Colorado Speaker of the House Doug Dean is intent on killing a bill that supporters describe as one of the most bipartisanly popular and widely supported measures of recent years.
The proposal, House Bill 93, would allow Colorado residents to block telemarketing calls to their homes by putting their phone numbers on a statewide no-call list, free of charge. A call made to a no-call number would subject the telemarketer to a $2,000 fine.
The bill, co-sponsored by state Sen. Ken Chlouber (R-Leadville) and state Rep. Mark Larson (R-Cortez), has the support of Gov. Bill Owens and Attorney General Ken Salazar.
"The people of Colorado are behind this more than any issue I've seen in 15 years of political office," said Chlouber. "The list hasn't been publicized, yet almost 20,000 people have already asked to be on it. I've never seen anything like it."
The bill is strongly opposed, however, by Colorado Springs-based MCIWorldcom, by the Direct Marketing Association of Colorado, and by lobbyists for banking and insurance interests.
Perhaps the staunchest opponent is Dean, a former marketing manager at Colorado Springs-based FutureCall, the nation's 20th-largest telemarketer. Chlouber and Larson charge Dean with scheming to kill the proposal by assigning it to the State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee for hearings.
As speaker, Dean assigns other members to committees that comprise the state Legislature. And following the tradition of past speakers, Dean has stacked one select committee with lawmakers who are likely to do his bidding, according to Larson. This year, Dean stocked the Veterans and Military committee with like-minded Republicans including El Paso County-based Reps. Bill Cadman (District 15), Bill Sinclair (District 16) and David Schultheis (District 22) -- upon whom he can rely to vote in accordance with his wishes. Dean assigns any bill he wants killed to that committee for hearings.
Dean -- who has not made clear to lawmakers why he holds such a strong opposition -- did not return repeated telephone calls seeking comment on his efforts to kill the popular bill.
However, the speaker's stance is causing Larson, the bill's Republican co-sponsor, to see red.
"There's nothing in the bill of relevance to veterans or military matters," he said. "Business Affairs and Labor would be the appropriate committee. The only reason the speaker would send it to Veterans and Military is to kill it.
"I sat down with Mr. Dean the other day and made an impassioned plea not to send it there, but that's where it's going," Larson said. "He's denying the direct request of a party member who supported him for speaker."
Chlouber is equally irate. "This is a clear-cut example of politicians kowtowing to a comparatively small group of special interests to the public's detriment," he said.
Support for the bill has also come from the governor and attorney general. According to Gov. Owens' press secretary, Dick Wadhams, "The governor believes that telemarketing is overdone. He's heard from enough people saying that it's an intrusion in their lives."
Deputy Attorney General Garth Lucero characterized HB-93 as "a straightforward consumer privacy bill with a broad base of support from consumer and law enforcement groups. The office of Attorney General has had more favorable public feedback over this bill than any piece of legislation in recent years," he said.
Tim Summers, spokesman for the American Association of Retired People, argues that no-call legislation could reduce telemarketing fraud of senior citizens. He said that consumers lose $40 billion a year to fraudulent telemarketers and that an FBI study found dishonest telemarketers specifically targeting seniors.
"The Attorney General believes this bill could reduce telemarketing fraud of Colorado seniors," Lucero said. "Ninety-six percent of AARP members favor it," Summers added.
A legitimate business
Telemarketers argue, however, that SB-93 would unfairly burden a vital and growing Colorado industry.
According to Rebecca Saltman, spokesperson for the Colorado Springs-based MCIWorldcom, Colorado has more than 75,000 telemarketers, and there'll be 98,000 by 2004. She notes a DMA study saying that Colorado businesses generated almost $9.5 billion in sales via telemarketing last year. "Telemarketing is a legitimate business that's vital to the state economy," she said.
Saltman argues that no-call legislation isn't needed, noting that "Consumers can already ask any telemarketer to put them on their no-call list, and more than 65,000 Coloradans are already on a free telemarketing no-call list maintained by the state Direct Marketing Association."
Chlouber and Larson argue, however, that the majority of telemarketing firms in the United States don't belong to DMA, and those who do aren't legally bound to comply. Consumers, meanwhile, have to contact each telemarketing firm individually to get on their no-call lists, and there are 140,000 telemarketing firms in the United States.
Colorado common sense
Chlouber insists his bill would benefit consumers and business alike.
"I used to make a living selling insurance over the phone," he said. "It makes plain old country Colorado common sense that a no-call list would enhance telemarketer productivity because they would avoid the calls least likely to produce sales."
Chlouber's assessment is shared by Joe Schulman, senior vice president at FutureCall, the telemarketing firm where Dean once worked. "We don't foresee a problem," Schulman said. "People who ask to be put on this list are the ones who would say no anyway. It would help us avoid unproductive calls."
Asked if sending SB-93 to Veterans and Military will doom the bill, Chlouber surmised that "it might still be saved if enough Colorado Springs citizens contact Reps. Dean, Cadmon, Sinclair and Schultheis to demand their support of no-call legislation."
To date, 13 states have passed telemarketing no-call laws, and 26 are considering no-call legislation this year.
Anyone wishing to place his or her phone number in the proposed no-call databank can do so by logging on to