Legislators hand cell phone users a victory
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Legislators hand cell phone users a victory

Date: May 15, 2012
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Cell phone users would have a new tool against telemarketers under a measure the legislature sent the governor Tuesday, May 15.

The bill would allow cell phone numbers to be included in the "no-call" list maintained by the state attorney general.

With some exceptions, including political calls, telemarketers are prohibited from calling numbers on the no-call list unless there is a pre-existing business relationship with the phone subscriber.

The measure passed by the legislature also would expand the restrictions on telemarketers to include text messaging and FAXes.

Business phone lines, however, would continued to be excluded from the restrictions.

Ironically, the bill's sponsor said he had not been subjected to a telemarketing call on his cell phone until just about two hours after his bill had cleared the legislature.

"It demonstrates that this becoming more and more prevalent," said Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff. "The telemarketers are becoming more and more aggressive about looking for cell phone numbers and putting them into their databases."

Richardson said the attorney general's office was getting hundreds of complaints per week concerning telemarketing calls to cell phones.

Richardson's bill cleared the legislature without a single dissenting vote in either the House or Senate.

Previous efforts to expand the no-call law had encountered legislative resistance for including political robo calls.

Critics of those efforts argued restricting calls for political campaigns violated the U.S. Constitution's right of free speech.

In other legislative action Tuesday, the House sent the governor a measure that would expand where independent charter schools can operate and who can sponsor them.

Charter schools receive some public school funds, but operate independently of many of the regulations governing public schools.

Currently, charter schools are limited to St. Louis and Kansas City.

The measure passed by the legislature would allow a charter school to operate in any school district that is unaccredited or provisionally accredited.

In addition, more organizations could sponsor charter schools including a local school district or a special state commission created by the law.

The measure also includes provisions for expanded government review of charter schools including the right of the state auditor to audit a charter school.

Supporters argued the state has a responsibility to provide students in failing school districts with an alternative.

"We need to do something to help these kids," said Rep. Rick Stream, R-St. Louis County. "And we don't need to wait until next year or the following year or five years or ten years down the road. We need to act now to give these kids a quality education."

But critics charged the bill did nothing to address the underlying problems facing the unaccredited districts of St. Louis and Kansas City.

"This is a distraction to continue to pull resources," said Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis, during the final House debate Tuesday. "A lot of these kids these kids are homeless in St. Louis city public schools. The homeless rate is extremely high. We have to address those concerns."

Springfield Democrat Rep. Sara Lampe warned that the bill could open the door for profit-making, out-of-state charter school companies to undercut the financial base of a local district that ran into accreditation problems.

"The only thing that this bill is needed for is to create an opportunity for expansion of a business out into the state into your community, to draw profit off your community and and take away your local community school."

The measure now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon. In his January State of the State address, Nixon urged lawmakers to impose stronger quality controls over charter schools.