Mary Alice Baish
Assistant Washington Affairs Representative
Georgetown University Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
Legislative Update on Telecom Reform and
TELECOM BILL PASSES SENATE: EXON AMENDMENT SURVIVES
GPO Appropriations, as of June 30, 1995
The Senate overwhelmingly passed S. 652, the Telecommunications Competition and Deregulation Act, on June 15, 1995 by a vote of 81-18. Numerous amendments were adopted on the floor of the Senate making this bill to deregulate the telecommunications industry even more complex. We were pleased that the Snow-Rockefeller amendment, establishing "affordable" rates for libraries, schools and rural health care facilities, was approved 98-1. However, the "Communications Decency Act," commonly referred to as the Exon amendment, also passed by a margin of 84-16.
AALL, along with a coalition of public interest and library groups, had strongly opposed the Exon amendment as an infringement on First Amendment and privacy rights. We had supported in its stead S. 714, the alternate measure introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). S. 714 would require that the Department of Justice conduct a study on the feasibility of technological means to allow users to control the information they receive through networks. The DOJ has stated that the Exon amendment, which would increase fines and penalties for those who transmit obscenities and pornography, would be very difficult to enforce.
The only hint of positive news regarding passage of the Exon amendment is that House Speaker Newt Gingrich has become a new and unexpected ally in our opposition to the measure. During a June 20, 1995 television interview, Rep. Gingrich criticized the Exon amendment as a clear violation of free speech and hinted that it would not survive in the House.
FY 1996 LEGISLATIVE BRANCH APPROPRIATIONS PASSES HOUSE:
GPO BUDGET FURTHER SLASHED
H.R. 1854, the appropriations bill discussed in this month's column, was passed on June 22, 1995. Two amendments offered on the House floor need to be mentioned. Rep. Bill Orton (D-UT) introduced an amendment to restore $7 million to GPO's Salaries and Expenses (S&E) which supports the Depository Library Program and which had already been cut in half by the House Appropriations Committee. The $7 million would be shifted from funds earmarked for renovations to the Botanical Garden. The Orton amendment failed by a vote of 104-321. To make matters even worse, Rep. Scott Klug (R-WIS) offered an amendment to cut an additional 10% FTE or 350 more positions from GPO which had already lost some two hundred positions during the appropriations process. The Klug amendment passed by a vote of 293-129.
This was definitely the worst case scenario for an agency which has been targeted by Congress for drastic downsizing. Mark-up on the Senate bill is expected shortly and there is some hope that a portion of the funds to maintain the depository program will be restored. We also hope to see some serious studies initiated by Congress to evaluate exactly what information is most suitable for electronic dissemination. Congress needs to determine whether the shift to a "cyber government" will be truly efficient and cost effective before taking such drastic measures.
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1996, American Association of Law Libraries