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Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.

These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day. Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.

About the bill

Pennsylvania created a “Do Not Call” registry in 2002 designed to prevent telemarketing calls. As anyone whose phone often rings at 9 p.m. on a Saturday knows, that system hasn’t fully thwarted the telemarketing industry.

A bill working its way through the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is designed to strengthen that law, taking particular aim at robocalls.

House Bill 318 would require companies that place automatized robocalls to also create an automated opt-out system to prevent future calls from that business.

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The robocall would have to explain how to opt out “at the beginning of the call.”

If a robocall leaves a voicemail message, it would have to leave instructions for how a person can call back and directly connect with the automated opt-out system.

The bill would also:

  • End the five year re-registration requirement for the “Do Not Call” list, allowing people to remain on the list until they choose to unsubscribe or the phone number is no longer valid. The “Do Not Call list,” operated by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office, is designed to prevent telemarketing companies from contacting millions of registered customers, and permits the attorney general’s office to fine violators.
  • Extend the option to join the “Do Not Call” registry to business phone numbers.
  • Prohibit any telemarketing call on a legal holiday.

Similar legislation passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in each of the last four sessions, but has not become law, according to a co-sponsorship memo from prime sponsor Rep. Lori Mizgorski, R-Allegheny County.

There are also steps being taken to combat robocalls on the federal level. A bill that recently passed the U.S. Senate would empower phone companies to prevent robocalls from fooling your caller ID and falsely appearing to be from your area code. The Federal Communications Commission says it will vote in June on whether to allow wireless carriers to automatically block spam calls.

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Daniel Walmer covers public safety for The Sentinel. You can reach him by email at dwalmer@cumberlink.com or by phone at 717-218-0021.