Citing fears that state franchising reform might interfere with the contractual rights of local governments and incumbent cable companies, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has vetoed a bill that would have enabled state franchising for new competitors. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, businesses are waiting to see if Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, sidetracked by a state budget crisis, will sign a franchise reform bill there. He has until Aug. 4 to decide whether to sign the measure. If that date passes and he hasn’t signed, the bill will automatically become law.
In her July 12 letter to the secretary of the state Senate, Blanco, a Democrat, indicated there is uncertainty over the financial effect on local governments of the bill (HB699). If the bill were to cause “significant revenue loss to local government, as many have reported, traditional vital services for our citizens would have to be cut or those citizens may be asked to pay increased taxes,” she wrote.
The veto appears to be a victory for local governments and the Police Jury Association of Louisiana, the trade group for parish governments. Local regulators opposed multiple provisions of the bill, especially one that would have allowed incumbent cable operators to opt out of their local agreements in the face of competition.
Even after the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the state legislature last month, a contingent of local government leaders met personally with Blanco to plead for a veto.
The bill called for new providers to be certified by the secretary of state’s office. The office would rule on applications in 10 days, awarding 10-year statewide franchises.
New providers would have been allowed to determine their own service areas, and state or local buildout requirements would not be permitted.
Any complaints regarding failure to serve an area based on the income of its residents were to be adjudicated by the state attorney general.
Blanco’s letter urged local governments to come up with a model ordinance that would speed the implementation of new technologies. The bill heads back to the state House of Representatives.