In Alaska, Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-9) reintroduced the “Robo-call Prohibition Act” (H.B. 243, which was H.B. 226 in 2011), which would forbid using “an automated telephone system, device, or facsimile machine for the selection and dialing of telephone numbers and playing of recorded messages if a message is completed to the dialed number for the purpose of: (A) offering goods or services for sale; (B) conveying information on goods or services in soliciting sales or purchases; (C) soliciting information; (D) gathering data or statistics; or (E) promoting a political campaign or any use related to a political campaign.” Since this would prohibit automated research calls, MRA is seeking to amend or defeat H.B. 243. MRA collaborated with the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) in 2011 to kill the last incarnation of this legislation.
In the District of Columbia, Councilmember Mary M. Cheh (D-3) introduced the “Quiet Unwanted Disruptions by Telephone Act” (B19-0089), which would restrict nearly all automated calls, including automated survey and opinion research calls. According to the Act, “A caller shall not use or connect an automatic dialing-announcing device… unless: (1) The subscriber has voluntarily requested, consented to, permitted, or authorized receipt of messages from that caller; or (2) The message is immediately preceded by a live operator who obtains the subscriber’s consent before the message is delivered.” All automated calls would have to include an “opt-out mechanism”, defined as “a procedure that allows a subscriber to terminate the current message and notify the caller that the subscriber should not receive any future calls initiated by an automatic-dialing announcing device from that caller or sponsoring entity. In the case of a call that could be answered in person by a subscriber, the subscriber may opt-out using an automated interactive voice or keypress-activated mechanism. In the case of a call that could be answered by an answering machine or voicemail service, the person called is provided with a toll-free telephone number that processes do-not-call requests. The number provided must connect directly to an automated interactive voice or keypress-activated opt-out mechanism that automatically adds the number called to the caller or sponsoring entity's do-not-call list.” The opt out would have to be “announced and made available within 15 seconds of a person answering the call” and, “once activated, automatically” add the recipient’s number to “the caller or sponsoring entity’s do-not-call list” and terminate the call. The Act defines “automatic dialing-announcing device” as “a device that selects and dials phone numbers and that, working alone or in conjunction with other equipment, disseminates a prerecorded or synthesized voice message to the telephone number called.” It also defines “message” as “any call, regardless of its content.” The Act exempts “any public-originated message”, “messages from private schools to enrolled students or parents”, “messages to subscribers with whom the caller has a current business or personal relationship” and “messages from employers to employees.” Even if an automated call is preceded by a live operator, “the operator must, at the outset of the message, disclose” the entity on whose behalf “the message is being made”. Since the Act would severely restrict automated survey and opinion research calls, MRA will seek to amend or defeat B19-0089.
In New Jersey, Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-1) introduced S.B. 417, legislation which would add “recorded message calls” to the state do not cal registry. It defines “recorded message call” as “a telephone call made to deliver a recorded or artificial voice message, but does not include automated recorded telephone operator introductions for the purposes of accepting a call or message.” Since this would restrict automated survey and opinion research calls, MRA will seek to amend or defeat S.B. 417.
In Pennsylvania, Rep. Jim Marshall (R-14) introduced H.B. 1545, which would establish a state do not call registry for consumers who wish not to receive “automatic political calls” and require that automated calls on behalf of political candidates, bodies, committees, or organizations abide not be made to numbers on that registry. H.B. 1545 states that, “a person may not initiate or cause to be initiated an automatic political call to a residential or wireless telephone number of a telephone subscriber who does not wish to receive automatic political calls and has caused the subscriber's name, address and telephone number to be enrolled on a do-not-call list for automatic political calls maintained by a list administrator.” H.B. 1545 defines “automatic dialing-announcing device” as a “device that selects and dials telephone numbers and that, working alone or in conjunction with other equipment, disseminates a prerecorded or synthesized voice message to the telephone number called”, and “automatic political call” as using an “automatic dialing-announcing device on behalf of” a political candidate, body, committee or organization. Since this would likely restrict automated political survey research on behalf of campaigns, MRA will seek to amend H.B. 1545 to protect research calls, or defeat it.
In Virginia, Delegate James L. LeMunyon (R-67) had introduced H.R. 9, a resolution “Expressing the agreement of the members of the House of Delegates to not make robocalls in their political campaigns to persons who have indicated that they do not wish to receive such calls.” While the resolution is non-binding, it could have detrimental effects on automated political polling, since the National Political Do Not Call Registry, which Delegate LeMunyon references, makes no distinctions between a political campaign call and a poll. MRA hopes to share the importance of excluding research from any such legislation, even a non-binding resolution, with Delegate LeMunyon before the next session of the legislature.