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Winston-Salem Journal - Foxx Bill Fights Political Robocalls

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By Bertrand M. Gutierrez

The phone rings. You answer. It's a recording.

You don't ask for them, but you probably get those automated phone calls during political silly season trumpeting a candidate running for office.

Facebook Question of the Day: What do you think of the bill that would allow individuals to opt-out of political robo-calls?

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th -- who represents a large northwestern section of North Carolina, including all or parts of Boone, Hickory, Statesville, Salisbury and a large portion of Winston-Salem -- reintroduced a bill recently that would give you a tool to block those calls, also known as robocalls.

H.R. 1315, known as the Robo COP Act, would direct the Federal Trade Commission to revise its regulations concerning the National Do Not Call Registry to prohibit prerecorded campaign messages, or robocalls, from being sent to telephone numbers on the national registry, Foxx said Monday in a news release.

"Though citizens are able to stop receiving telemarketing calls, politicians made sure to exempt political robocalls from the power of the Do Not Call Registry. If these calls weren't such a nuisance, their blatant exclusion would be laughable. Removing their exemption through the Robo COP Act is a matter of fairness that will help bring some peace and quiet to North Carolina homes throughout campaign season," Foxx said.

Foxx, who said that she does not use political robocalls, introduced similar legislation in the 109th, 110th, 111th, and 112th Congresses. In the previous version, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts, was one of the co-sponsors. This year, the bill has one co-sponsor, U.S. Rep. Bill Young, a long-serving Republican from Florida.

"There are ongoing efforts to add bipartisan cosponsors to this legislation," Ericka Perryman, Foxx's spokeswoman, said Tuesday.

The heads of the local Democratic and Republican parties took opposing views on the bill.

Susan Campbell, the chairwoman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party, who opposed it, said that local Democrats want voters to have as much information as possible.

Messages sent by email can't go to people who don't have computers and not all candidates can afford to send "expensive, glossy mailers and buy television air time, but may be able to get their message out with a low-cost prerecorded phone call."

"Many political phone calls are educational," Campbell said. "They encourage voters to go to the polls or remind them of important issues that may be on the ballot. Yes, we can get annoyed by ill-timed phone calls, but we should err on the side of giving too much information, rather than too little."

Scott Cumbie, the chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party, said he supported the bill: "Phones are a personal thing, so I am certainly in favor of people opting out."


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