Sheldon Whitehouse on Technology
Democratic Jr Senator, previously attorney general
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.
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:Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or the PROTECT IP Act, or PIPA (in the House, Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA) :
OnTheIssues Notes: SOPA and PIPA, proponents claim, would better protect electronic copyright ("IP", or Intellectual Property). Opponents argue that SOPA and PIPA would censor the Internet. Internet users and entrepreneurs oppose the two bills; google.com and wikipedia.com held a "blackout" on Jan. 18, 2012 in protest. An alternative bill, the OPEN Act was proposed on Jan. 18 to protect intellectual property without censorship; internet businesses prefer the OPEN Act while the music and movie industries prefer SOPA and PIPA.
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):
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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