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Rich Tehrani

[January 29, 2004]

Call Center Lobbying At The State Level

BY RICH TEHRANI

 


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 issues.

We can only hope that grass roots efforts begin to take place elsewhere. The teleservices outsourcing industry surely needs it.

Rich Tehrani is TMC's president. He welcomes your comments. Participate in our forums.

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