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Seeing ‘Red’ after Taylor Swift debacle, lawmakers weigh concert ticket rules

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lailluminator.com – Kevin Hardy – 2023-09-02 05:00:26
 

Seeing ‘Red' after Taylor Swift debacle, lawmakers weigh concert ticket rules

by Kevin Hardy, Louisiana Illuminator
September 2, 2023

There's no question what motivated state Rep. Kelly Moller to push for changes in Minnesota law on concert ticket sales.

“Really, it was the Taylor Swift debacle for me,” she said.

A self-professed Swiftie, the Democrat found herself among millions of other Americans unable to buy tickets last year to Swift's Eras Tour.

She preregistered for tickets, but never received a code to buy them. And on the day sales went live online, she sat by as friends with codes got bumped out of the ticket queue for no apparent reason. Then Ticketmaster's website crashed.

The ordeal convinced her that the concert ticket industry warrants more government oversight.

“I do think a lot of that is better served at the federal level, but that said, there are things we can do at the state level,” she said.

Moller introduced a bill this year that would force ticket sellers to disclose the full cost of tickets, including fees, up front to buyers in her state. It also would ban speculative ticketing — a practice in which resale companies sell tickets they don't yet own.

The bill stalled, but Moller expects it to be reconsidered next year. It is part of a wave of legislation considered in more than a dozen states this year following the unprecedented disaster in the run-up to Swift's Eras Tour, which is on pace to be the highest-grossing tour in history.

Secondary event ticket websites under the spotlight in Louisiana proposal

Swift and her legions of fans were outraged when Ticketmaster's website crashed last November as it faced unprecedented demand from fans, bots and ticket resellers ahead of her tour. Social media blew up over the fiasco, and news organizations published story after story. It sparked bipartisan legislative proposals in Congress, though no bill has become law yet.

That's led state legislatures to step in: Lawmakers of both parties across the country introduced new bills this year to regulate concert and live event ticket purchasing.

Ticketing fights are far more contentious than anyone anticipates. Each side of the market likes to blame the other side, and consumers are stuck in the middle.

– Brian Hess, Sports Fans Coalition executive director

It's a rare bipartisan issue in statehouses. But lawmakers are learning how complicated — and controversial — the world of online ticketing is. In several states, legislators are caught in the middle between companies like Ticketmaster and secondary sellers such as StubHub.

“There are a lot of issues that beg for a national focus, a national solution. But because of the political dynamics in Washington, D.C., we haven't gotten very many solutions. … So states believe they have to act,” said California state Sen. Bill Dodd, a Democrat.

Dodd sponsored a bill this year that would ban so-called junk fees on tickets — fees tacked onto the base price that lawmakers view as deceptive. The proposal targets other services, including hotel and resort fees, but Dodd said concerts were a major driver. President Joe Biden called out junk fees in his State of the Union address in February and has publicly praised companies that have committed to transparent pricing, such as Airbnb and Live Nation, Ticketmaster's parent company.

Dodd said he isn't hostile to ticket marketplaces such as Ticketmaster and StubHub. He uses those sites to buy tickets to concerts and basketball games. But, he said, consumers should know the full price up front. The White House estimates junk fees cost Americans more than $65 billion per year.

“It's outrageous,” he said, “and I think Californians are sick and tired of dishonest fees being tacked onto just anything.”

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Dodd's bill, which was backed by California Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta, passed the state Senate and is pending in the Assembly. It is one of several ticketing bills considered by Golden State lawmakers this session.

The state Senate unanimously passed a proposal from Republican state Sen. Scott Wilk that he said targets the “stranglehold” some companies have over sales. The bill would prohibit exclusivity clauses in contracts between a primary ticket seller such as Ticketmaster and an entertainment venue in California. Wilk said in his news release it would allow artists to work with other ticket sellers without the fear of retaliation from large ticket sellers — and ultimately reduce fees for consumers. It's in committee in the Assembly.

‘The states are where it's at'

Earlier this year, the Colorado legislature passed a bill that would have required sellers to fully disclose the total cost of event tickets, prohibited vendors from raising prices during the buying process and banned speculative ticketing.

But Democratic Gov. Jared Polis vetoed the act in June, saying it could prevent competition and “risk upsetting the successful entertainment ecosystem in Colorado.”

Chris Castle, an entertainment lawyer who tracks ticket legislation across the country, said the Colorado veto illustrates the industry's ability to sway public officials.

Polis referenced concerns he heard from the National Consumers League and the Consumer Federation of America. Both of those consumer advocacy groups have received funding from secondary ticket marketplaces such as StubHub, the music publication Pitchfork reported.

“It'd be easy enough to say, ‘Well, I heard from the stakeholders, and I thought these guys had the better argument.' But he didn't say that,” Castle said of Polis. “He starts talking about these groups. And sure enough, it turns out, they're all on the take.”

Conor Cahill, the governor's spokesperson, did not answer questions about the influence of ticket marketplaces on the veto, but said Polis will apply a “consumer-first lens” to future legislation on the issue.

The National Consumers League has no problem being associated with groups like StubHub, said John Breyault, the organization's vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud. He said the group shares a common belief with resellers that the marketplace needs more competition, not less. But it still disagrees on some specific issues, he said.

“There are problems at every level of the industry including in the secondary market that we are trying to address through both our advocacy at the state level and our advocacy at the federal level,” Breyault said.

Bills in several states backed by StubHub aim to protect so-called transferability of tickets — that is, the customers' right to pass on or resell tickets they purchase.

Six states — Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Utah and Virginia — currently protect the right of fans to transfer or sell tickets. Without that right, some advocates say Ticketmaster's terms and conditions can ban transferring tickets or require that they be resold on their own platform.

StubHub makes no secret of its efforts to educate and persuade state lawmakers.

“The states are really where it's at in a lot of ways,” said Laura Dooley, the company's head of global government relations. “Our industry right now is almost exclusively regulated at the state level.”

This year, the company has tracked nearly 70 ticketing bills proposed across 25 states. Dooley said many state lawmakers introduce new regulations with good intentions, but don't always understand the industry.

As an example, she pointed to state efforts to ban bots — software that can bypass security measures in online ticketing systems and buy tickets in bulk faster than humans.

Ticketmaster cited bots as a major cause of the Eras Tour fiasco. Bots are banned by federal law, though that regulation only has been enforced once since 2016, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Dooley said StubHub isn't opposed to state bot bans, but does push legislators to consider enforcement measures in crafting their bills. That's because regulators need cooperation from the industry and access to ticketing software to monitor for bots, Dooley said.

Dooley contends some lawmakers' proposed solutions don't target root causes, including the unique way live event tickets are sold, generally through exclusive deals with one retail platform.

“When you have millions and millions of people wanting to buy a product and they're being asked to buy that product at the same time on the same day through an exclusive retail provider — in this case Ticketmaster and in many cases Ticketmaster — that system is going to be overloaded, right? And it's going to be a frustrating experience,” Dooley said.

In a statement, Ticketmaster said the company was working with lawmakers across the country on “common-sense” ticketing reform measures. The company said it supports requirements for all-in ticketing pricing, bans on speculative ticketing and giving artists more say in how their event tickets are resold.

If someone wants to spend their hard-earned money at $10,000 a ticket to go see Taylor Swift or Jay-Z or the Boston Celtics, giddy up. But I just want that consumer to know going into that initial transaction that they're going to be spending $10,000.

– Massachusetts state Sen. John Velis

Brian Hess, executive director of the nonprofit fan advocacy organization Sports Fans Coalition, pointed out thatlawmakers have a variety of interests to consider: the primary ticket markets like Ticketmaster, the artists, the consumer, and secondary markets like StubHub.

“Ticketing fights are far more contentious than anyone anticipates,” he said. “Each side of the market likes to blame the other side, and consumers are stuck in the middle.”

The Sports Fans Coalition is in part funded by secondary marketplaces like StubHub and lobbies on ticket legislation across the country.

Hess said federal regulators should not have allowed the 2010 merger of Live Nation, an event promoter and venue operator, with Ticketmaster, a ticket provider.

“They are the monopoly in the industry,” he said. “They were the ones that botched Taylor Swift's tickets, and they're the ones that continue to have ticket sale problems when they launch new shows.”

A bipartisan focus

Texas Republican state Rep. Kronda Thimesch said she saw firsthand how bots can distort the marketplace and prevent customers from purchasing tickets.

That's what she blamed for her own daughter's unsuccessful attempts to buy Swift tickets last year.

 

“Fans then have to resort to paying hundreds, if not thousands, over face value to resellers in order to see their favorite artist,” she said.

That's why she introduced a bill banning ticket-buying bots in Texas, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

Thimesch noted that ticket issues aren't just a problem for Swift fans — country star Zach Bryan named his December live album “All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster.” Thimesch said she is open to exploring more ticketing legislation when the Texas legislature reconvenes.

More than 1,500 miles away, Massachusetts Democratic state Sen. John Velis has a similar outlook. He's interested in diving deep into the world of ticketing. But he's starting off small.

“I think the art, if you will, of legislating is you kind of go little by little,” he said. “I think ticket pricing is a great and very logical place to start.”

Velis introduced a bill that would require upfront transparent ticket pricing and ban “dynamic pricing,” a practice in which sellers adjust prices based on demand. While he's interested in eventually exploring ride shares or other services, his legislation is so far focused on concert and live event tickets, he said.

Before the Eras Tour mess, Velis said he got interested in the issue after hearing constituents and co-workers complain about exorbitant fees on live event tickets. Tickets advertised for $100 can sometimes end up costing double that once all the fees are tacked on, he said.

“I just thought to myself, ‘That is so incredibly wrong,'” he said. “If someone wants to spend their hard-earned money at $10,000 a ticket to go see Taylor Swift or Jay-Z or the Boston Celtics, giddy up. But I just want that consumer to know going into that initial transaction that they're going to be spending $10,000.”

Velis said his bill should receive a hearing soon in the state Senate.

Jurisdictional bounds are likely to prove complicated, he acknowledged. After all, consumers often buy tickets for events in other states. But he said his bill is solely aimed at protecting consumers — a notion he says is hard to oppose.

“In my experience, this is without a doubt a bipartisan issue,” he said. “I've experienced nobody raising a concern from a partisan politics standpoint.”

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This story was first published by Stateline, part of the States Newsroom nonprofit news network with the . It's supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Stateline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Scott S. Greenberger for questions: info@stateline.org. Follow Stateline on Facebook and Twitter.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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Louisiana Illuminator

After U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow bump stocks, U.S. Senate rejects bill to ban them • Louisiana Illuminator

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lailluminator.com – Ariana Figueroa – 2024-06-19 06:25:13

by Ariana Figueroa, Louisiana Illuminator
June 19, 2024

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts blocked a bipartisan bill Tuesday that would ban bump stocks following a Supreme Court decision that repealed a Trump-era rule against using the gun accessory.

Ricketts, a Nebraska Republican, objected to New Mexico Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich's request that the chamber approve his bill — cosponsored by Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins — by unanimous consent.

Heinrich attempted to pass the bill, which the trio introduced last year, following the Supreme Court ruling last week that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lacked the authority to ban bump stocks.

“As a firearms owner myself, there's no legitimate use for a bump stock,” Heinrich said. “What they are tailor made for is a mass shooting.”

The bill, S. 1909, would ban the sale of bump stocks that allow semi-automatic weapons to rapidly fire multiple rounds like a machine gun.

Ricketts argued that the Supreme Court made the right decision and said the bill didn't just ban bump stocks but also “targets other firearm accessories.”

Ricketts added that the bill is a violation of the Second Amendment.

“This bill is about banning as many firearm accessories as possible and giving ATF broad authority to ban most semi-automatic firearms,” Ricketts said. “It's an unconstitutional attack on law-abiding gun owners.”

Heinrich said the bill would not ban a large amount of firearm accessories, but would ban things like Glock switches, which can be attached to the side of a Glock handgun to convert a semi-automatic pistol into a fully automatic firearm.

“I think the American people understand what common-sense gun safety looks like,” Heinrich said.

Senate procedure requires 60 votes to proceed on most legislation. But for the chamber to approve a measure by unanimous consent, no senator can object.

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Supreme Court ruling

The Supreme Court on Friday overturned an ATF regulation, enacted during former President Donald Trump's administration after the Las Vegas mass shooting, which defined a semi-automatic rifle equipped with a bump stock attachment as a machine gun. Machine guns are generally prohibited under federal law.

In that mass shooting, a gunman used rifles outfitted with bump stocks to fire into a crowd of 22,000 people at a music festival, killing 58 people that night and two more who died of their injuries later, and injuring more than 500.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor that the bill was needed because the Supreme Court's decision was “an utter disgrace.”

“It will endanger our communities, endanger law enforcement, and make it easier for mass shooters to unleash carnage,” Schumer, a New York Democrat, said.

The opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, who is a strong defender of Second Amendment gun rights, deemed that the ATF exceeded its statutory authority in prohibiting the sale and possession of bump stocks, which he said differed importantly from machine guns.

“Nothing changes when a semiautomatic rifle is equipped with a bump stock,” Thomas wrote. “Between every shot, the shooter must release pressure from the trigger and allow it to reset before reengaging the trigger for another shot.”

Additionally, the decision, which was split along ideological lines, limits the federal government's ability to address gun violence in the absence of congressional action.

More federal gun legislation unlikely

With a split Congress, any gun-safety related legislation is unlikely to pass. However, after Friday's decision, President Joe Biden called on Congress to ban bump stocks and assault weapons.

“Americans should not have to live in fear of this mass devastation,” Biden said at the time.

The last time Congress passed gun legislation was in 2022 after two mass shootings that occurred less than two weeks apart.

One was at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed. The other was in Buffalo, New York, where a white supremacist targeted a predominantly Black neighborhood and killed 10 Black people.

The 2022 gun safety legislation did not ban any firearms but provided funds for mental health and to help states enact red flag laws, which allow the courts to temporarily remove a firearm from an individual who is a threat to themselves or others, among other provisions.

That same year, the Supreme Court decided on a major gun-related case that invalidated a New York law against carrying a firearm in public without showing a special need for protection.

Because of that decision, there's another gun-related case before the court that will test a federal law that prevents the possession of firearms by a person who is subject to a domestic violence protective order. A decision on that is expected this month.

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Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and X.

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Louisiana lags on electric vehicle charging program, but DOTD sees ‘no reason to rush’ • Louisiana Illuminator

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lailluminator.com – Wesley Muller – 2024-06-19 05:00:24

by Wesley Muller, Louisiana Illuminator
June 19, 2024

Two years after receiving federal funding to build electric vehicle charging stations across the state, Louisiana has yet to ask for bids from companies that might want the money. However, state transportation officials say there is a reason for their sluggish pace. 

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), plans to start the request-for-proposal process as soon as it identifies an appropriate “contracting mechanism” under state law to use the money, DOTD spokesperson Rodney Mallett said. 

The Federal Highway Administration allocated $73.4 million to Louisiana under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program in 2022. NEVI is a product of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that Congress approved in 2021. It included billions for state transportation agencies to build a network of rapid chargers along major highways. 

Louisiana's initial response was on par with other states. DOTD submitted its NEVI deployment plan by the federal deadline of August 2022. However, while states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and others now are disbursing the grant money or have already built some EV charging stations, Louisiana hasn't yet figured out how to spend it. 

“There's no real reason to spend two-plus years figuring out how to get this money to grant recipients when other states are already opening up chargers,” said Ryan McKinnon of the Charge Ahead Partnership, an EV charger lobby group. “Lots of states will be opening up chargers pretty soon, and it sounds like Louisiana will be sitting on the sidelines.” 

McKinnon said Louisiana is one of 11 states that have still not asked for bids to use the NEVI grant money. 

Some congressional Republicans and anti-union groups have directed their criticism at the Biden administration, claiming the delays are the result of mismanagement or of labor requirements within federal rules. Officials closest to the situation say the delays are largely because it is a new program that they want done correctly.

Mallet said the federal rules for the NEVI program don't “fit cleanly” within DOTD's usual contracting methods. DOTD often writes contracts for projects in which the agency owns and maintains the infrastructure, such as highways. In contrast, the EV charger grants will pay for the construction of infrastructure for which “ownership and operation will be transferred” from the state, in most cases, to a private entity, he said.

Although the Biden administration has aimed for a goal of building 500,000 charging stations by 2026, Mallet said the NEVI funds do not lapse, so there is no hard deadline to complete the projects.

“The key is to do it right for the long term,” Mallet said. “No reason to rush it through.”

States to receive $2.5B from feds for electric vehicle charging infrastructure

Tyler Herrmann with Louisiana Clean Fuels, a nonprofit working with DOTD on the NEVI rollout, said earlier, smaller EV charger programs saw build-outs at sites that weren't very practical. 

The chargers were often installed at public libraries or apartment complexes — places with no real interest or resources to maintain them. Without that routine maintenance, chargers would break and often stay that way for years. 

The government learned from those programs and is now taking care to avoid making those same kinds of mistakes, Herrmann said.   

“It is a unique situation,” Herrmann said of DOTD's efforts to administer the NEVI grants. “The program is pretty much completely different from what the DOTD does normally.”

In the meantime, Louisiana Clean Fuels has been working to build a workforce of technicians who can install and repair EV chargers and supply equipment.

Baton Rouge Community College just recently saw its first class of students graduate from a three-week course in which they learned some of the fundamentals required to become nationally certified Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment technicians. 

Herrmann said about a dozen students completed the first course, which will soon be offered at other community colleges across the state.

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Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and X.

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St. Tammany’s embattled coroner targeted under new state laws • Louisiana Illuminator

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lailluminator.com – Julie O'Donoghue – 2024-06-18 17:43:54

by Julie O'Donoghue, Louisiana Illuminator
June 18, 2024

Gov. Jeff Landry has signed two new laws to weaken the authority of St. Tammany Parish's controversial coroner who is already the subject of a recall campaign. 

Dr. Christopher Tape drew scrutiny from lawmakers after a WWL-TV investigation revealed he had been accused of child sex abuse in New Mexico decades ago and then settled a lawsuit over workplace sexual harassment allegations in the past few years. Charges in the New Mexico case were quashed after the prosecutor failed to move the case forward in a timely fashion. 

Almost immediately after taking office, Tape also tried to cancel a multi-parish program housed in the St. Tammany coroner's office that provides nurses to perform sexual assault exams on victims. The service helps police collect evidence and assists Northshore district attorneys who prosecute sex crimes. 

Legislators responded to Tape's actions, as well as his refusal to resign from his job, by filing legislation to limit his power.

Sen. Patrick McMath, R-Covington, sponsored a new law to give the St. Tammany Parish Council greater authority over the coroner's public finances and the ability to remove any coroner convicted of violent crimes. Moving forward, candidates for St. Tammany coroner must submit records regarding their criminal background to the local clerk of court.

Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, authored a second law that allows the state attorney general to move sexual assault victim programs to another parish if the local coroner is unqualified or unwilling to perform those duties. 

In Tape's case, a transfer has already happened. Last month, the Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office took over the sexual assault examination program serving the Northshore region. The two parishes have entered into a cooperative endeavor agreement that allowed Jefferson Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich to hire the nurses who worked for the St. Tammany program.

Meanwhile, the organizers of Tape's recall must gather 35,000 signatures from qualified voters before mid-October for an election potentially forcing Tape out of office to take place.

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Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and X.

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