You've got to clear your mind of all those old civics texts to appreciate comments made by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, about a bill he sponsored on behalf of AT&T and other large telephone carriers in Kentucky.
The measure, formerly known as SB 135, releases telephone companies from the obligation to provide basic and inexpensive landline service to anyone who wants it in their service areas.
The bill, bouyed by a battalion of lobbyists and abundant campaign contributions, was set for smooth sailing until agitators like the AARP objected that it would make phone service more costly and possibly less reliable for thousands of Kentuckians.
Hornback took note of the objections and took decisive action. He sheltered the provisions of SB 135 in another bill with a different number, SB 12.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
"Because of all the fuss and what the press has said about Senate Bill 135 we were hearing a lot of stuff about it. I figured, why not give it a fresh start?"
A better question might have been: Why not listen to the concerns raised by Kentucky citizens and change the bill to protect them?
Hornback had an answer for that one. He was listening to AT&T, which wrote the bill.
He sat between two AT&T lobbyists while shilling for his bill before the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Tourism and Labor.
Questioned about his alliance with the telephone company, Hornback replied, "You work with the authorities in any industry to figure out what they need to move that industry forward."
So, Hornback isn't trying to assure that poor, elderly, isolated Kentuckians have reliable, inexpensive telephone service. He's trying to help the telecommunications industry make more money.
There was a time when telephone companies made money by installing and servicing telephone lines to homes and businesses.
Now, telecommunications companies make money selling an array of products and services, like cell phones that send messages and photos and access the Internet as well as voice communication.
That's fine for people who both want and can afford all that. Trouble is, a lot of Kentuckians really need and can only afford a simple, old-fashioned telephone line. For a very reasonable fee it provides the security of a connection to the rest of the world.
But, all this stuff from the old civics days about citizens' voices being heard by popularly elected representatives is apparently as out of date as telephone land lines.
It's not really fair to single out Hornback who, after all, just sponsored the bill. It got a 9-1 thumbs up Tuesday from the Senate committee, with the only nay from Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville.
The bill didn't make it to the Senate floor yesterday after House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, expressed concern about it, noting that cell service doesn't work in parts of Eastern Kentucky.
Stumbo's reservations, and those of others, deserve a full hearing, even in this era of checkbook civics.