CA DNC Bill Looms, Biggest States Blocking Telemarketers

Early this year, as state lawmakers prepared to begin their annual legislative sessions, it appeared possible that the nation's most populous states would soon offer their residents do-not-call lists to block telemarketers. That scenario is becoming reality.

In California, the state with the biggest population at 33.8 million residents, a DNC list bill that died earlier this summer has been resurrected by its author, Democratic state Sen. Liz Figueroa.

The bill was scheduled for a hearing yesterday in the California Assembly. If approved by the Assembly, the bill would have to return to the Senate for final approval.

California's proposed DNC list bill has taken an unusual route. Figueroa's original bill, S.B. 17, stalled during a lengthy legislative committee process.

Figueroa then found a bill that had already passed the Senate, S.B. 771, and gutted it with the permission of the original bill author. She replaced the original bill text, which had to do with licensing regulations for architects, with her DNC list legislation, and sent it onto the Assembly.

The steps taken by supporters of the bill to revive the proposal have drawn criticism from the American Teleservices Association, which complained that the bill would return to the Senate for a vote without a Senate hearing. The association has urged its members in California to lobby against the bill.

“It's legal and within the rules,” said C. Tyler Prochnow, ATA state legislative counsel and a columnist for DM News. “Fortunately or unfortunately, it happens all the time.”

Supporters of state DNC lists have had a banner year in 2001, with list bills being passed in four states. Another is nearing finalization in Wisconsin, where, after initially hesitating under a barrage of public input from both sides of the issue, Gov. Scott McCallum has said he will sign the DNC list bill but will veto certain sections.

The biggest victory for privacy advocates so far has been in Texas, which has the second-largest population in the nation at 20.8 million. If the California bill passes, four of the nation's top-five most populous states will have DNC lists.

The sole holdout would be Illinois, where a DNC list bill was passed by the state legislature but vetoed in August by Gov. George Ryan, not because it was too restrictive but because it allowed too many business exemptions. New York and Florida had enacted DNC lists earlier.

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