Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 25, 2014

October 24, 2014

Weekly Wrapup: Spectrum Incentive Auction, ECPA & Online Sales Tax Bill

Among some of the news in tech policy this week: the Federal Communications Commission announced a delay of the spectrum incentive auction as well as a pause on its 180-day review of the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV transactions. In case you missed it, Technocrat had posts on Sen. Orrin G. Hatch‘s call for enactment of legislation targeting abusive patent litigation and changes to electronic privacy law next Congress as well as the state of play on the online sales tax bill.

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Friday Q&A: Next Century Cities’ Deb Socia

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(Photo courtesy of Deb Socia)

A new organization called Next Century Cities launched this week and among its 32 members are Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C., which have petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to pre-empt laws in their states that they contend restrict their expansion of municipal broadband.

Technocrat talked to the group’s executive director Deb Socia about what it does and if it has a position on the matter of municipal broadband.

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Who Might Replace Wolf on House C-J-S?

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A House Appropriations Committee markup. (Tom Williams/Roll Call File Photo)

With Virginia Republican Frank R. Wolf retiring, the top seat on the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee is opening up next Congress.

Under that subcommittee’s jurisdiction: the spending bill that covers the Justice Department, the Commerce Department (including the U.S Patent and Trademark Office), NASA, the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Whoever replaces Wolf would be in a position to influence not just the dollars, but also the policy of several science and tech-related agencies (for example, though limitation provisions in the bill that prohibit spending for specified activities).

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October 23, 2014

Online Sales Tax Supporters Eye Action in Lame Duck

As supporters of a bill to boost online sales tax collection gear up to pass the measure in the lame duck, opponents say leaders will likely avoid a tax debate in the waning months of this session.

“There’s a lot to pressure to minimize contentious issues at that point in time,” said Daniel J. Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

State and local government associations have been salivating at the chance to collect taxes from out-of-state online vendors, who they say rob them of billions in revenue each year.

The Senate passed a bill, the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act, last year that would allow states to collect sales taxes on items delivered to customers in their state. After the bill languished in the House for nearly a year, sponsor Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., combined it with a popular House-passed measure extending a moratorium on taxing Internet access.

Congress extended the Internet access tax moratorium under the government’s stopgap funding bill through Dec. 11, at which time the Senate could take up Enzi’s new proposal (S 2609).

“We know the House is interested in passing a continuation of the moratorium,” said Dan Crippen, executive director of the National Governors Association. “And so, what the Senate is essentially saying is that this is a more complete e-commerce bill and addresses both issues at once.”

It may not be as simple as that, Mitchell said. With several other pressing matters on the agenda for the lame duck, any procedural roadblocks on the tax issue could force leaders to delay action until next year.

Some senators also indicated they may support the measure if they had more time to debate the issue, including Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

“I think the bill is well-intentioned and I’m not fundamentally opposed to it,” Hatch said on the floor, before the Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness bill last year. “But, make no mistake, there are problems with this legislation as it is currently drafted; problems that likely could have been avoided if the Finance Committee had been given an opportunity to fully consider the bill.”

If Republicans take control of the Senate in November, Hatch could have more sway in getting the bill to the floor. For now, Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is among those from states without sales taxes who are expected to try and keep the issue separate from the access tax moratorium.

“Sen. Wyden is going to do whatever it takes to preserve the Internet Tax Freedom Act, including making sure people understand that [the Marketplace Fairness Act] violates the animating principle of ITFA,” Wyden spokesman Keith Chu said in an email.

By Sarah Chacko Posted at 1:30 p.m.
Uncategorized

International Space Station, A State Department Twitter Account in Coburn’s ‘Wastebook’

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Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on the second floor of the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Niels Lesniewski at #WGDB has the rundown on Sen. Tom Coburn’s annual “Wastebook” of federal projects that the Oklahoma Republican deems “silly, unnecessary and low priority” — basically (as the name would suggest) wasteful.

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October 22, 2014

Potential Big Differences in Net Worth Between Top Lawmakers on Some Tech Panels

Ever wonder how rich some of the most influential lawmakers in tech policy are?

Technocrat looked through Roll Call’s rankings of all lawmakers’ wealth (based on financial disclosure forms covering 2013), and organized chairmen and ranking members of some tech-related committees and subcommittees by panel. The list below isn’t exhaustive of all the tech-related panels, but what we’ve noticed so far are some potential big disparities between some of the top lawmakers who might sit right next to each other on the dais.

For example, on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has a minimum net worth of $108.05 million while ranking member John Thune, R-S.D., has a minimum net worth of $90,000.

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Online Harassment is Common, Young Women Experience More Stalking, Report Finds

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(Source: Pew Research Center)

Online harassment is commonly experienced among all Internet users, but young women specifically experience more online stalking and sexual harassment than men the same age and even women who are a few years older, according to a new report by Pew Research Center.

The report’s findings, released Wednesday, were drawn from an online survey of 2,849 Internet users.

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By Anne L. Kim Posted at 10:57 a.m.
Broadband

October 21, 2014

Hatch Calls for ECPA, ‘Patent Troll’ Legislation in Next Congress

 

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Sen. Orrin Hatch the leaves the Senate side carriage entrance of the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In prepared remarks for a speech Tuesday detailing a wide-ranging “innovation agenda” for the next Congress, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, called for enactment of legislation targeting abusive patent litigation as well as changes to electronic privacy law.

In his written remarks for a speech at Overstock.com in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Utah Republican said about a patent litigation bill: “I intend to do everything in my power next Congress to pass such legislation.”

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Q&A: Law Professor Ryan Calo, Part Two

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A man practices surgery using a robot during the opening of the robotics surgery training center ‘Onze-Lieve-Vrouwziekenhuis Vattikuti Robotic Surgery Institute.’ (NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/AFP/Getty Images)

Ryan Calo is an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law and has suggested a Federal Robotics Commission as a “thought experiment.” Technocrat talked with him about the idea, how he defines robotics, and more. Below is some of the discussion. You can read more on Technocrat’s chat with Calo here on legal issues he foresees arising in the coming years.

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October 20, 2014

Leahy Wants Comcast Pledge of No Paid Prioritization

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Sen. Patrick Leahy speaks with reporters before the Senate luncheons in the Capitol in March 2014. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As federal regulators continue to review Comcast’s proposal to acquire Time Warner Cable and as the Federal Communications Commission seeks to draft net neutrality rules, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is calling on Comcast to promise that it won’t engage in paid prioritization.

In a letter to Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen on Monday, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., wrote:

In a May blog post, you wrote that Comcast does not intend to enter into paid prioritization agreements. I welcome that assertion, but I remain gravely concerned that if such agreements are permitted [under the FCC's net neutrality rules], market incentive may drive Comcast and other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to change that position in the future.

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