carry a $500 penalty.

Bill Roden, lobbyist for CenturyLink, which is co-sponsoring the bill with Frontier, said the bill would treat all businesses equally.

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, said people have more options these days to not pick up their phones when such calls come in.

Barbieri’s motion won unanimous support, sending the bill to the full House with a recommendation that it pass.

“I’m still humbled by my reception here,” said Clark, who served in the House from 1997 to 2010. He credited his partners on the bill, including legendary longtime lobbyist Roden.

Clark’s new lobbying firm, J.C. & Associates, has two other clients, Aces, a health services company, and the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

To become law, HB 55 still would have to pass the full House and Senate and receive the governor’s signature.


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