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There is an email alert circulating regarding an internet sales tax bill asking people to make calls on it. This is an alert we sent out LAST year during the legislative session. There is NOT a bill introduced on the internet sales tax this year and it is not possible to use it to close the shortfall in the general fund budget. If you have any questions, please call or email our Exec. Dir. Brooklyn Roberts at 205-441-9879 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Last year, we commended the Alabama legislature for having passed the toughest anti-illegal immigration law in the United States. Now the trick is to keep it that way. The law has already been partially upheld in federal court, so we’re off to a good start, but we recognize that some tweaks may be necessary. We are currently evaluating the proposal by the original bill’s sponsor, Rep. Micky Hammon. Keeping in mind that we still have questions that need to be answered and expert opinions to consider, we have several initial thoughts.
First, we are concerned about the sheer number of changes that are made. The new version of the bill looks a lot different from the original version and we are worried the courts will think so too. In fact, 22 of the 34 sections in the bill are changed–that’s a full two-thirds of the legislation. Specifically, we’re worried the 11th Circuit might decide not to hear the current case since the bill they are now evaluating would no longer exist in that form. This would mean we would have to start the entire legal process over again, and it could take years before we get closure on the law.
Our second concern is that a lot of the provisions being tweaked have already been upheld by the courts. For example, HB56 requires a law enforcement officer during a lawful stop, detention, or arrest to conduct an immigration status check of individuals if the officer reasonably suspects the individual is illegally in the United States. (SeeH.B. 658, p.37; Ala. Code § 31-13-12). HB658 limits the requirement to conduct immigration status checks to only situations where an individual is arrested or issued a traffic ticket. It expressly allows for immigration status checks of the passengers in a car, if the driver has been arrested or issued a traffic ticket. (H.B. 658, p.37) The original provision was not enjoined by the court in the current lawsuit and we question the need for changes.
Finally, check out the analysis below prepared by the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform. Please take a few minutes to review their assessment of the changes. We share their concerns that many of these changes weaken the legislation.
SOPA a.k.a. the Stop Online Piracy Act is the first step to letting the federal government censor the internet. As we said here, SOPA is dangerous. It will, for the first time ever, require private companies like Google, Mozilla, Facebook, Twitter, and others to censor internet content. The bill requires social networking sites and search engines to block content that the entertainment industry decides “facilitates online piracy or copyright infringement.”
In its original version it would have also:
- Made social networking sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter responsible for content posted by their users.
- Banned links to sites that are deemed offending even in search results
- Mandated the use of deep packet inspection by ISPs to watch all traffic of all users.
Some of these controversial provisions were taken out in committee. But the changes don’t go far enough to negate the censorship concern.
James Gattuso gives the clearest description of what the legislation is authorizing in his WebMemo for the Heritage Foundation:
As it is currently drafted, this is how SOPA would work: First, it allows the U.S. Attorney General, as well as individual intellectual property holders, to sue allegedly infringing sites in court. The site would have to be proven to be a foreign site “directed towards” the U.S. and that it would be subject to seizure if it were U.S.-based. Alternatively, a suit could be brought by a private plaintiff, who would have to show that the site is “dedicated to theft of U.S. property.” That test, in turn, can be met if the site or a portion of the site is “primarily” designed, operated, or marketed to “enable or facilitate” infringement. The bill requires that attempts be made to notify the website operator of any such legal action, but legal proceedings would go forward even if no response is received.
If the court finds in favor of the plaintiff, a range of third-party restrictions would go into effect. Specifically, in cases brought by the Attorney General, to the extent “technically feasible and reasonable,” a court order would:
- Require Internet service providers to prevent subscribers from reaching the website in question. This would be done by severing the mechanism by which the domain name entered by Web users is connected (“resolved”) to the proper IP address;
- Prohibit search engines such as Google from providing direct links to the foreign website in search results;
- Prohibit payment network providers, such as PayPal or credit card firms, from completing financial transactions affecting the site; and
- Bar Internet advertising firms from placing online ads from or to the affected website.
In cases brought by a private party, only the restrictions on payment networks and advertising firms would apply.
One particular controversial provision that would have allowed intellectual property holders to trigger the above described third party restrictions based on their own unilateral determination that a site was violating their property rights was taken out. Now, as noted above, intellectual property holders will have to get a court order to trigger these restrictions. Gattuso lists several other concerns with the current version. While this is better, it is not good enough.
When considering regulations, we must look at the potential benefit vs the cost. The risk of starting a slippery slope with this legislation is too great. More importantly, there are other ways we can address the problem and achieve the same result–see the Wyden/Issa proposal.
Bottom line: SOPA is a huge risk and even with improvements it still has the potential to bring federal censorship of the internet to a whole new level.
Representatives Robert Aderholt, Jo Bonner and Mo Brooks recently wrote Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asking him to stop tying federal waivers and grant opportunities to the adoption of CCSI. They said in part:
“We are aware that the Common Core Standards developed by the National Governors Association in conjunction with the Chief State School Officers are meant to be just that: standards. However, the inclusion of ‘illustrative texts’ pushes these standards dangerously close to being a national curriculum. As you are aware, it is currently a violation of federal law to adopt a national curriculum.”
“We believe states should be allowed the freedom to adopt their own high quality standards, a rigorous curriculum to meet these standards, and strict assessments to evaluate students’ progress.”
You can download a full copy of the letter by clicking here.
I’ve written before about the danger of net neutrality and its threat to free speech. Unfortunately, last December the FCC passed new net neutrality regulations despite significant opposition. A little over a week ago the FCC finally published the new rules in the Federal Register starting a 60 day comment period before they become law on November 20. It is imperative that we keep this from happening.
The House has passed a resolution (H.J.R. 37) that will nullify the new regulations. The Senate has 51 days left to act. They must pass the joint resolution and get it to President Obama’s desk. Opposition to net neutrality is bipartisan and will put a lot of pressure on the President to sign.
So what can you do?
Call your Senator and ask him to move to pass the same resolution (H.J.R. 37) and stop the federal government’s takeover of the internet!
Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121
Senator Mitch McConnell has unveiled a proposal to give President Obama the power to raise the debt limit on his own by $2.4 trillion in three installments before the end of 2012–unless two-thirds of Congress votes to block it.
Senator McConnell’s proposal will undermine everything conservative Republicans have been working for in regard to spending cuts. The GOP was using the debt ceiling as leverage to get the President and Congress to agree to significant cuts in spending, including entitlement programs. The last thing we need to do is give President Obama the unfettered power to continue to spend us into oblivion and Senator McConnell’s proposal does not give us any real protection against that eventuality.
And that’s not all–Senator McConnell’s proposal comes out ahead of next week’s vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment. The amendment would put the U.S. on a path to reduce the federal deficit. Moody’s Investor Service has been very clear that a reduction is necessary to maintain our current credit rating. Their response to the McConnell proposal was not positive:
“the outlook assigned at that time to the government bond rating would very likely be changed to negative at the conclusion of the review unless substantial and credible agreement is achieved on a budget that includes long-term deficit reduction. To retain a stable outlook, such an agreement should include a deficit trajectory that leads to stabilization and then decline in the ratios of federal government debt to GDP and debt to revenue beginning within the next few years.”
So what can you do to stop Senator McConnell’s attempt to give President Obama an unlimited line of credit?
1. Call Senator McConnell’s office along with your Senators and Representatives and ask them not to give President Obama the authority to raise the debt limit.
2. Ask your Senators and Representatives to support the Balanced Budget Amendment
The Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121