By JACK WEATHERLY
Thirteen years ago, Mississippi enacted its Telephone Solicitation Act to prevent unwanted calls.
In recent years, efforts to add cellphones to the act, which only addresses landlines, have gotten no traction in the Legislature.
Not so this year.
The House and Senate approved Senate Bill 2366 with only two nay votes between the chambers. Gov. Phil Bryant will “absolutely sign it,” according to Clay Chandler, director of communications for the governor.
The bill will amend the Mississippi Telephone Solicitation Act of 2003 to allow cellphone users to stop telemarketing calls – and text messages.
Cellphones are fast overtaking landlines across the country.
And especially so in Mississippi, said state Public Service Commission chairman Brandon Presley.
The state has the highest percentage of cellphone-only households, Presley said. “Landlines are rapidly diminishing,” Presley said.
“This is a long time coming,” he said. “I’ve been hoping to get this passed for eight years,” he said, adding that the public’s “irritation has reached a fever pitch.”
Attorney General Jim Hood said in an email: “It’s important that our laws keep up with new technology, especially as more and more Mississippians cut the cord on their landlines. The passage of SB 2366 is a victory for Mississippi consumers who are tired of picking up their cell phones only to learn it’s an out-of-state telemarketer on the other end of the line. This measure should help curb those annoying and unwanted calls.”
With the amended state law, Mississippians will not have to deal with Federal Communications Commission and its “bundle of bureaucracy,” Presley said.
He said the law is a matter of “privacy protection.” Calls for political purposes and by charitable organizations will be excepted, as they have been since the law was passed in 2003.
Sen. Briggs Hopson III, R-Vicksburg, lead author of the bill, said that taking advantage of the amended law, which will go into effect July 1, will require only asking the PSC to be added the list.
Twenty-six states do ban cellphone solicitations. Some states rely solely on the federal Do Not Call Registry, which applies to cellphones used for such purposes. Also, the federal law allows an individual to file suit against a solicitor.
The Mississippi law, in its original form or amended does not permit that.
The commission won judgments in court totaling about $1 million in 2015.
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