Chris Van Hollen on Technology
Democratic Representative (MD-8)
Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
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.
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.
Directs the Secretary of Education to establish and maintain, on the public website of the Department of Education, a database of information on public and private programs of financial assistance for the study of postsecondary and graduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
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