Flash: HB 699 Goes To Conference Comittee

Just a fast update. HB 699 was heard and the Senate amendments rejected. It is hard at this moment to say what that will mean for the state or Lafayette. The floor vote doesn’t give much of a clue since no one voted to accept the amendments.

It has to mean that BellSouth-soon-to-be-AT&T isn’t satisfied that it’s got everything it wanted out of the bill and thinks it can squeeze a bit more. That is unlikely to mean anything good for Lafayette or for the State.

Having rammed the bill through it is possible that BellSouth just has something else it wants to sneak in or, more likely, that it wants to strip out at least some of the Senate amendments and thinks it has the muscle to force the Senate to back down.

One of those amendments would have built a better case for Lafayette being having a pre-74 status that makes the changes the bill enforces less immediate. It would let Lafayette keep its current cable franchise intact for instance. Cox might not like that.

Another Senate amendment concerning private owners and rights of way is, we are told, similar to the one that Michot offered in Senate committee. That one, the pro-BellSouth commerce committee chair Pinac said would “gut” the bill. That was not the prevailing sentiment on the floor of the senate where the sponsor had a hard time saying what was wrong with it. Frankly, upon reading it, it seems more favorable to BellSouth than not.

The whole thing has to be done by 6 pm on June the 19th–next Monday. The Senate conferees have already been appointed. In the best of all possible worlds the bill would die in conference. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Once it comes out of committee both the house and the Senate will have to vote again.

[Update–The Advertiser has posted an informative brief:

The intent of the action is not to change Senate amendments, but to address an issue raised at the last moment by the state Department of Transportation and Development, said Rep. Billy Montgomery, D-Haughton.

The issue concerns DOTD rights-of-way over private property and require a technical change in the bill, he said. But with overwhelming support in the House and Senate, a compromise version should be approved before the Legislature must adjourn at 6 p.m. Monday.

Apparently the move to a conference committee is based on the right of way issue discussed above. Exactly what the DOTD wants addressed and whether the committee will restrain itself to that issue remains to be seen.]

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