The longest day at the Gold Dome

Hot-button bills often come in unassuming packages

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Crossover Day at the state Capitol began a little more than seven hours ago, and we’re likely only about half-way through. The House just passed a contentious gun bill, but there are other pieces of legislation that have been flagged as controversial by virtue of the fact that the leadership has pre-emptively limited debate to an hour apiece.

One is oddly specific: House Resolution 73 seeks to compensate Lathan Rydell Word of Columbus for the eleven years he spent in prison after being wrongly convicted for armed robbery. Apparently, there’s significant disagreement over whether Mr. Word deserves the proposed $400,000 payout for his troubles; a version of the same bill failed last year.

Another appears deceptively banal. House Bill 282 would require cities to get approval from the state Public Service Commission before offering broadband Internet, cable or wi-fi to local customers in areas that don’t already have such services.

The bill is being branded as a move to protect the bottom line of Internet and cable providers such as AT&T and Comcast, which clearly don’t appreciate the public sector poaching on their turf. The bill’s critics say the losers would be residents of small towns and other places where the big cable companies have decided high-speed Internet isn’t worth the investment.

HB 282 has already been amended to exclude local electrical management companies and publicly owned utilities, which fought against the restriction. And I’m told it has other powerful opponents, such as Google and others who believe the legislation would limit the availability of their content. If it achieves nothing else, the bill has already helped enrich a small army of lobbyists.

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