Tom Harkin on Technology
Democratic Jr Senator (IA)
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.
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.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to reinstate the Federal Communications Commission's rules for the description of video programming.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: This bill would require television broadcasters, during at least 50 hours of their prime time or children's programming every quarter, to insert verbal descriptions of actions or settings not contained in the normal audio track of a program. This can be accomplished through technology commonly referred to as "video description services," which allows television programming to be more accessible and enjoyable for the visually impaired.
This bill is necessary due to a 2002 decision by District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2000, the FCC, recognizing the need to make television programming accessible to the visually impaired, mandated that television broadcast stations provide 50 hours of video descriptions during prime time or children's programming every calendar quarter. Television programmers challenged the Commission's authority to promulgate such rules. The Circuit Court held that the Commission did not have authority to issue the regulations.
This bill would provide the Commission the authority to promulgate such regulations and reinstate the FCC's video description rules issued in 2000. Since the spectrum that television broadcasters utilize is a public asset, one would expect that programming over the public airwaves is accessible to all Americans. Unfortunately, that is not the case today and that is why we must pass the TIVI Act. I sincerely hope that television broadcasters will work with us to provide video descriptions for individuals with visual disabilities.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; never came to a vote.
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.
Sen. DORGAN. "The issue of Internet freedom is also known as net neutrality. I have long fought in Congress against media concentration, to prevent the consolidation of control over what Americans see in the media. Now, Americans face an equally great threat to the democratic vehicle of the Internet, which we have always taken for granted as an open and free engine for creative growth.
"The Internet became a robust engine of economic development by enabling anyone with a good idea to connect to consumers and compete on a level playing field for consumers' business. The marketplace picked winners and losers, and not some central gatekeeper.
"But now we face a situation where the FCC has removed nondiscrimination rules that applied to Internet providers for years. Broadband operators soon thereafter announced their interest in acting in discriminatory ways, planning to create tiers on the Internet that could restrict content providers' access to the Internet unless they pay extra for faster speeds or better service. Under their plan, the Internet would become a new world where those content providers who can afford to pay special fees would have better access to consumers.
"This fundamentally changes the way the Internet has operated and threaten to derail the democratic nature of the Internet. American consumers and businesses will be worse off for it. Today we introduce the Internet Freedom Preservation Act to ensure that the Internet remains a platform that spawns innovation and economic development for generations to come."
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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Retiring in 2014 election:
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Senate Votes (analysis)
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