House panel passes bill restricting use of political robocalls

The House Labor and Industry Committee this morning signed off on a bill bill that would ban making political robocalls to people who have registered on the national “no-call” list. 

House Bill 18 would make it a Class B misdemeanor to use automated calls to advocate for or against a political party, candidate or measure if those calls are made to people on the list. 

Bill sponsor Rep. Jimmy Higdon, a Lebanon Republican, said the calls are a nuisance to people who have already expressed their desire to not be bothered by unsolicited calls. Calls made by a live person wouldn’t be covered under the bill. 

Higdon removed portions that would require robocall content to indicate who is paying for the call to make it more appealing to legislators. 

“The bill seemed to have a lot of baggage and people didn’t like it,” Higdon told the committee. 

The bill passed by a vote of 13 to 2 with one legislator passing on the vote, and most legislators saying they supported limited a tactic that can be an unwarranted bother to people. 

“We politicians apparently think we’ve got the right to invade people’s lives at any time and in any way we see fit,” said Rep. Tim Firkins, a Louisville Democat who voted for the bill. “We all know that robocalls typically made in the heat of the campaign are not used to inform people. They are used to inflame people.”

Rep. Will Coursey, a Benton Democrat, voted against the bill, and said it runs contrary to the intent of the “no-call” list that was set up to limit being contacted for commercial purposes. 

“I think it’s important that the candidate have an opportunity in whatever fashion to get the word out,” Coursey said. 

With passage by the committee, the measure will move to the full House for its consideration.

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