Disturbing Representative Remarks

Last nights League of Women Voters Forum for the Lafayette Representative races yielded some disturbing remarks according to an article in the Advertiser. In toto:

Asked if they would support or oppose legislation that would repeal or dilute a 2004 law allowing the Lafayette Utilities System fiber-to-the-home project, all three candidates said they would not support changing the legislation.

Cox Communications, BellSouth and others worked with LUS and legislators to draft the legislation so that it would be fair, Williams said.

All three said the competition will be good for consumers, lowering rates.

Well, the last remark is true and encouraging competition is a good reason to support Lafayette’s network after they leave for Baton Rouge. Competition will be good for consumers. But that wasn’t the question. The question asked was:

“Lafayette’s Fiber To The Home project–approved by the voters in July of 20O6—was delayed by a series lawsuits based on an 2004 Louisiana law, the “Local Government Fair Competition Act.” Some Lafayette Parish Representatives introduced or supported bills to modify or repeal it in the spring of 2006.

Would you favor or oppose repeal of this law? Why or why not?”

If the concern is to promote competition in order to save their constituents some cash then the right answer would be: “Yes, I’d consider changing the law in ways that make it easier for LUS to give our citizens a break.” I’m disappointed that our representative hopefuls seemed unfamiliar with the fact that the law actually operates to restrain competition. (As discussed at length on this site (e.g. 1, 2), the law does nothing to control prices—as far as consumer prices are concerned the “fair” competition act ONLY puts a floor under what LUS (and only LUS) can charge. It limits the price breaks the utility we own can give us.) Certainly the delaying lawsuits that were enabled by the law were big news–everyone should know that this incumbent-sponsored bill cost the taxpayers a bundle of money but some may be less familiar with the way that it works to force LUS to charge us more. Badon and Hardy could take the position that they really weren’t too familiar with the story and that “of course they’d love to save the public some money if getting that law out of the way would help” but Williams was at the heart of the fight the whole time as a city councilman and can’t credibly plead ignorance. His naive take is very disappointing. He should understand this stuff by now.