VOLUME 8, NUMBER 12 MARCH 31, 1999

To: Members

From: David Crothers, Executive Vice President

Congratulations and the appreciation of the Association to all our members who made their views on HB 1451, the right-of-way bill, known to members of the Senate for the last three weeks.  The Senate passed HB 1451, as amended, late Monday afternoon by a 31-17 margin.  The amendment was added to give municipalities the ability to tax in excess of their costs to maintain the right-of-way if the residents of the community approve it by balloting.  It was a tremendous victory for members of the Association and will serve the independent industry well in the years to come.

The other significant news this week is that SB 2043 was heavily amended and those amendments were adopted before the House voted 68-30 yesterday morning to pass the bill.  The original legislation would have consolidated all telecommunications traffic from state agencies, counties, cities and school districts onto a single statewide network.  The amended version adopted by the House requires only state agencies to get wide area network services from a newly-created "Information Technology Department".

There is language, however, that requires the new Information Technology Department to develop a plan for implementing a statewide wide area network for use by the counties, cities and school districts by December 1, 2002.  The fifty-eighth legislative assembly, which meets in 2003, will consider expanding the network to include counties, cities and school districts at that time.

There are still problems with SB 2043, however; there is every indication the Senate will not concur with the House amendments and a conference committee will be named from each body to resolve the differences.  The rumor is that neither body is very likely to agree with the other's language.  If no agreements are reached on SB 2043, it is likely that SB 2043 will die in its entirety.  SB 2044, a companion bill, continues to address membership of the Information Technology Department committee and it's responsibilities.

Finally, HB 1108 and SB 2307, the internet taxation and wireless E911 bills, respectively, are the only other pieces of telecommunications-related legislation that remain to be considered.  Both will likely go to conference committee and the Association will continue to monitor all committees until adjournment.

If you have questions regarding any legislative issue or other matter of concern, please contact me.

 

HB 1036 A bill extending the Public Service Commission's jurisdiction over telephone cooperatives and independent telephone companies for the purpose of requiring reports, contingency plans and information to ensure the utilities are addressing the year 2000 problem in a timely manner.  The proposal has a sunset provision, which would make the law, if passed, ineffective after July 31, 2001.   The Association testified against the legislation and told the Committee the PSC was already surveying utilities regarding Y2K.

Jan. 5   Introduced in House.
Jan. 14 Government and Veterans Affairs Committee Recommended Do Pass 11-2.
Jan. 20 House Defeated 30-59.

 

HB 1050 Legislation introduced by the Regulatory Reform Review Commission to extend its existence through 2003. Authors of the bill, however, have chosen to let the old statute lapse instead of amending it and created a new bill. The Association amendment directing the RRRC to study the impact and implementation of a State Universal Fund was adopted.

Jan. 5    Introduced in House.
Jan. 25  Natural Resources Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended, 15-0.
Jan. 27  House Passed 97-0.
Jan. 28  Natural Resources Committee Recommended Do Pass 6-0.
Feb. 26 Senate Passed 44-1.
Mar. 8    Signed by Governor.

 

HB 1108 A bill introduced by the Tax Department to clarify the gross receipts taxation law passed by the legislature two years ago. The Tax Department appears to also be searching for telecommunications carriers doing business in the State, but who are not reporting income by requiring local exchange companies to report the names and addresses of those companies who paid revenues to our telcos during the year.

Another provision of the bill requires local telcos to report each payphone operator in a local telco exchange. That is an impossible task for telcos who charge someone for a business line and that individual chooses to hang a payphone on the wall. The Senate Committee amended the bill to strike language penalizing telcos for failure to comply, at the Association’s urging.

Jan. 5     Introduced in House.
Feb. 12  Natural Resources Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended, 11-3.
Feb. 16  House Passed 69-28.
Mar. 26  Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended Do Pass 7-0.
Mar. 29  Senate Passed 48-0.
Apr. 15  Vetoed by Governor.

 

HB 1122 Language that transfers authority to administer the telecommunications services for communications impaired persons from the vocational rehabilitation division of the Human Services Department to the department itself.

Jan. 5    Introduced in House.
Feb. 3   Natural Resources Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended, 12-0.
Feb. 5   House Passed 93-0.
Mar. 2    Human Services Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended 6-0.
Mar. 3    Senate Passed 48-0.
Mar. 19 Signed by Governor.

 

HB 1169 A bill establishing procedures for authorizing changes in telephone services and carriers, carriers providing notice of changes on telephone bills, automatic credit for unwanted services, reimbursement to consumers and reimbursement to local telcos for costs incurred for unauthorized changes in service. Sponsors indicate the bill is an attempt to curb "slamming" and "cramming" of telephone services on unsuspecting consumers. There is also a provision extending Public Service Commission jurisdiction over telephone cooperatives and independent companies to enforce provisions of the statute. The bill was heavily amended to incorporate the FCC’s slamming rules adopted in December.

Jan. 5    Introduced in House.
Feb. 8   Natural Resources Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended, 13-2.
Feb. 12 House Passed 92-0.
Mar. 12 Natural Resources Committee Recommended Do Pass 6-0.
Mar. 15 Senate Passed 47-0, Emergency Clause Carried.
Mar. 25 Signed by Governor.

 

HB 1277 A bill introduced that requires electric cooperatives to return capital credits within five years from the year in which those revenues were earned.

Jan. 11 Introduced in House.
Jan. 18 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended Do Not Pass 13-0.
Jan. 20 House Defeated 4-93.

 

HB 1287 A bill to create a Disability Telecommunications Advisory Council to advise Information Services Division, Vocational Rehabilitation Division and the Public Service Commission on the telecommunication relay service and specialized telecommunications equipment distribution program. Membership of the Council will be two consumers who are deaf, one who is hard of hearing, one suffering from a disability other than deafness or hard of hearing, one from information services division, one from the vocational rehabilitation division and one from a telecommunications company.

Jan. 11 Introduced in House.
Jan. 22 Government and Veterans Affairs Committee Recommended Do Not Pass, 11-4.
Jan. 26 House Defeated 8-87.

 

HB 1308 A bill that extends jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission over telephone cooperatives and independents with fewer than 8000 subscribers for quality of service complaints. Jerome Tishmack, Manager of BEK Telecommunications Cooperative, testified that such a measure is unnecessary in light of the membership controlling the company and local ownership of the independent companies.

Jan. 11 Introduced in House.
Jan. 27 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended Do Not Pass 10-4.
Jan. 29 House Defeated 7-86.

 

HB 1395 A telemarketing bill requiring solicitors to tell the individual called the telephone number of their place of business. The curious part of the legislation is that it gives the Public Service Commission jurisdiction and it and it is added into the telecommunications language of the North Dakota Century Code. The Association believes it should be the responsibility of the Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud division.

Jan. 18  Introduced in House.
Feb. 1   Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended Do Not Pass 7-5.
Feb. 10 House Defeated 33-61.

 

HB 1421 A bill introduced by Representative Tollefson of Minot to give jurisdiction to the Public Service Commission to prohibit cooperatives and independent telephone companies to provide intraLATA 1+ equal access.

Jan. 18 Introduced in House and Referred to Finance and Taxation Committee.
Jan. 26 Withdrawn By Sponsor.

 

HB 1450 A bill introduced by Representative Mick Grosz prohibiting telecommunications companies from becoming an eligible telecommunications carrier unless they offer all services supported by federal universal service fund mechanisms throughout the study area.

Jan. 18  Introduced in House.
Feb. 1   Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended, 14-0.
Feb. 8   House Passed 98-0.
Mar. 12 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended Do Pass 7-0.
Mar. 16 Senate Passed 48-0.
Mar. 25 Signed by Governor.

 

HB 1451 Legislation clarifying the parameter of fees political subdivisions may charge for use of right-of-way within their jurisdiction and to require that any fees charged by those cities or counties can be recovered only from the subscribers living within their boundaries. Although counties supported the measure during the committee hearing, the cities and their trade association strenuously opposed the bill.

Jan. 18  Introduced in House.
Feb. 11 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended, 12-2.
Feb. 15 House Passed 78-19.
Mar. 25 Senate Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended Do Pass, as        Amended 6-1.
Mar. 29 Senate Passed 31-17.
Apr. 8   Signed by Governor.

 

SB 2008 Public Service Commission appropriation for the biennium beginning July 1, 1999 and ending June 30, 2001. The Commission is requesting an appropriation of $9,434,681 for the two year cycle, but anticipates taking in $5,640,789 in revenue. The bill is quickly becoming known for an amendment inserted in the Senate to remove funding for one of the agency’s attorneys. Editorials have opposed the move and a parade of witnesses testified against it in a House Appropriation Subcommittee hearing. The House has removed language striking the attorney position, but included a provision reducing salaries by $150,000. In addition, the House bill includes a language deregulating directory assistance in North Dakota.

Jan. 5    Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 11 Appropriations Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended, 14-0.
Feb. 12 Senate Passed 47-0.
Mar. 24 Appropriations Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended 12-8.
Mar. 26 House Passed 55-41.
Apr. 17 Signed by Governor.

 

SB 2015 An appropriations bill, which among other non-telephony items, authorizes State Radio Communications to establish and charge fees to provide mobile data terminal service to interested local law enforcement agencies. The language requires State Radio to charge at least twenty cents per telephone for 911 services provided to political subdivisions.

Jan. 5     Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 16  Appropriations Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended, 10-3.
Feb. 17 Senate Passed 30-17.
Apr. 6    Appropriations Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended, 8-6.
Apr. 23  Signed by Governor.

 

SB 2043 Legislation to establish an Information Technology Department within state government to provide and regulate information technology of all executive branch entities, provide network services, provide for the aggregation of data, voice, video, and multimedia into a statewide transport mechanism or backbone and review and approve additional network services that are not provided by the department. Each state agency, county, city and public elementary or secondary school that desires access to wide area network services shall obtain those services from the new department, according to the Senate version. The House Appropriations Committee’s bill removes the mandate for counties, cities and school districts to become part of the network, although a report would be provided to the Legislature in 2003 on the benefit of including them. Today, there are two very different versions of SB 2043 and strong support in the Senate and House for their own bills. A conference committee will be named soon to attempt a compromise.

Jan. 5    Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 16 Appropriations Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended, 13-1.
Feb. 17 Senate Passed 47-0.
Mar. 10 Appropriations Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended 13-6.
Mar. 30 House Passed 68-30.
Apr. 20 Signed by Governor.

 

SB 2044 A companion bill to SB 2043. SB 2044 establishes an Information Technology Committee that will meet during the legislative session and interim between sessions. The language in both the Senate and House versions mandates the review of the Information Technology Department’s activities and forms a committee to act as a board of directors.

Jan. 5    Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 15 Appropriations Committee Recommended Do Pass 14-0.
Feb. 17 Senate Passed 46-0.
Mar. 29 Appropriations Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended 14-5.
Mar. 30 House Passed 69-29.
Apr. 20 Signed by Governor.

 

SB 2057 A bill prohibiting telephone solicitors from using any method, including per call blocking or per line blocking, that would prevent a consumer in North Dakota from seeing the caller’s telephone number and name of the telephone solicitor. The language also includes a provision giving the Public Service Commission authority to fine solicitors who violate the law up to $1000 a day. While a number of individuals supported the initiative, a telemarketer testified that very few long distance companies were providing the service.

Jan. 5   Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 14 Industry, Business & Labor Committee Recommended Do Not Pass 4-3.
Jan. 19 Senate Defeated 18-31.

 

SB 2093A bill requiring resellers of telecommunications services in North Dakota to be licensed annually by the North Dakota Public Service Commission. The annual fee proposed in the legislation is $250. It would affect resellers of local or long distance services, including cellular providers, but not providers of pay telephones. Members of the committee expressed concern the proposal is an expensive way for the PSC to bring outdated lists of resellers up-to-date.

Jan. 5  Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 1 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended Do Not Pass 7-0.
Feb. 2 Senate Defeated 0-47.

 

SB 2094 A bill updating recent Federal Communications Commission rules increasing the access code identification number for each long distance company from five digits to seven, as well as recognizing the increased number of toll free prefixes such as "800", "888" and "950". During the hearing staff from the Public Service Commission and the Association agreed the change was necessary. It was amended in the House to include some of the access code numbers that were inadvertently omitted when the bill was written.

Jan. 5   Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 11 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended Do Pass 5-0.
Jan. 12 Senate Passed 48-0.
Jan. 14 Introduced in House.
Feb. 3 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended , as Amended, Do Pass 15-0.
Feb. 26 House Passed 89-0.
Mar. 11 Signed by Governor.

 

SB 2095 A bill to dramatically increase the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission and allow them to do "all things necessary and appropriate" to implement the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It would effectively make any independent telephone company exception meaningless. The Association testified the proposal is overreaching and that any expansion of PSC powers should be targeted and specific.

Jan. 5   Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 21 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended Do Not Pass 6-0.
Jan. 22 Senate Defeated 2-46.

 

SB 2101 Relates to the distribution of the gross receipts tax that telecommunications companies pay by requiring the tax commissioner to certify payment by March 1 to each county and the state treasurer to remit that amount to the county by March 10th.

Jan. 5   Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 13 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended Do Pass 7-0.
Jan. 14 Senate Passed 49-0.
Mar. 4   House Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended 14-0.
Mar. 11 House Passed 96-0.
Mar. 29 Signed by Governor.

 

SB 2207 A second " slamming" and "cramming" bill the Legislature will vote on during the 56th Legislative Assembly. It is difficult at this point to determine its scope because it appears to amend a section of the Century Code that does not exist. Similar to HB 1169, this bill prohibits an unauthorized change of service, mandates notice by the telco of the change and provides penalties.

Jan. 11 Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 5 Industry Business and Labor Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended, 5-2.
Feb. 10 Senate Passed 49-0.
Mar. 4 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended Do Not Pass 10-4.
Mar. 8 House Defeated 27-68.

SB 2234 The Association’s proposal to withdraw the PSC’s authority to lower the cost of intrastate access until this law would expire on July 31, 2001. This provision is supported by members of the Association because it ensures there will be price stability until the FCC revamps the cost-recovery process for rural companies nationwide in 2001. There are three exceptions to the limit on PSC jurisdiction that were suggested by AT&T:

1 - creation of an intrastate USF fund prior to that date;

2 - the sale of a rural exchange after Jan 1, 1999; or

3 - a reduction in prices for any other services provided in that exchange.

Jan. 14 Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 26 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended Do Pass 6-0.
Feb. 1   Senate Passed 49-0.
Mar. 15 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended Do Pass 13-0.
Mar. 16 House Passed 91-2.
Mar. 23 Signed by Governor.

 

SB 2256 A bill regulating telephone solicitors operating in North Dakota and enabling the PSC to establish and operate a data base to track residential subscribers who do not want to receive telephone solicitations. One who does not want to receive calls would pay $5 and be included in the data base. It will be up to telephone solicitors to receive the information from the PSC to determine which individuals should not be called. The legislation also provides penalties for solicitors violating the law.

Jan. 15 Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 4  Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended Do Not Pass 4-3.
Feb. 9  Senate Defeated 21-28.

 

SB 2265 Language introduced that would extend an excavator’s time to use a construction site marked by an underground facilities operator from 72 hours to 10 days. This provision amends the one-call notification system that was adopted two years ago.

Jan. 15 Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 26 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended Do Pass 6-0.
Jan. 28 Senate Passed 44-5.
Feb. 17 House Political Subdivisions Committee Recommended Do Pass 13-0.
Feb. 24 House Passed 94-2.
Mar. 3   Signed by Governor.

 

SB 2293Legislation introduced that requires telephone companies, including members of the Association, to give full credit to customers who dispute any or all amounts on a telephone bill. The customer would have to notify the telephone company of the dispute within sixty days after receiving it. The customer is entitled to a full credit until the dispute is resolved against the customer.

 

SB 2307 Legislation permitting the collection of a $1.00 E911 fee from all wireless users in the State and language directing how the money will be distributed. The Association participated in the creation of the bill and strongly opposed any reimbursement to wireless providers to assist them in paying for technology or deployment of facilities. The House version was amended to slash the amount allowed to be collected to 25 cents. That amount would be frozen until 2003.

 

Jan. 14 Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 27 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Referred to Appropriations Committee.
Feb. 16 Appropriations Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended, 12-1.
Feb. 17 Senate Passed 45-1.
Mar. 30 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended Do Pass as Amended 14-6.
Apr. 20 Vetoed by Governor.

 

SB 2318 Legislation written to protect a county’s 50 cent 911 excise tax on telephone lines when there is an election to raise that amount to the maximum $1.00. Under current law all authority to collect the tax disappears if voters reject the proposed increase.

Jan. 18 Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 27 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended Do Pass 6-0.
Jan. 28 Senate Passed 48-1.
Mar. 3   Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended Do Pass 14-0.
Mar. 5   House Passed 93-0.
Mar. 15 Signed by Governor.

 

SB 2358A bill allowing counties to levy up to five mills of tax for the "planning, design, acquisition, development, operation, maintenance, and support of automation and telecommunications resources". The Association will monitor the bill and attempt to learn more of the sponsors’ intent.

Jan. 18  Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 8   Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended, 60-1.
Feb. 12 Senate Passed 31-16.
Mar. 8   House Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended Do Pass 14-0.
Mar. 9   House Passed 92-5.
Mar. 19 Signed by Governor.

 

SB 2420 This bill includes the proposals advocated by US West and addresses new definitions to comply with the Federal Telecommunications Act, deregulating private line transport, increasing local service rates, eliminating filing fees, allows the "pass-through" of fees, mandates 2-PIC intraLATA dialing parity in local switches, cost recovery of construction for CLEC’s and establishes other rules for CLECs. The Association questioned whether the independent telephone industry is included under the mandate for 2-PIC equal access during the hearing and a letter from the Legislative Council was introduced into the hearing record indicating that the PSC could not mandate rural telcos to implement the feature. AT&T and McLeodUSA both testified in favor, as well as two of the three Public Service Commissioners.

Jan. 25  Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 4   Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended Do Pass 7-0.
Feb. 8   Appropriations Committee Recommended Do Pass, as Amended, 12-0.
Feb. 10 Senate Passed 48-1.
Mar. 10 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended Do Pass 12-1.
Mar. 11 House Passed 78-19.
Mar. 17 Signed by Governor.

 

 

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