Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Lansing are working to reign in so-called “robocalls” — unsolicited and automated phone communications, typically from political campaigns — in the lead up to the 2012 election cycle.
A pair of proposals released on the same day — House Bill (HB) 5254, sponsored by state Rep. Steven Lindberg (D-Marquette); and Senate Bill (SB) 896, sponsored by state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Antwerp Township) — would institute a “do not call” list for robocalls, and require additional disclosure on who pays for the robocall and whether it is authorized by a political candidate, respectively.
The free “do not call” list, called for under HB 5254, would by administered by the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office. Every quarter, an updated list would be published for use by political solicitors. Ninety days after the list is initially established, the people on that list could not be contacted from within Michigan.
Each violation would be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.
Schuitmaker’s SB 896 would require that a robocall paid for by an independent expenditure not made by a political candidate’s committee would have to include the following language in the call: “Not authorized by any candidate committee.”
Likewise, robocalls authorized by a political candidate or candidate committee would have to include the following verbiage: “Authorized by (name of the candidate or name of the candidate committee).”
Knowingly violating the provisions of the proposed law would constitute a civil infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 for each violation.
State Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield, Commerce, Wolverine Lake) said she is in favor of both pieces of legislation, adding that she sponsored a bill like Schuitmaker’s in light of a 2008 Republican primary election robocall in her district that was placed to some homes at 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.
“I think it’s a good idea,” she said. “I know people are bothered by those phone calls.”
Proposals at least as far back as five years ago have called for robocall “do not call” lists, although those pieces of legislation — introduced in the early stages of the 2007-08 legislative session — failed to gain a significant amount of traction among state lawmakers.
HB 5254 has been referred to the House Redistricting and Elections Committee, which is chaired by state Rep. Peter Lund (R-Shelby Township); while SB 896 has been forwarded to the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, which is helmed by state Sen. David Robertson (R-Waterford).
A message left for Robertson on Monday, Feb. 6 was not returned prior to press time.