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Lawmakers continue to work toward rural broadband

Published by The Citizens on February 25, 2019

by Dave Belton

The most important bill we passed in the sixth week of the legislative session was the Senate’s changes to the amended or “small” budget. Thanks to the hard work of the House and the Senate, the House was able to agree with very few changes. The small budget will now go to the governor, and we will continue to work on the “Big” Budget.

We passed another Rural Broadband bill in committee. This bill was a bit more contentious as the internet providers and EMCs were still not in agreement with the cities and counties on how to assess utility pole fees. HB 244 creates a standard pole rate that is identical to the federal standard pole rate. We think this bill will level the playing field in search of progress, as some cities and counties had outrageous fees, making it economically impossible to provide broadband there. This bill sat in committee for three years already, and we are very impatient with any further delays. Another measure, HB 243, will try to standardize fees on the installation of telephone facilities. That measure has not yet passed in committee.

I was very pleased that another of my military children bills received a unanimous vote on the floor of the House. Another education bill, HB 130, will create a 501(c)3 to fund public education as well as the academies for the blind and deaf.

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