LANSING – The months-long effort of a work group and committee testimony produced a tentative decision Wednesday in a Senate committee on a bill to serve as the basis of rewriting Michigan's telecommunications law, which is set to expire December 31.
But the Michigan Technology and Energy Committee postponed for a week action on possible amendments to the substitute to SB 754 and sending it to the full Senate.
Committee Chair Sen. Bruce Patterson (R-Canton) said "time is running out, here" for the Legislature to act, adding he does not foresee another extension of the sunset on the current telecommunications law. "I think we can report something that keeps Michigan in the forefront and does not eviscerate companies," he said.
The current proposal adds a new definition for essential local exchange service and applies the rate limits only to a single voice line to a residential customer's first 50 calls per month. It also retains current provisions regarding the process used by the Public Service Commission to declare a service competitive, dumping provisions that were in the bill as introduced that made significant changes in how a service or class could be determined to be competitive and assigned to either regulated or unregulated status. It permits companies to impose new rates for regulated services with a one-day notice to the PSC.
The committee opted for the new proposal on a party-line vote (Democrats favored using SB 715, which makes more modest changes in existing law than did earlier versions).
Small business representatives expressed concern of the impact the substitute would have on their rates, which would be completely deregulated.
Patterson temporarily shelved another bill, SB 755, which extends until 2008 a cap on residential rates by the state's two largest utilities because of questions regarding the constitutionality of the requirement under provisions dealing with government taking of private property.
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