BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Cable television companies across the nation have endured withering criticism in recent months, in many cases due to a perceived lack of customer service standards. Those frustrations apparently did not move Louisiana lawmakers to add new regulations to providers.

With a 14-3 vote, the House Commerce Committee voted down a bill Tuesday that would have allowed the Louisiana Public Service Commission, which regulates state utilities, to investigate consumer complaints brought against cable TV providers.

PSC officials said many of the complaints they currently receive pertain to cable TV service — though the agency is not sanctioned to investigate those complaints.

"Commissioners get more complaints over cable than any of the services we currently have jurisdiction over," said Brandon Frey, the agency's chief attorney.

Under the bill (House Bill 534) sponsored by freshman Rep. Joseph Bouie, D-New Orleans, the PSC would have been empowered to investigate those complaints, though not to satellite television providers. If a consumer gripe was found to be justified, the agency would have been able to take action — possibly resulting in fines against a cable company.

But many members of the House Commerce Committee said they were concerned about the regulatory burden that would be placed on cable companies, whose representatives testified against the bill. Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, said unsatisfied consumers can switch providers, take the cable companies to court or ask their lawmakers to intervene.

Cheryl McCormick, of the Louisiana Cable And Telecommunications Association, said the bill would only regulate "one tiny sector." She said: "The system is working. If they're dissatisfied, they'll seek another (provider). And believe me, they are."

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The use of domestic drones has provoked heated discussion in recent years, with everyone from Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul to the American Civil Liberties Union talking about privacy and security concerns that could arise from everyday use of the unmanned aircraft.

On Tuesday, the Louisiana Senate largely bypassed that debate, voting for a measure (Senate Bill 183) that would allow farmers to use drones — so long as they get an operators' license. The measure now moves to the House for consideration.

"There is so much potential there," said Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, the bill sponsor. "In agriculture you can save lives, save time, save crops."

Anyone who wants to get a three-year farm drone license would have to take a safety class, Thompson said. And drone use would be restricted to the confines of one's property.

The state could also issue a fine up to $500 to anyone who uses a drone without a license or violates the rules.

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The Senate on Tuesday honored 14 soldiers from Louisiana who died in service over the last year.

Individual condolence resolutions were read by Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, for each soldier. Family members for each soldier were invited to attend, and those families present were given a state flag.

Since 2005, the Senate holds an annual "Military Family Day" and has memorialized 203 Louisiana soldiers who have died.

Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, called it a tradition "to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our state and for our country."

"I wish that we would never have to have this ceremony again, that we would never have to lose any of our sons and daughters to conflict anywhere in the world," Alario said.

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In other legislative action:

—The House unanimously agreed to create a "Governor's Military and Veteran Friendly Campus" designation for colleges that meet a list of requirements intended to ease the transition for veterans. To get the designation, the campus would have to waive application fees for veterans, provide specialized orientation programs, offer priority class scheduling and adopt policies that allow for quick readmission after deployment. The bill (House Bill 485) by Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, was advanced to the Senate with a 99-0 vote.

—A proposal that would make "revenge porn" a crime was sent to the Senate with a 92-0 vote Tuesday from the House. Under the bill (House Bill 489) by Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, anyone who shares a nude or partially-nude picture, such as a cellphone photo, without permission could face two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Existing law already makes it a crime to send a nude image of someone under the age of 17.

—Rep. Bernard LeBas, D-Ville Platte, couldn't persuade his colleagues to add a substance called Kratom to Louisiana's list of illegal narcotics. Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier sought a prohibition, saying the substance — derived from the leaves of a Southeast Asian tree — has become a drug of choice for young people in his area. Members of the House said they didn't have enough information to label it a narcotic, so LeBas removed Kratom from his bill (House Bill 174) to change certain drug classifications before the House voted to send it to the Senate with a 93-0 vote.

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Online:

Louisiana Legislature: www.legis.la.gov

 

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