February 15, 2013
Telephone land lines could be eliminated in parts of Kentucky under a bill that passed the Kentucky Senate on Thursday. Proponents of Senate Bill 88 say the bill would allow companies like AT&T, Cincinnati Bell and Windstream to sink more money into expanding wireless broadband communications rather than costly old, outmoded land lines. It passed the Senate by a vote of 24-13.
Sen. Paul Hornback, a Shelbyville Republican and the bill's sponsor, said the state's existing telecommunications laws were written at a time when smartphones and wireless technology were a dream and that the state's regulations have not kept up. "It's time to change our laws to reflect that reality," Hornback said in a floor speech. "The question is will Kentucky keep up or will it be again left behind states like Indiana and Tennessee."
A lawyer for AT&T testified this week that passing the legislation would help convince the company, which will soon begin spending $14 billion to upgrade its network nationally, to spend more money in Kentucky. But others claim that some people, particularly in rural and mountainous parts of the state, could be left with spotty telephone service if the industry was deregulated and allowed to abandon copper-wire technology. Hornback said that when the measure gets to the House, he will push for amendments to his bill that would require the state Public Service Commission to work to resolve complaints about the telephone companies, as the PSC does under current law.
Furthermore, he said he would push for a House amendment that would require at least two other telephone providers offer service "throughout" a coverage area before land lines are abandoned. Before cell phones, the state instituted laws that require "carriers of last resort" to serve all customers in their coverage areas. It resulted in the companies stringing telephone lines into parts of the state without many customers. SB 88 would drop that requirement where there are wireless providers who serve the same areas. "Not one customer will lose their phone under this law," Hornback said. The bill's chances are much less certain in the House. House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he doesn't like the bill. "I'd say it has tougher sledding over here," said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. "I don't think it's a good idea for rural Kentucky." Louisville Courier-Journal
Is U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz 80 percent decided toward running for governor of Pennsylvania in 2014? We think that may be a little on the low side. Montgomery County Democratic Chairman Marcel Groen cited that percentage last Friday to Capitolwire. Schwartz later told The Morning Call of Allentown that the number was "pretty accurate."
Schwartz, who represents Philadelphia and Montgomery County, has $3.1 million in her campaign fund, raised under the strict restrictions for federal races. She can dump that all into a run for governor, since state regulations are far more lax. That may put Gov. Corbett in the middle of a Montgomery County crunch, with Schwartz on his left and County Commissioner Bruce Castor on his right. Schwartz's chief of staff, Rachel Magnuson, said that her boss is "deeply weighing" the race.
Castor said that he will decide in the next couple of months whether he will mount a Republican primary challenge. Schwartz can impact that decision, he said. "If I become convinced that the GOP is going to lose with Tom Corbett in the fall of 2014, that will go a long way in making the decision for me," Castor said. "I believe the Republicans, to win statewide, have to find a way to do reasonably well in the southeastern media market. I don't see Gov. Corbett doing that." Castor thinks that Schwartz would do very well in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. Castor also thinks that he's one of the few potential Republican candidates who can be competitive with Schwartz in this region while drawing his party's support across the rest of the state. "Replacing Tom with a candidate who can do well in the southeast and appeal to voters outside makes a lot of sense," he said.
Former U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford will visit the White House Friday to be awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal. President Obama will give the nation's second-highest civilian honor, behind the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to 12 people. He also will award the medal posthumously to six teachers and administrators killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that also took the lives of 20 children. "Especially with those who lost their lives, it's a humbling experience," Wofford said this week.
Wofford, a Democrat, represented Pennsylvania in the Senate from 1991 to 1995 before losing to Republican Rick Santorum. Wofford had been a White House adviser on civil rights for President John F. Kennedy and advised the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was an early supporter of Obama's first presidential bid. Philadelphia Daily News
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