CNET News - Spending bill becomes law
22 Oct 98 16:06:23 +1100
FYI from CNET overnight.
Spending bill becomes law
By Courtney Macavinta and Kurt Oeler Staff Writers, CNET News.com
October 21, 1998, 2:25 p.m. PT
UPDATE President Clinton today signed a _500 billion spending bill for
fiscal 1999 that includes several technology industry-backed provisions as
well as controversial Net content regulations.
Despite complaints that the bill was hurriedly assembled and contained too
many last-minute additions, the House passed the measure by 333 to 95
yesterday, and the Senate cleared it by a 65 to 29 vote this morning. After
extending its session by almost a month, the 105th Congress will now
Although the massive appropriations bill ushered into law a handful of
provisions pushed by the high-tech lobby, the package also includes the
controversial Child Online Protection Act, which calls for commercial Web
site operators who offer "harmful" material to check visitors'
identifications or face up to _50,000 in fines and six months in prison for
Civil liberties groups believe that section is unconstitutional and will
hinder adults' right to surf the Net anonymously. As reported, groups such
as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
and the Electronic Privacy Information Center will file lawsuit tomorrow in
the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia to challenge what they call the
Communications Decency Act II. (News.com publisher CNET: The Computer
Network is set to be a plaintiff as part of the Internet Content Coalition.)
Although the Justice Department warned that the bill would be challenged
because it is vague and could hinder adult access to constitutionally
protected speech, President Clinton gave in and signed it as expected
because the Net content bill is part of the critical legislation to keep the
The "omnibus" spending bill, which provides for 8 of 13 federal departments,
also includes the following high-tech proposals:
The Workforce Improvement and Protection Act will increase the number of
visas for skilled foreign workers.
The Internet Tax Freedom Act, which establishes a national three-year
moratorium on "discriminatory" taxes. Sites that offer "harmful" material
would be exempt from the time-out. The provision requires Net access
providers to offer customers products to screen out this material.
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act requires Web sites to get
parental consent before collecting information from children aged 12 or
The Government Paperwork Elimination Act, which will make it possible to
use electronic signatures for federal forms submitted via the Net.
Each of the five Net bills were added during the end-of-the-term rush,
although three other high-tech bills (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act,
the Secuities Litigation Uniform Standards Act, and the Child Protection and
Sexual Predator Punishment Act) made it through Congress on their own and
are awaiting the president's signature.
On Friday, Clinton signed into law Rep. Constance Morella's (R-Maryland)
legislation to create an 11-member Commission on Women in Science,
Engineering, and Technology Development that will determine whether
employers recruit, promote, pay, and retain women at the same rate as their
male counterparts. The commission then will issue recommendations to
government, academia, and the corporate sector based on its findings. The
bill passed Congress earlier this month.
Research and Policy
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