Tammy Baldwin on Technology
Democratic Representative (WI-2)
Opponent's Argument for voting No (Cnet.com): Online retailers are objecting to S.743, saying it's unreasonable to expect small businesses to comply with the detailed--and sometimes conflicting--regulations of nearly 10,000 government tax collectors. S.743 caps years of lobbying by the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represent big box stores. President Obama also supports the bill.
Proponent's Argument for voting Yes: Sen. COLLINS. This bill rectifies a fundamental unfairness in our current system. Right now, Main Street businesses have to collect sales taxes on every transaction, but outbecause -of-state Internet sellers don't have to charge this tax, they enjoy a price advantage over the mom-and-pop businesses. This bill would allow States to collect sales taxes on Internet sales, thereby leveling the playing field with Main Street businesses. This bill does not authorize any new or higher tax, nor does it impose an Internet tax. It simply helps ensure that taxes already owed are paid.
Opponent's Argument for voting No: Sen. WYDEN: This bill takes a function that is now vested in government--State tax collection--and outsources that function to small online retailers. The proponents say it is not going to be hard for small businesses to handle this--via a lot of new computer software and the like. It is, in fact, not so simple. There are more than 5,000 taxing jurisdictions in our country. Some of them give very different treatment for products and services that are almost identical.
Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Waxman, D-CA]: This bill will cripple National Public Radio, public radio stations, and programming that is vital to over 27 million Americans. We are now voting to deny the public access to one of our Nation's most credible sources of news coverage. This bill does not save a penny. This legislation does not serve any fiscal purpose, but it does serve an ugly ideological one. This legislation is not about reforming NPR. It is about punishing NPR. It is vindictive, it is mean-spirited, it is going to hit the smallest stations in rural areas particularly hard. Public radio is indispensable for access to news that's hard to get, especially where broadband service is limited.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. RICK BOUCHER (D, VA-9): Fully 6.5 million households are totally unprepared for the transition on February 17; these 6.5 million households will lose all of their television service, and that number represents about 5.7% of the total American television viewing public. If almost 6%of the nation's households lose all of their television service, I think that most people would declare that the digital television transition has been a failure. In recognition of that reality, this legislation would delay the transition until June 12.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. JOE LINUS BARTON (R, TX-6): The majority is trying to fix a problem that I do not think really exists. We have sent out 33 million coupons: 22 million of those coupons have been redeemed, and 11 million coupons are outstanding. The outstanding coupons are being redeemed, I think, by about 500,000 a week, something like that. In my opinion, you could keep the hard date and not have a problem, but if you think there is a problem, it is not from lack of money. We have appropriated $1.3 billion. About half of that is still in the Treasury, so the redemption rate is only about 52%. Even though we are delaying this until June 12 if this bill becomes law, according to the acting chairman of the FCC, 61% of the television stations in America are going to go ahead and convert to digital. 143 television stations already have converted, and in those areas where they have converted, I am not aware that there has been a huge problem.
Rep. LANGEVIN. One issue that has been repeatedly addressed is whether telecommunications companies should be granted immunity against pending lawsuits for their involvement in the earlier surveillance program. This legislation preserves a role for the U.S. court system to decide independently whether the telecommunications companies acted in good faith. Only after that review would the courts decide whether the telecommunications companies deserve any form of liability protection.
Opponents argument for voting NAY: Rep. LEVIN. I oppose this bill because of the provisions that would confer retroactive immunity on the telecommunications companies that participated in the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program. It sets a dangerous precedent for Congress to approve a law that dismisses ongoing court cases simply on the basis that the companies can show that the administration told them that its warrantless surveillance program was legal. A program is not legal just because the administration claims that it is.
Rep. NADLER. The House must decide today whether to uphold the rule of law & the supremacy of the Constitution or whether to protect & reward the lawless behavior of the administration and of the telecommunications companies that participated in its clearly illegal program of spying on innocent Americans. The bill is a fig-leaf, granting blanket immunity to the telecom companies for illegal acts. It denies people whose rights were violated their fair day in court, and it denies the American people their right to have the actions of the administration subjected to fair & independent scrutiny.
Veto message from President Bush:
This bill lacks fiscal discipline. I fully support funding for water resources projects that will yield high economic and environmental returns. Each year my budget has proposed reasonable and responsible funding, including $4.9 billion for 2008, to support the Army Corps of Engineers' main missions. However, this authorization bill costs over $23 billion. This is not fiscally responsible, particularly when local communities have been waiting for funding for projects already in the pipeline. The bill's excessive authorization for over 900 projects and programs exacerbates the massive backlog of ongoing Corps construction projects, which will require an additional $38 billion in future appropriations to complete. This bill does not set priorities. I urge the Congress to send me a fiscally responsible bill that sets priorities.
A bill to facilitate nationwide availability of 2-1-1 telephone service for information and referral on human services & volunteer services. Congress makes the following findings:
Introductory statement by Sponsor:
Sen. CLINTON: In the immediate aftermath of the devastation of September 11, most people did not know where to turn for information about their loved ones. Fortunately for those who knew about it, 2-1-1 was already operating in Connecticut, and it was critical in helping identify the whereabouts of victims, connecting frightened children with their parents, providing information on terrorist suspects, and linking ready volunteers with victims.
Every single American should have a number they can call to cut through the chaos of an emergency. That number is 2-1-1. It's time to make our citizens and our country safer by making this resource available nationwide.
Congressional Summary: Revises the definition of "widow" concerning the transfer of a copyright to an author's spouse following the author's death. Declares that an individual is the widow of an author if they were legally married at the time of the author's death, even if they could not marry in their home state. (Currently, only the author's surviving spouse under the law of the author's domicile at the time of death is considered a widow.)
Supporters reasons for voting YEA: (by Human Rights Campaign, hrc.org): This bill would fix wording in the Copyright Act that currently prevents some same-sex couples from receiving inheritance rights. Because of restrictions in current law, some agencies--including the Copyright Office and the Social Security Administration--do not recognize same-sex couples living in states without same-sex marriage equality.
Background: (Wikipedia.com on "U.S. v. Windsor"): Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, a same-sex couple residing in New York, were lawfully married in Canada, in 2007. Spyer died in 2009, leaving her entire estate to Windsor. Windsor sought to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses. She was barred from doing so because the IRS said the exemption only applies to heterosexual couples under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and compelled her to pay $363,053 in estate taxes. The Supreme Court rules 5-4 to overturn DOMA as unconstitutional. [This bill applies that Supreme Court ruling to copyright law].
Opponents reasons for voting NAY: (PopVox blog postings on H.R.238 & S.23):
Excerpts from Letter to FCC chairman from 15 Senators: We write to express how deeply troubled we are that one of your first actions as FCC Chairman has been to undermine the Lifeline program and make it more difficult for low-income people to access affordable broadband. Lifeline is a critical tool for closing the digital divide--a problem you pledged to prioritize. Abruptly revoking the recognition of nine companies as Lifeline broadband providers does nothing but create a chilling effect on potential provider participation, and unfairly punish low-income consumers.
Last year, the FCC modernized the Lifeline program, rightfully refocusing its support on broadband, which helps end the cruel "homework gap" for the five million out of the 28 million households in this country with school-aged children who lack access to broadband.
By statute, the FCC has an obligation to ensure "consumers in all regions of the country, including low-income consumers" have access to "advanced telecommunications services."
Opposing argument: (Heritage Budget Book, "Cut Universal Service Subsidies"): Heritage Recommendation: Eliminate telecommunications subsidies for rural areas, phase out the schools and libraries subsidy program, and reduce spending on the Lifeline program by reducing fraud and waste. The "Lifeline" fund, while well-intended, has been plagued by fraud and abuse, as costs tripled from under $600 million in 2001 to almost $1.8 billion in the 2013 funding year.
Supporting argument: (ACLU, "Task Force Letter"): The ACLU, a co-chair of the Leadership Conference Media Task Force, joined this letter to the FCC Chairman in response to his decisions to revoke the Lifeline Broadband Provider designations for nine providers. The ACLU has long supported expansion of the Lifeline program, which provides access to phone and broadband services for lower income families.
Congressional Summary:Disapproves the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on February 22, 2008, relating to broadcast media ownership. Declares that the rule shall have no force or effect.
Proponents' Argument in Favor:Sen. DORGAN: The FCC loosened the ban on cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations. We seek with this resolution of disapproval to reverse the FCC's fast march to ease media ownership rules. The FCC has taken a series of destructive actions in the past two decades that I believe have undermined the public interest. [Now they have given] a further green light to media concentration.
The FCC voted to allow cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in the top 20 markets, with loopholes for mergers outside of the top 20 markets. The newspapers would be allowed to buy stations ranked above fifth and above.
The rule change was framed as a modest compromise. But make no mistake, this is a big deal. As much as 44% of the population lives in the top 20 markets. The last time the FCC tried to do this, in 2003, the Senate voted to block it.
This rule will undercut localism and diversity of ownership around the country. Studies show that removing the ban on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership results in a net loss in the amount of local news produced in the market as a whole. In addition, while the FCC suggests that cross-ownership is necessary to save failing newspapers, the publicly traded newspapers earn annual rates of return between 16% and 18%.
This Resolution of Disapproval will ensure this rule change has no effect. This is again a bipartisan effort to stop the FCC from destroying the local interests that we have always felt must be a part of broadcasting.
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