St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida
TampaBay.com
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
  • Florida budget? Not from this session
  • Everglades bill draws powerful enemies
  • Harsh side of budget cuts
  • Latest ballot dispute? Storage
  • Senate backs bill that could boost local phone rates
  • Bush tries to focus claims bills on victims

  • Around the state
  • Democratic fundraiser dies in apparent murder-suicide

  • Legislature
  • House debate: Do organ donors' rights supersede families'?
  • FBI, police search teachers union

  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
  • Developments associated with Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne
  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
  • Hurricane Jeanne heads toward southeast U.S. coast
  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story
  • tampabay.com
    Print story Reuse or republish Subscribe to the Times

    Senate backs bill that could boost local phone rates

    Phone companies wrote the measure. The average monthly bill could rise by up to $7.25 in the next four years.

    By MICHAEL SANDLER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 30, 2003

    TALLAHASSEE - While the state budget was put on hold, the Florida Senate on Tuesday moved along a bill that could produce the largest phone rate increase in state history.

    With little debate, the Senate gave preliminary approval to a measure (SB 654) that phone companies have worked tirelessly to pass.

    Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed a similar bill last year, but supports this year's version because it expands discounts for the poor and gives the Public Service Commission limited oversight to approve rate increases.

    "It's acceptable because there's more focus on embracing, through less regulation, the new technologies that I think will enhance the economy," Bush said.

    Phone customers also will pay more for local service. The bill would increase the average monthly bill for basic phone service by as much as $7.25 in the next four years, according to government studies. After that, basic service could increase by as much as 20 percent a year.

    Supporters say the measure is designed to stimulate competition among phone companies and eventually lead to lower long-distance bills within Florida.

    Phone companies wrote the bill, which includes a promise to advertise a program that offers discounts to low-income customers.

    Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, is unsatisfied. He wants the phone companies to pay $625,000 for the advertising campaign and he wants it in writing.

    "They agreed to pay some money to help poor folks," Siplin said. "I just want to make sure it's in the bill."

    More than 1-million people qualify for the discounts, Siplin said, but only about 2,000 are enrolled. He wants the phone companies to do a better job informing customers about it.

    That was the only aspect of the bill discussed Tuesday, and his colleagues persuaded him to withdraw his amendment, huddle with the phone companies and reintroduce something they would support today when the bill is taken up for debate.

    Lobbyists for phone companies fear any amendments would force Bush to veto the bill. They said he would support it only in its current form.

    "It will do more harm," said Cory Tilley, a spokesperson for the phone companies. "The governor has said not to amend it, and I think any kind of amendment can open up a can of worms."

    Opponents, who represent poor and elderly people, said forcing phone companies to spend money on an advertising campaign wouldn't solve the problem. A better solution, they said, is to automatically enroll those who qualify.

    The AARP is has been writing Bush asking him to veto the bill. But their lobbyists says that now seems unlikely.

    "It looks to me this bill is going to pass no matter how bad it is for consumers ...," said Lyn Bodiford, a lobbyist for the AARP.

    - Times staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.

    l

    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
     
    Special Links
    Lucy Morgan


    From the Times state desk