Monday, April 1, 2019

“Save the Internet Act” Clears First Hurdle in House

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by: Mike Doyle (D-PA, 14th)

Washington, D.C. - April 1, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (PA-18) announced that the legislation he introduced to restore Net Neutrality, the “Save the Internet Act,” has been approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

“This is the first step forward in a long legislative process,” Congressman Doyle said after the markup. “With enough public support, we can enact the Save the Internet Act and make Net Neutrality a permanent law.”

“Today, thanks to Chairman Doyle’s leadership, we are one step closer to restoring a free and open internet,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone said. “Failure to continue moving forward on this legislation is simply not an option, and I look forward to bringing it up for a vote before the full Committee soon.”

The Save the Internet Act would prohibit internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking, throttling, or engaging in paid prioritization; close loopholes by empowering the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stop unjust, unreasonable, and discriminatory practices; foster innovation and competition by ensuring fair and equal access to broadband for start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurs; and promote deployment and access to broadband for consumers and businesses in rural, suburban, and urban areas across America.

This bill would empower the FCC to assist consumers with complaints against their internet service provider – and enforce and fine internet service providers for violations; expand its authority to promote access and adoption of broadband across the country through universal service funding; facilitate broadband deployment by ensuring fair access to utility poles, ducts, conduits, and rights-of-way; protect the privacy of internet service provider customers’ account data; and ensure access to service for people with disabilities.

Senator Ed Markey (MA) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

ISPs have a long history of using their control over the link between internet users and the Internet Backbone to block – or extract money from – consumers and “edge providers”. That’s bad for consumers, bad for many businesses, and bad for the economy. It also slows down technological innovation and provides a serious obstacle to online start-ups, reducing our global competitiveness and slowing improvements in Americans’ standard of living.

The long history of anti-competitive, anti-consumer behavior by ISPs compelled the FCC to establish rules protecting Net Neutrality a number of years ago, and to ratchet up its rules in response to ISP violations of – and legal challenges to – Net Neutrality through 2015, when the Commission adopted the Open Internet Order.

Under the Open Internet Order, consumers had the right to access the content of their choice on the Internet, and content providers had the right to access consumers without having to pay tolls or have their service blocked or degraded by an ISP. The Open Internet Order prohibited Internet Service Providers from using their position between consumers and the Internet to advantage themselves, their own products and services, or third parties that want preferential treatment.

The Trump FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai voted in 2017 to kill the Open Internet Order.

Representative Doyle and Senator Markey led an effort to enact legislation under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the Trump FCC’s action. The bill was approved by the Senate, but the House Republican Leadership refused to bring it to the House Floor.

Control of the House of Representatives changed hands in January 2019, improving the prospects for passing legislation to restore Net Neutrality.

Information for this markup, including video of the proceedings, is posted here.

Click here for bill text.

Click here for comments of support from consumer groups.

Legislation to Recognize the Importance of Saving Local News Introduced

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by: Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA, 11th)

Washington, D.C. - April 1, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) will introduce a House Resolution to recognize the importance of local news with Members in a working group DeSaulnier formed to protect local news, including Representatives Diana DeGette (CO-01), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), and Jamie Raskin (MD-08). As part of the bill’s introduction, he will host a special order on the floor of the U.S. House with Members of Congress on Tuesday, April 2nd.

Since 2004, 1,800 local papers have been closed or merged. As a result, the industry has suffered massive layoffs across the country. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2004, 71,640 people worked as reporters and editors in the newspaper industry, but as of 2017 that number shrunk to 39,210—a 45 percent decrease. In the Bay Area alone, newspapers have witnessed a dramatic swing from about 1,500 journalists at its high point, down to less than 300 journalists to serve roughly 7 million people.

Local News Special Order
Date: Tuesday, April 2nd
Time: Approximately 4:30 p.m. PST, however timing is fluid due to floor votes (we will update as it gets closer).
Participants: Hosted by Congressman DeSaulnier with participation from Congresswoman Diana DeGette and other Members of the working group on local news.

Reps. Delgado, Larson and Higgins Announce House Companion to Medicare-X Bill

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by: Antonio Delgado (D-NY, 19th)

Washington, D.C. - April 1, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Antonio Delgado (NY-19) led the reintroduction of the Medicare-X Choice Act, legislation to create a public option health plan available for purchase on the individual and small business exchanges. Delgado was joined by Representatives John Larson (CT-1) and Brian Higgins (NY-26). The bill would combine Medicare physician networks and reimbursement rates with Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage standards to create a new, public health insurance option available to all Americans.

“It’s unacceptable that despite being the wealthiest country in the world, the United States is the only developed country without universal healthcare,” Delgado said. “This has been a top priority for me in Congress, and I’m proud to lead my colleagues in introducing a bill to finally get us to universal coverage. Whether it be at town halls or meetings with constituents, the folks I talk to back home want access to more coverage options at lower costs. The Medicare-X Choice Act would deliver by allowing those who are happy with their employer-provided insurance to keep it, while offering another, more affordable coverage option to those who need it. Adding a public option creates competition and will drive down premiums and deductibles.”

“By building on the successful framework of the Medicare system, Medicare X creates an additional affordable healthcare option for the American people. This is a solution that is bold and achievable and will ensure that every American has access to high-quality, affordable health care,” said Congressman Larson.

Congressman Higgins said, “This bill provides people under 65 a public option already proven to be successful – Medicare. By doing so, it provides greater choice and competition, building on the protections provided in the Affordable Care Act, with an efficient healthcare delivery alternative that lowers the cost curve for consumers.”

The Medicare-X Choice Act uses the existing health care system, and gradually reinforces it, by providing more options for the public of all ages. Medicare-X would be offered through individual and family coverage plans and the Medicare provider network would be expanded to include pediatricians, children’s hospitals and others. The Act will ensure Essential Health Benefits like maternity, newborn care, and pediatric services are covered. The bill also allows for prescription drug negotiation through Medicare Part D.

Under the bill, premiums are put into a new, separate trust fund, holding the Medicare trust fund for individuals ages 65 and over harmless. In addition, the bill would expand access to premium tax credits to those beyond the 400% of the federal poverty line, the current threshold for premium assistance under the ACA.

Beginning in 2021, the Medicare-X plan will be available in rural areas of the country where there is only one or no health insurance providers on the exchange. The plan will also be available in counties where there is a shortage of health plan options, which have driven up costs and rendered prices simply unaffordable for the American below the age of 65. By 2024, the public option would be available on the individual market and in 2025, the plan would be an option on the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchange.

DelBene Introduces Legislation to Protect Consumer Privacy

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by: Suzan Delbene (D-WA, 1st)

Washington, D.C. - April 1, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Suzan DelBene reintroduced legislation that would change the way consumers' personal, private information is protected. The Information Transparency and Personal Data Control Act would give people control over their most sensitive information while ensuring the government can enforce these rules.

“A lack of privacy control is a threat Americans face every day. As a former tech entrepreneur with experience in this field, I’m aware of the critical moment we’re facing. This is a time for consumers, policymakers and the private sector to come together and protect consumers’ sensitive personal information from bad actors,” said DelBene.

She added, “Under this legislation, privacy will be the default. People will no longer have to dig through confusing user policies and opt out of highly invasive settings, and the Federal Trade Commission will have the authority to hold companies accountable. The U.S. must take a national stance and be a leader in setting global standards on this important issue. Let’s use our standing as the world’s undeniable leader in tech innovation to protect the people who use it every day.”

“This legislation is an important step forward in finding a balanced approach to consumer data protection. This proposal would significantly strengthen the FTC’s enforcement capabilities, establish uniform national rules for the digital economy, and ensure businesses are focused on protecting consumers’ most sensitive information. This legislation shows that it is possible to both protect consumers without undermining innovation, and we encourage Congress to move forward quickly with this proposal to provide guidance and certainty to consumers and business alike,” said Daniel Castro, Vice President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

“We thank Congresswoman DelBene for her leadership in introducing the Information Transparency and Personal Data Control Act. Privacy is one of the most important issues before Congress, and this legislation is a valuable contribution to the discussion. BSA stands ready to work with all Members of Congress and the committees of jurisdiction to pass a strong, comprehensive federal bill to create one national standard that protects privacy and restores the American people’s trust,” said Craig Albright, Vice President of Legislative Strategy, BSA | The Software Alliance.

DelBene's legislation would:

  • Help consumers by ensuring all users are presented with companies’ privacy policies in "plain English."
  • Require companies to allow users to “opt in” before companies can use consumers’ most sensitive private information in ways the public might not expect.
  • Require companies to declare if and with whom private and behavioral data will be shared, and the purpose of sharing such information.
  • Give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) privacy targeted rule making authority and empowers states attorney generals to also pursue violations of this legislation.
  • Give the FTC the ability to fine bad actors on their first offense.
  • Require companies to obtain privacy audits by a neutral third party and submit the results to the FTC biannually.

  • The bill text can be read here and full details of the bill can be found here. DelBene first introduced a similar version of this legislation in the 115th Congress.

    Rep. DelBene is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee as well as the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. She also serves as Vice-Chair of the New Democrat Coalition. She is co-chair of the Digital Trade Caucus, Women's High Tech Caucus, and Internet of Things Caucus.

    She represents Washington’s first congressional district.
  • DeGette introduces bill to block feds from enforcing marijuana laws in states where its legal

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    by: Diana Degette (D-CO, 1st)

    Washington, D.C. - March 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced legislation today that would prevent the federal government from enforcing its prohibition on marijuana in states, such as Colorado, where it is legal for residents to possess and use the drug.

    The legislation – known as the Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act – would amend the Controlled Substances Act to prevent federal preemption of state’s marijuana laws. If approved, marijuana-related business owners in states such as Colorado, where cannabis is legal, would be able to promote and grow their businesses without the threat of federal intervention. It would also allow the states themselves to establish the regulatory frameworks needed to reasonably tax and regulate the industry, without the threat of a federal court challenge.

    “Colorado’s marijuana-related business owners are just like any other legitimate business owners in our state, and are currently contributing more than one billion a year to our state’s economy,” DeGette said. “There’s no reason why they should have to go to bed every night worried that the federal government could suddenly take it all away from them, and treat them like a criminal.”

    The legislation comes on the heels of the recent appointment of William Barr as the nation’s new Attorney General. Barr, who had previously served as Attorney General under president George H.W. Bush from 1991 – 1993, is known for his tough-on-drugs approach, which he exhibited during his first stint as the nation’s top cop.

    But in the time since Barr previously led the Justice Department, 10 states – Colorado, Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Vermont – and the District of Columbia have all legalized the recreational use and possession of marijuana for their residents.

    Barr tried to tamp down any concerns that these marijuana-friendly states may have during his recent Senate confirmation hearing by saying he would respect state marijuana laws. But during that same hearing, he also said that the “current system is untenable” and that he personally supports federal marijuana prohibition.

    The remarks have raised concerns regarding the administration’s plans to enforce the nation’s marijuana laws going forward. And it’s led DeGette to reintroduce the legislation she originally filed in 2012, immediately after Colorado voters approved an amendment to their state’s Constitution to legalize marijuana, to try to shield the residents and business owners in states such as hers from any future adverse actions by the feds.

    The full text of DeGette’s legislation introduced today can be found here.

    Congresswoman Susan Davis Leads 222 House Members in Calling for $41.6 Billion for the NIH

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    by: Susan Davis (D-CA, 53rd)

    Washington, D.C. - March 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53) led a bipartisan coalition of 222 House members in urging a $41.6 billion investment in the National Institutes of Health, a $2.5 billion increase from last year. Davis led a similar effort in 2018 that resulted in $2 billion more for medical research.

    “Despite recent progress, the NIH still has not fully recovered from over a decade of underinvestment,” the members wrote. “The critical investments we make in biomedical research are our nation’s best hope in finding cures and treatments for diseases that affect millions of Americans.”

    The full letter can be read here.