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Doomed ‘Do Not Call’ could win reprieve

The state Public Service Commission is asking Gov. Haley Barbourto consider adding renewal of the Mississippi TelephoneSolicitation Act to the agenda of an upcoming special session.

Popularly called the “do-not-call” law, the telephonesolicitation act barred telemarketers from calling people whosigned up to be included on a state listing. When the law wasoriginally passed, it included a provision that required reviewafter two years.

The House and Senate Utility conference committee did notreauthorize the bill after a disagreement arose over a House-passedamendment that would have required the PSC to regulate “falsestatements against a candidate for political office or a publicofficial.” The Legislature’s inability to resolve differences overthe language resulted in the do-not-call law being killed.

“Nobody could believe it died,” said District 39 Sen. CindyHyde-Smith. “That should have been a stand-alone bill instead of anamendment to the ‘no-call’ bill. That amendment has nothingwhatsoever to do with consumers.”

The bill would have extended the telephone solicitation act to2008, when its effect would again be reviewed, she said.

Michael Callahan, Southern District PSC commissioner, said hewas disappointed the law was not renewed.

“My staff and I worked hard to make ‘No-Call’ a successfulprogram,” he said. “For this important law to die because of aproposed amendment that was unenforceable, unconstitutional and hadnothing to do with telemarketing is a travesty.”

Callahan said the bill had proved its merit in its two years ofexistence.

“The commission has investigated over 1,700 complaints fromMississippi consumers, fined telemarketers over $138,000 and rantwo companies out of the state completely,” he said.

The program will end June 30 unless Barbour elects to bring itbefore the Legislature during a special session.

“This is our last hope for ‘No-Call’ to continue,” Callahansaid. “If it does not pass in special session, then we will startnotifying consumers … to contact the Federal CommunicationCommission to register their numbers on the federal list.”

Hyde-Smith said it was likely the governor would allow it.

District 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett agreed.

“I’m all for it, but the only person that can make that decisionis the governor,” he said.

They both said they fully support the law.