Sunday, May 22, 2005

When the Elephants Dance in the Henyard...

...The Chickens Get Out of the Way.

The premier business fight of the session might have just ended. After debating the measure more than five hours and weathering four points of order, telecommunications deregulation passed on a voice vote tonight in the House. Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) carried SB 408. King had fumbled his telecomm ambitions originally and even had trouble getting a bill out of the committee of which he is chair, but tonight he delivered for SBC. The San Antonio-based phone company wants to sell cable television in Texas but first it needed to break the monopoly of the cable companies. While SBC will likely gain financially from what happened tonight, it remains to be seen whether consumers will benefit at all.

In the end the cable companies couldn't match the prowess of SBC. It was rumored that they had 10 lobbyists for each member of the House. According to the Texas Ethics Commission, SBC has at least 63 registered lobbyists this session. They also enlisted the AFL-CIO to lobby Democrats on their behalf. Cable, which according to one member is more accustomed to lobbying municipalities than the Legislature, enlisted the Texas Municipal League but most every amendment that would have removed SBC's language died overwhelmingly. After the bill's passage, a swarm of lobbyists descended from the House gallery enmass.

The only shot Cable has to get back in the fight is through the Senate in conference committee.