WITA kicked off 2016 with a festive gathering at the Little Creek Casino, which is served by Hood Canal Communications. 50 people filled the room to nearly bursting. Special guests include Tom and Christie Gorman and Bill Weinman, recently retired from the WUTC. Rick Finnigan helped us thank Bill for his many years of positive interaction with WITA members.
Earlier in the day we held a quarterly members’ meeting at which the group voted to join Indatel as an association member. Indatel is a national network of rural networks and works to find new opportunities for their members. Details of this partnership will be discussed at a Go-To-Meeting scheduled for 1:30 on February 4th. If you have not received information about this meeting and would like to participate, please contact me at email@example.com.
2016 Legislative Session Begins
Legislative session began with an odd pace as flashes of flurry are surrounded by hours of waiting for results. Dan Coyne and I met with leadership and bill sponsors of the bills introduced last year that would align the availability of State USF dollars with the WUTC distribution formula. We hope to see SSB 5670 scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor and HB 1782 scheduled for a hearing in House Appropriations very soon. The bills are what’s referred to as “companion bills” as they start as exact duplicates but one is introduced in the House and the other in the Senate.
Senate Environment, Energy and Telecommunications held a hearing on a bill giving the public utility districts retail authority. The cutoff to move the bill out of committee is February 4th and it’s our understanding that the committee chair is not planning on bringing the bill up for a vote, which means it will be dead after the cutoff. One of the bill sponsors, Senator John McCoy, has called a meeting of all interested parties to discuss how to get service to the unserved. Mike Oblizalo from HCC will be joining me to talk about solutions that have worked for their company and how they could be used effectively by others.
Dale Merten, Dan and I met with Senator Braun to discuss a variety of issues including our ongoing debate with the Department of Revenue. Since it appears that the DOR is going to ignore our arguments, and the decision of their own ALJ, and issue a tax advisory stating that Federal USF revenues and access fees should be taxed at the B & O service rate Dale has asked the Senator to introduce a bill clarifying that these dollars should be taxed as wholesale revenues. That’s a big ask in a short session and we appreciate the Senator’s willingness to even consider this option.
Quarterly Members' Meeting
The next Quarterly Members' Meeting will be held at the ITA Showcase on March 2, 2016, from 12-1:30 at the Holiday Inn Portland Airport Hotel.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to attend.