Ignoring threats by some House Republicans to kill the measure, the Senate Commerce Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to try to protect Arizona consumers from unwanted phone calls.
The action also came over the objections of a lobbyist for the telemarketing industry who insisted that the legislation is so broad that it would prevent people from being exposed to products that they might actually want to buy. Lori Fentem of the American Teleservice Association also said the law could force companies to lay off workers who make these calls.
Those contentions brought an angry reaction from Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley, who said the industry's arguments presume that Arizona consumers are stupid.
"I'm not sure how somebody would lose their job if the people who requested to be on the (no call) list aren't going to buy your services anyway,'' she said.
Leff said calls to people who seek not to be disturbed are a waste of time unless you really believe "that we don't, as consumers, know what we want and you can talk us into something by a very quick phone call.''
Wednesday's 9-0 vote gives some ammunition to Sen. Tim Bee, R-Tucson, who is trying to shepherd the legislation into law after similar measures failed two years in a row. Industry lobbyists have persuaded key House Republicans to hold the measure and wait to see what restrictions are enacted by the Federal Trade Commission.
Several senators said they questioned how fast federal officials will act. The vote also came over the objections of a host of lobbyists representing everyone from telephone companies to auto dealers and newspapers.
Manny Lerma, lobbyist for Qwest Communications, acknowledged that people don't like to be disturbed during dinner and at other times. "Your strongest telecommunication weapon is don't answer the phone,'' he said. Lerma said if a call comes and his Caller ID unit reads "not available'' he simply chooses not to pick up.
That, however, is dependent on consumers purchasing that service from Lerma's phone company for $5.95 a month.
The legislation, SB1119, would allow Arizonans to register for a no-call list. Companies that sell by phone would have to buy copies of that list and could be financially penalized for calling anyone on the list.
Sen. Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale, said legislators need to act to protect constituents from this annoyance.
"It's becoming so overwhelming for people that you almost want to yank your telephone out of the wall,'' she said. "So many of us would like to have these calls stop.''
A similar measure is pending in the House of Representatives.