Legislative roundup: Senate sends AT&T bill to the House; House panel passes child case bill

02/14/2013 05:51 PM

By a 24-13 vote, the Senate signed off on a bill to partially deregulate the phone industry in Kentucky — a measure that has drawn concerns from lawmakers representing rural areas.

Senate Bill 88 would drop certain requirements for phone companies. For instance, they would longer have to run or maintain land-line telephone service to areas in which another provider operates. (Disclosure: Cable companies, including Insight’s parent company Time Warner Cable, have opposed the bill.)

Some rural lawmakers have said they are concerned that would leave some of their constituents without reliable phone service, especially if cell phone coverage is spotty. But the measure’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville, said the phone companies pushing the legislation — AT&T and Windstream, among others — agreed to a “carve out” in which communities the companies serve that have less than 5,000 residents would still have to follow existing law.

That, he said, is “to make sure that the rural communities are protected throughout the state.”

He also said he will push the House to make changes that he didn’t have time to get into the Senate bill before Thursday’s vote. That includes a technical change so that the Public Service Commission would still be required to help solve customer complaints.

But many Democrats and two Republicans from rural areas voted against the bill. Republican Sens. Stan Humphries of Cadiz and Brandon Smith of Hazard voted “no” along with 11 Democrats. They included Sens. R.J. Palmer of Winchester and Robin Webb of Grayson, both of whom voiced their concerns about the legislation during the voting:

House Speaker Greg Stumbo told reporters earlier in the week that he and some of the other House lawmakers have serious concerns with the bill.

- Video produced by Nick Storm

House panel approves child welfare panel bill

Earlier Thursday, the House Health and Welfare Committee passed a bill to make permanent a panel that oversees child abuse and neglect cases. The measure narrowly passed 8-5 amid concerns about public disclosure of records, as Beth Musgrave of the Herald-Leader reported.

House Bill 290, which Democratic Rep.Tom Burch unveiled last Friday , would allow the panel of experts to gain access to documents regarding the state’s handling of child abuse and neglect cases but not the press.

Burch explained his reasoning during an interview with Pure Politics earlier this week in which he discussed the function of the review panel:


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