- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2000

RICHMOND Tired of getting another annoying phone call from someone peddling aluminum siding or a credit card just as you sit down to dinner?

Ever cut short a telemarketer's pitch, hang up and mutter under your breath, "There oughta be a law"?

Well, here's your chance to talk to the folks who can do something about it.

The House Corporations, Insurance and Banking Committee will conduct a public hearing tomorrow on three bills that would create a state registry of people who don't want to get telemarketing calls. Companies that call people on the registry would be guilty of violating the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

Frustration over the seemingly incessant sales calls knows no political bounds. Nearly identical bills are being sponsored by Republican Delegate Robert Marshall, Prince William County Republican, one of the assembly's most conservative members, and Democratic Delegate George Grayson of James City County, who is among the most liberal lawmakers.

"People are just really fed up," Mr. Grayson said.

He has proposed the bill several times in the past but has not been able to overcome opponents' claims that it would give out-of-state telemarketers an advantage over Virginia companies.

Another legislative committee will conduct a public hearing today on legislation to assist unemployed people in the Martinsville area, which has been hit hard by textile factory closings. Unemployment is 19.6 percent in Martinsville, 11.6 percent in Henry County.

Delegate Ward Armstrong, Martinsville Democrat, said at least five busloads of people from the area are expected to attend the House Labor and Commerce Committee hearing.

"I've lived in my district all my life and I've never seen anything approaching this in terms of crisis," said Mr. Armstrong, 43.

Mr. Armstrong is the sponsor of the Textile Workers Relief Act of 2000, which would make jobless people in high-unemployment areas eligible for Medicaid.

It also would boost the maximum unemployment benefit in those areas from $232 a week to $332, a 43 percent increase.

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