for the week ending January 12, 2018

Industry Issues on Agenda in House, Senate:  Among the more than 1,000 proposals introduced to date for consideration during the 2018 session are a number of high-profile issues impacting the telecommunications industry.   Following are thumbnails of industry bills up for consideration, along with links to the bill text, and comments on their status and impact.

  • Telecom Tax FixSB 625 and HB 1802 – Clarifies that telecom equipment is eligible to receive the existing sales tax exemption for equipment used in manufacturing.  This exemption, which the industry has used for decades, was called in question by a 2016 Missouri Supreme Court decision.  Reaffirming the exemption in state law is a high priority for the association this year.
  • Personal Property Depreciation ScheduleSB 768 and HB 1464 – Allows telecom companies to use a straight-line depreciation schedule when their business personal property tax valuations are calculated by the Missouri State Tax Commission.  This provision could save some MTIA member companies as much as 25% on their tax bill.
  • Small Cell Permitting ProcessSB 837 and HB 1991 – Establishes a uniform method for municipal permitting of “small cell” technology by wireless carriers.  Several other states have passed similar legislation to facilitate the deployment of 5G.
  • Expansion of MoDOT Utility CorridorSB 598 – Expands the MoDOT utility corridor within the right-of-way from six to 12 feet.  This change could make fiber placement and construction easier and cheaper.  The industry is working to clarify some provisions of the bill as filed.
  • Electric Co-op EasementsSB 820 and HB 1880 – Seeks to legitimize the placement of fiber in rights-of-way originally granted for electric lines only.  Three electric co-ops are in court facing a class-action suit on this issue. The language in the bills is a  “place-holder” while the co-op attorneys fine-tune some provisions.  Look for more developments on this.
  • 911 Wireless TaxSB 854 and HB 1456 – Back for at least the 18th session, would allow a local vote for a “parity” tax on both wireline and wireless service to fund 911 call centers.  In an election year, a new tax will be tough to pass.
  • Net NeutralityHB 1994 – Would set up state mandated regulated practices for broadband providers, and prohibit blocking or slowing content, and paid prioritization. The bill, filed by a freshman Democrat, would also give the PSC, Attorney General, and courts certain authority.  The chance of passage is very slim, but it could be offered as an amendment to several bills.

Legislative Dinner Response Very Good; Plan to Attend:  More than 75 state lawmakers have already made plans to join us on the evening of Wednesday, February 7 for our annual reception and dinner at the Jefferson City Country Club.  Will your company be represented that evening? Please return your RSVP to the association by January 23 so that we can make plans for another excellent event.  The dinner is designed to acquaint lawmakers with our association, member companies and industry issues in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.

If you do plan to attend, a personal call or note from you to encourage your legislators to join you would be helpful.  Legislators are very busy while in Jefferson City, and knowing that a constituent will be in town helps assure they will add us to their evening agenda.  For more information, contact Ric Telthorst at 573-634-2527 (x 22) or at ric@mtia.org.

Push Underground Looking for Buyer:  MTIA member-company Push Underground Construction, LLC is looking to sell the business, or find a partner or investor in the enterprise.  Equipment includes five directional drills, 28 trucks, a backhoe, two vacuums and three mini excavators; plus “a ton” of various other equipment.  The fully-staffed operation, located in Merrimac, Wisconsin, has $3 to $5 million in current contracts.  For more information, contact Sonny Webb at sonny@pushundergroundconstruction.com.

Weight-Loss Challenge to Benefit Children’s Hospital:  A trio of MTIA board members began the new year focused on a weight-loss challenge that will conclude at the 2018 MTIA Summer Conference in Branson.  Jim Lyon with Mark Twain, Ron Hinds with GRM, and Kirby Underberg with Chariton Valley have set a goal to lose 15% of their body weight.  Any one of them who meets the goal by conference time will be excused from the possible consequences.  But, it they don’t hit the goal, the one who loses the least percentage will be sporting a dress at our banquet.

Renee Reeter at Kingdom Telephone Company is keeping track of per-pound pledges for the contestants.  Pledges, which will be tax-deductible charitable donations, will benefit the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  She has recorded more than $2,000 in pledges to date. For more details, contact Renee at rreeter@kingdomtelco.com.

Industry Partner of the Week:  MTIA member-company Amino Technologies provides video solutions of RF, IPTV, and broadband deployments for Missouri’s telecommunications carriers.  For more information, contact Don Paige, director of sales, as 770-339-6900; or visit them online at www.aminocom.com.

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