Do not call law targets papers

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 25, 2002

Louisiana’s new Do Not Call law and the implementation of it by the Louisiana Public Service Commission (PSC) has become a nightmare for community newspapers across this state while developing into a campaign issue and pitting some lawmakers against the PSC in a struggle of authority.

While we agree with the legislative attempt to solve the annoying problem of telemarketers invading our households, we believe the legislature acted with blinders on. As sometimes happens in Baton Rouge, a good idea has gone bad.

It’s not the first time this has happened, nor will it be the last. We only have to look at a recently discovered loophole in the state retirement plan that allows someone to retire today and be rehired tomorrow at the same pay and still draw retirement pay.

Public Service Commissioner Jay Blossman has been the target of verbal assaults because he convinced fellow PSC members that community newspapers should not be included in the Do Not Call legislation. Blossman and the PSC saw what the legislature failed to see…that local newspapers are the official journals of public bodies in their community and they are the communication vehicle for local and state government.

The PSC did not change the law in regard to newspapers. It simply amplified it by clarifying the point that official journals should be exempt under the political activity exemption.

It’s the same exemption lawmakers gave themselves…but refused to give it to anyone else. In other words, the freedom of speech for lawmakers is a divine right and no one else is supposed to have that freedom.

The PSC is correct in its assessment that local newspapers are the legislatively-required method of informing the public of meetings, ordinances, minutes, and activities of local government. As mandated by the law, official journals are regulated by the state and they must publish advertisements at substantially reduced rates from that of a private advertiser.

We commend the PSC for recognizing the oversight made by the legislature. Their appraisal that any actions which would cause the censoring of the Official Journals is in opposition to the concept of an accessible and accountable government is right on target.

While we believe the legislature might have had tunnel vision when discussing the Do Not Call legislation, the PSC has denounced any action that impairs or obstructs the ability of newspapers to communicate the ongoing issues and decisions of local and state governments.