OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 104

AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE STATE CIVIC NETWORK.

SUMMARY:

This bill establishes the State Civic Network, funded by cable subscribers and managed by a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization selected by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) through a request for proposals (RFP). The bill establishes the State Civic Network to provide, through a dedicated, basic tier cable programing channel and website, television coverage, live video and audio transmission online, and digital archives of proceedings impacting the state.

The bill requires cable television companies and multichannel video programming distributors (e.g., direct broadcast satellite services) to carry the network. Federal law appears to prohibit states from regulating the provision of direct broadcast satellite services.

The bill also establishes a 12-member State Civic Network Advisory Council, to, among other things, act as a liaison between the organization managing the State Civic Network and the state government branches covered by the network.

The bill eliminates statutory reference to the Connecticut Television Network (CTN), which, under current law, is the General Assembly's state-wide 24-hour state public affairs programming service, distinct from community access channels. The bill eliminates a requirement that the comptroller set aside $3.2 million per year from the cable television companies' tax to defray the Office of Legislative Management's costs of providing CTN coverage.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2016

STATE CIVIC NETWORK COVERAGE

Under the bill, proceedings covered by the State Civic Network include:

1. legislative meetings, hearings, and sessions;

2. arguments before the Connecticut Supreme Court, Appellate Court, and Superior Courts;

3. executive state agency hearings and meetings;

4. public policy discussions, debates, press conferences, and civic events;

5. coverage of elections and the electoral process; and

6. studio productions and educational videos providing additional information on the state government.

The bill requires cable television companies and multichannel video programming distributors to carry the network. Under the bill, “multichannel video programming distributors” (1) are entities that make available for purchase, by subscribers or customers, multiple channels of video programming, and (2) include cable operators, direct broadcast satellite services, television receive-only satellite program distributors, and satellite master antenna television system operators.

It appears the bill's requirement that multichannel video programming distributors (e.g., direct broadcast satellite services) include the State Civic Network in their basic service package may conflict with federal law, which provides that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the provision of direct-to-home satellite services (47 USC 303(v)).

Current law requires cable companies to provide CTN or its successor to its subscribers as a condition of PURA renewing their franchise. The bill instead requires the companies to provide the State Civic Network. (In practice, most cable companies in the state have obtained a certificate of cable franchise authority from PURA that does not have to be renewed.)

MANAGEMENT

Organization Duties

The bill requires the organization managing the State Civic Network to:

1. provide staffing, institutional expertise, and board governance to operate the State Civic Network in a nonpartisan and independent manner;

2. establish, maintain, and revise as necessary operating agreements with each branch of government;

3. maintain the network's operational and editorial independence consistent with operating agreements;

4. establish, maintain, and revise as necessary carriage distribution and retransmission agreements with appropriate video programming services, including cable television, direct broadcast satellite, and broadband video; and

5. provide, operate, and maintain all equipment and infrastructure needed for programming, engineering, and distribution of State Civic Network programming.

PURA's Initial RFP Requirements

The bill requires PURA to issue an RFP to select a nonprofit nonpartisan organization to manage the State Civic Network for a 10-year period. The bill directs PURA to determine and select the most qualified organization, based on:

1. the organization's performance and experience in providing gavel-to-gavel coverage of state government proceedings;

2. the organization's operating plan and technology plan to cover state government proceedings;

3. the organization's proposed budget, including expenses for salaries, consultants, attorneys, and other professionals;

4. the quality and quantity of programming to be created, promoted, facilitated, or continued by the organization;

5. the organization's procedures to ensure compliance with federal and state law, including state regulations; and

6. any other criteria PURA determines relevant.

Subsequent Terms

Under the bill, after the initial 10-year term, and every 10 years thereafter, PURA must hold a fair hearing concerning the previously selected organization's ability to continue managing the State Civic Network. In its decision following the hearing, PURA may assign responsibility for management of the State Civic Network to the previously selected organization or another organization. (In cases when PURA selects another organization, the bill appears to require a new RFP.)

Asset Transfer

The bill requires the state to transfer any assets it owns as of June 30 2016 that are related to the State Civic Network's operation, to the organization PURA selects to manage the network within 90 days of PURA's decision.

Under the bill, if an organization responsible for managing the State Civic Network ceases to provide management, it must transfer its network-related assets to a successor organization, or, if none is designated, to another nonprofit within the state selected by PURA. (The bill does not define “network-related assets.”)

STATE CIVIC NETWORK ADVISORY COUNCIL

Duties

The bill establishes the State Civic Network Advisory Council to:

1. serve as liaison between the nonprofit that manages the State Civic Network and the state government branches covered by the network;

2. obtain available assistance and data as necessary to perform its duties from any executive, judicial, or legislative department, board, commission, or other state agency;

3. accept gifts, donations, and bequests to perform its duties; and

4. perform other acts as necessary and appropriate to carry out its duties.

Appointments

Under the bill, the 12-member council consists of (1) four members appointed by the governor, (2) four members appointed by the Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice, and (3) four members appointed by legislative leaders. The initial appointments have staggered terms, as shown in Table 1. Under the bill, all initial council appointments must be made by September 1, 2016. Excluding the initial term, appointees to the council serve for four year terms, but members serve until their successors are appointed. The bill requires appointing authorities to fill any vacancy on the council, filling vacancies occurring before a term expires for the balance of the unexpired term. Under the bill, council members serve without compensation.

Table 1: State Civic Network Advisory Council Initial Terms

Members

Appointing Authority

One Year Initial Term, Ending June 30, 2017

1

Governor

1

Chief Justice

1

House minority leader

Two Year Initial Term, Ending June 30, 2018

1

Governor

1

Chief Justice

1

Senate minority leader

Three Year Initial Term, Ending June 30, 2019

1

Governor

1

Chief Justice

1

House speaker

Four Year Initial Term, Ending June 30, 2020

1

Governor

1

Chief Justice

1

Senate president pro tempore

The bill requires the governor to select the council's chairperson from its members. Under the bill, the council must meet at least twice per year and the chairperson must schedule its first meeting.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Government Administration and Elections Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

8

Nay

6

(03/21/2016)