Telecom bill opponents suspect proposal will be posted for vote this month

Opponents of legislation that would largely deregulate portions of the telecommunications industry say they have been told by Senate President Steve Sweeney that the bill will be posted for a vote later this month.

The bill, which is heavily supported by Verizon and has opposition among several groups including the AARP and the State League of Municipalities, has already passed in the Assembly but was tabled in the Senate last month.

Spokesman for two opposition groups say they were told the bill would likely be voted on in the upper chamber on April 28, however a spokesman for Sweeney said the board list of the upcoming Senate session has not yet been finalized.

The bill is one of the more contentious pieces of legislation to hit the Statehouse in recent months.

Verizon officials say passage of the bill will mean greater investment in the state, which will bring with it additional jobs.  The company dismissed opposition claims that it will result in substantially higher rates for landline phone service and is a precursor to an eventual sale of Verizon’s land line business.

The bill was tabled by Senate Democrats last month when they were unable to gain assurances from the Christie administration that the governor would sign the bill.  Democrats say they feared the governor would veto passage of the legislation in order to embarrass the caucus. 

Other senators say the involvement of the AARP made some caucus members skittish as the advocate for retirees threatened a campaign urging its members to hold supporters of the bill accountable in the November election. 

AARP Governmental Affairs Manager Douglas Johnston said the group continues to urge its members to call their senators and ask them to vote no on the bill.  Johnston said the bill will have a disproportionate effect on older residents who tend to rely more on landline phone service than others.

Johnston says proposed amendments to the bill have been met with a stonewall by industry lobbyists and the bill’s sponsor Sen. Ray Lesniak,  (D-20).  Lesniak has been out of commission for the past month after knee surgery.

“We are keeping up our campaign (there were another 1,500 calls to Senate offices by AARP members last week) and plan to make it an election issue as well,” Johnston said in an email.


Telecom bill opponents suspect proposal will be posted for vote this month