David Beito, History Professor at the University of Alabama, and Daniel Smith, Economics Professor at Troy State University, have written an excellent editorialcomparing tornado recovery efforts in Joplin, MO and Tuscaloosa, AL. The two cities took vastly different approaches to the rebuilding efforts, one relaxing government regulation and one using it as an opportunity to enact more. As the subtitle of the editorial so aptly puts it: “One city is letting local business lead the revival, the other is imposing top-down rules and waiting for FEMA. Guess which one is rebuilding faster?” The answer might surprise you.
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.
Alabama has joined twenty-four other states in filing an amicus brief in a lawsuit brought against the EPA to require delay of the imposition of the Utility MACT rule. The Rule is expected to go into effect in early November and has the potential to cost the utility industry billions of dollars and could lead to the closure of plants and the loss of jobs, at a time when our state and nation can ill afford it.
From the Decatur Daily:
State Attorney General Luther Strange said today that Alabama has joined 24 other states and Guam in filing a brief in U.S. District Court in Washington to require the Environmental Protection Agency to delay air emissions regulations, claiming the new rule could damage Alabama jobs and electricity rates.
The EPA’s proposed Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology rule would create a new federal regulation to address emissions of hazardous air pollutants from coal and oil-fired power plants.
The proposed rule may require installation of new expensive control technologies to meet the new limits mandated by the EPA.
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
President Obama has recently submitted a jobs plan to Congress. Unfortunately for him, the reception has been less than stellar even among members of his own party. In typical Obama style, he is now going around Congress to start creating those jobs and is spending $21 billion to do so.
This is not a new tactic for President Obama as he has often used regulatory agencies to accomplish what he cannot get through legislatively. For instance, Congress rejected Cap and Trade yet the EPA has implemented most of the cap and trade policies on its own. Congress wouldn’t pass an immigration reform bill, so President Obama used an executive order to grant what amounts to amnesty. Under this administration, the FCC has tried to put in place a new regulatory structure for the internet called Net Neutrality–again, something Congress wouldn’t pass.
The President is becoming increasingly bold about these kinds of maneuvers. Recently while announcing exemptions from the No Child Left Behind Law, President Obama said the following:
I’ve urged Congress for a while now, let’s get a bipartisan effort, let’s fix this,” Obama said. “Congress hasn’t been able to do it. So I will. Our kids only get one shot at a decent education. They cannot afford to wait any longer. So, given that Congress cannot act, I am acting…
This is not the mindset of someone who believes in the U.S. Constitution and the separation of powers.
And that doesn’t even begin to address problems with the actual policy. The regulatory burdens in this country have become so heavy and difficult, many businesses are looking for ways to move over seas to places that have a much more business-friendly environment. Recently Coke announced it was ramping up its investments in China. The Coke CEO, Muhtar Kent, made the following statements about his reasons for shifting more investment to China:
“Coca-Cola now sees the US becoming a less friendly business environment than China, … citing political gridlock and an antiquated tax structure. … Muhtar Kent, Coke’s chief executive, said ‘in many respects’ it was easier doing business in China, which he likened to a well-managed company. ‘You have a one-stop shop in terms of the Chinese foreign investment agency and local governments are fighting for investment with each other … They’re learning very fast, these countries … In the west, we’re forgetting what really worked 20 years ago. In China and other markets around the world, you see the kind of attention to detail about how business works and how business creates employment’. …”
“Kent argued that US states did not compete enough with each other to attract businesses while Chinese provinces were clamouring to draw investment from international companies.
There are a growing number of business owners and investors who have publicly stated their unwillingness to invest or expand due to the uncertainty in the regulatory field and with the nation’s economy. Back in February, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee heard directly from small business owners about the devastating impact the tsunami of Obama Administration regulations is having on their ability to grow and create jobs.
“The cost of regulation incurred by all businesses is eventually passed on to the consumer and our workforce. Regulatory costs require business owners like me to devote more time and resources to government compliance, which means less capital devoted to investment and job creation.
“If regulatory burden continues to grow we, along with all other private sector companies, will no longer be able to compete in the world market. Jobs will not be created and new businesses will not be formed. You will suffocate the system that has produced everything we enjoy today. It is that simple.”
It’s time for Congress to stand up to the President and take back its Constitutional authority. Rep. Geoff Davis and Sen. Rand Paul are proposing legislation that will do exactly that. Called the REINS Act, H.R. 10 will require major regulations (defined as regulations that have more than a $100 million impact on the economy among other things) to be voted on by Congress before they have the force and effect of law.
Alabama Representatives Spencer Bachus, Jo Bonner, Mo Brooks and Martha Roby have already signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation, along with Senator Jeff Sessions in the Senate. We ask you to encourage Representatives Robert Aderholt, Mike Rogers and Terri Sewell to sign on as well, along with Senator Richard Shelby. Congressional Switchboard 202-224-3121
The Hill’s Energy & Environment Blog covers the EPA’s decision to review dozens of regulations to ensure they are not overly burdensome.
EPA’s final regulatory review plan comes amid growing GOP animosity toward the agency. Republicans and some centrist Democrats have cast EPA as the poster child of federal overreach and excessive regulation, pushing legislation to delay or block a slew of the agency’s rules.
EPA will review 35 regulations under the final plan. Sixteen of those rules will be reviewed quickly, a process that could lead to “modifying, streamlining, expanding or repealing a regulation or related program during the 2011 calendar year,” EPA says. EPA will review the other 19 regulations over a longer time period.
The EPA says its goal is to reduce the regulatory burden and save money. They also say they will be reviewing the regulations every five years.
Many in Congress have complained that the President has used regulatory agencies to implement policies that he cannot get through the legislative process. In fact, one of the top priorities for conservatives this fall is Senator Rand Paul’s REINS Act which requires all major regulations to be voted on by Congress before being enforced.