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Lawmakers look to regulate robo-calls

Bill would let people stay on no-call list

MADISON, Wis. - State lawmakers want to make it harder for politicians to interrupt your dinner hour by regulating robo-calls. 

States across the country have been grappling with this issue, trying to balance free speech with the annoyance of the continuous campaign calls. 

UW Political Science Professor and constitutional law expert Donald Downs said however annoying, the messages in the calls are protected.

"Political speech is at the core of the First Amendment, and so it's the most protected form of speech," Downs said.

But Wisconsin lawmakers think they may have found a way to still keep the calls out of residents' homes.

"You could still make the live political calls, but we're saying the electronically recorded or robo-calls would be prohibited,"said Sen. Shelia Harsdorf, R-River Falls.

Harsdorf's bill would make it possible to opt into the no-call list to opt out of robo-calls.

"This is designed to address the volume of robo-calls being made and the objection people find to them," Harsdorf said.  "It's common for people to come home, listen to their answering machine from a day and there can be six, eight or 10 robo-calls on it in one day."

While other states have had laws challenged that completely ban robo-speech, Downs said the bill could pass constitutional muster.

VIDEO: Lawmakers look to regulate robo-calls

"If they give you the option of saying I want this screened, that's your right as a citizen not to have that in your home," said Downs.

Harsdorf's bill would also make the no-call list permanent, rather than requiring residents to sign-up every two years.

Sandy Chalmers of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said there will still be problems with robo-calls that come from overseas from scam artists who don't honor no-call lists.

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