Sandi Torkildson hates AT&T. She says the phone company's constant calls urging her to switch providers border on harassment. So when Torkildson, the owner of A Room of One's Own Bookstore, heard about a proposal to let small businesses like hers join the state's Do Not Call list, she was all for it.
"I didn't really think about what this would mean," she says.
Later, she realized that her store could no longer call another small business to pitch a product or idea; it would first have to buy the Do Not Call list and make sure the other business was not on it. And joining the list would mean losing all manner of useful contacts, from booksellers to people offering unique items for sale.
The proposed bill - SB-99 and AB-217 - aims mainly to let people with cell phones join the No Call List. And it dramatically hikes penalties, from a current maximum of $100, to a range of $1,000 to $10,000 - per violation.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), the bill's chief sponsor, says small businesses - pestered by calls from phone and credit card companies - asked to be included. "A lot of these companies get several calls a day."
Erpenbach has heard from some opponents - "those who use the telephone to get business" - and is soliciting input on the bill from representatives of small business. Some tweaks have already been made, and more are possible.
The bill has passed a Senate committee and is now "available for scheduling," though no date has been set. Passage in some form seems likely, as a majority of lawmakers in both houses have signed on as co-sponsors. These include state Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), who runs his own small business, Budget Signs and Specialties.
For him, it's a way to end pestering from AT&T, which he hates: "I'd rather every customer of mine have two cans and a string than do business with AT&T." But Pocan admits he also makes calls to drum up business, following up on letters to prospective customers.
"To tell you the truth," he says, when asked if the bill will hurt his own operation, "I really haven't thought about it." He and a lot of people.