Since 1996, Pennsylvania has been the only state to
hold an Annual ATA Teleservices
Conference in Harrisburg, the capital, and have an ongoing, organized
lobbying effort. Credit Art Saxon, president of TeleStar Marketing for being the
driving force behind this movement. Stuart Discount, president of Tele-Response Center Incorporated,
an ATA board member and recently appointed National Legislative Chairman, has been
extremely instrumental as well.
The recent conference, on November 17-18, 2003, was
of particular importance, since House Bill 200 had been passed days
earlier. This legislation would have added an additional 5 percent gross
receipts tax on outbound interstate and inbound 800 number telephone
traffic. Despite lobbying efforts by members of the ATA beforehand, the
provision was included as part of the Governors overall budget package
and once passed by the House was sent to the Senate.
This became a real test for the 30- plus members of
the States ATA Legislative Committee when they convened for the
Conference. With several key
legislators as luncheon speakers, and more than 50 contacts with both
House and Senate elected officials, the group was able to convince both
Houses to create an exemption for call centers in the State.
Over the years this organized lobbying effort in
Pennsylvania has paid off numerous times. This group was instrumental in
changing the States two-party consent law, regarding the monitoring of
calls, to one-party consent. In 1998 Pennsylvanias first DNC (do not
call) legislation was proposed. Many hearings were attended and testimony
presented. Not until 2003, when political pressure seemed so great, did
the politicians finally introduce a bill. The first draft included no
exemptions, with the exception of political calling. By lobbying with
lawmakers, all recommended exemptions were included before it was passed.
Without these longstanding relationships in
Pennsylvania, the consequences for the teleservices outsourcing industry
could have been much greater, driving costs up even higher and providing
additional incentives to move offshore. Why arent other states helping
themselves? When legislation is proposed in the other 49 there is always a
last minute scramble to contact lawmakers, some of whom have never before
heard from the Industry representative. There should be an ongoing
dialogue with our elected officials even when there are no pressing
We can only hope that grass roots efforts begin to
take place elsewhere. The teleservices outsourcing industry surely needs
Rich Tehrani is TMC's president. He welcomes your comments.
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