I was intrigued by Rep. Jeff Hoover's recent letter concerning Senate Bill 99, which is more commonly known as the AT&T bill.
Hoover would have Kentuckians believe that House leaders are, for some unknown reason, opposed to improving telecommunication service for Kentuckians.
What he does not say, however, is that this legislation would have deregulated a critical industry, allowing companies to remove or reduce phone and Internet service in areas that are less profitable.
In fact, there is nothing in the legislation guaranteeing better land-line, cell or Internet service.
To AT&T's credit, it is investing heavily throughout Kentucky. AT&T announced in May that, between 2011 and 2013, it had spent nearly $675 million across the state for upgrades.
We aim to keep that investment in our children's future growing.
When I served as attorney general, I dealt with deregulation firsthand to protect consumers as much as possible.
In most cases, deregulation led to worse service and less opportunity to correct the problems customers invariably faced. It is now our job as House leaders to continue defending Kentucky's consumers.
Hoover will be delighted to learn that AT&T is actively working with House leadership to make this legislation better. Recently, we had a productive conference with top AT&T officials to discuss protections for our vulnerable citizens as well as expanded technology improvements.
We appreciate AT&T's willingness to seek common ground, and look forward to supporting continued investment by AT&T in Kentucky's Internet infrastructure.
Our ongoing work will ensure this progress does not penalize our most vulnerable citizens. I represent a rural district in Eastern Kentucky, and if the bill's original version had been enacted, it could have ultimately wiped out land-line service in many regions, replacing it with cell service that, not surprisingly, is often not reliable in the mountains.
There are citizens, many of whom are elderly or on fixed income, who depend on their land line or cannot afford more expensive options; these are the people I am fighting for. I do not want to get a call from a family member who lost a loved one because that person could not reach a first responder in time.
Working together, we can make sure that this never happens.
If Hoover and his caucus were truly supportive of efforts to boost Internet speeds, they would not have voted against the House budget that included $100 million for a bipartisan broadband initiative that was spearheaded by Gov. Steve Beshear, Congressman Hal Rogers and private interests.
While Hoover tried to peddle half promises and half truths, House Democrats were at the forefront of actually doing something to improve lives. That kind of contrast is common every legislative session.
Unfortunately, the House Republicans are relying more and more on ideas that come straight from the national right-wing agenda.
President George W. Bush caused the recession we are still suffering from today. Republican-led deregulation of mortgage lending was the prime factor in that, causing millions of people to lose their homes and jobs while billions of taxpayer dollars were being funneled into bank bailouts.
I am not against reasonable deregulation, and I have a long record of supporting proposals that increase jobs and improve services. I cannot in good conscience, however, vote for legislation that potentially replaces critical services with something inferior.
My first priority is to protect the people of Kentucky. It should be Hoover's, too.