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Fresh From the Hopper

April 20, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Here are some of the most notable and contentious pieces of legislation that have been been dropped in the bill hopper and introduced into Congress in the past couple of weeks. They include proposals for dealing with record gas prices, the legal status of marijuana, online gambling, and government spending. There’s still time left in this session for Congress to take up some of these issues — if you support or oppose any of these bills, track them with on My OpenCongress and start organizing a push to influence Congress.

A Gas Tax Holiday

John McCain (R-AZ) recently introduced S.2890, a bill to remove Federal taxes on gasoline between Memorial Day and Labor Day of 2008.

>“Hard-working American families are suffering from higher gasoline prices, and they need relief. Now is the time to act with a tangible plan to address this problem,” said McCain. “The ‘tax holiday’ will make the summer driving season easier for people across the nation.”
>
>The Federal gas tax was first established by Congress in 1932 to correct a federal budgetary imbalance. Today, the tax is collected and deposited in the Highway Trust Fund to support our nation’s roads and highways. The McCain bill would ensure that the Highway Trust Fund is not depleted during this “gas tax holiday” by transferring monies from the General Treasury. The legislation would not affect highway construction projects.

Link

An End to Citizen-Funded Self-Aggrandizing

Michael McCaul (R-TX) and 24 Republican co-sponsors recently introduced H.R.5771, a bill that would bar members of Congress from earmarking money to be used for projects or programs named after themselves or any other current member of Congress.

>“The American people are outraged by the waste and abuse they see in Congressional earmarks. One of the most egregious of these practices is Members using taxpayer money to name the projects after themselves,” said McCaul. “My bill is very simple. It prohibits federal funds from being used for any project named after a sitting member of Congress.”

Believe it or not, this does happen.

Link

Decriminalizing Marijuana

I know 4/20 was yesterday, but it still seems worth pointing gout that Barney Frank (D-MA) recently introduced H.R 5843, a bill to remove all Federal penalties for the possession or not-for-profit transfer of small amounts of marijuana.

>"The federal government should remove the current conflict with state law and allow states to decide on these matters for themselves. Eleven states have laws that significantly reduce penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana,1 in many cases providing for a mere civil fine."

For more specifics on what the bill would and wouldn’t do, refer to Frank’s detailed press release. And on a related note, Frank has also introduced H.R.5842, which would reclassify marijuana as a schedule II drug, recognize its medical value, and create regulatory framework for the FDA to begin a drug approval process for marijuana.

Stop the Internet Gambling Ban

And another one from Frank — his recently introduced H.R.5767 would effectively block the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA).

>Stating that the Internet Gambling Enforcement Act infringes on two basic rights of importance to Americans, “the ability to do with their money as they see fit, and the freedom from government interference with the Internet,” Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced the bill H.R. 5767, which would forbid the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve from creating or implementing any regulation that would require the financial industry from blocking Internet gambling transactions.

Federal Spending Info Online

John Cornyn (R-TX) recently introduced a bill, the Federal Spending and Taxpayer Accessibility Act of 2008, that would create a searchable website for information about earmarks and federal contracts and grants. It would also require the Secretary of the Treasury to provide all taxpayers with a statement outlining the amount of Federal income taxes they have paid over the years and an estimate of what they will likely pay in the course of their lives.

>“One of my top priorities in the Senate has been to increase public access to government information,” Sen. Cornyn said. “This latest effort will provide taxpayers unprecedented information about how their money is spent, and how their taxes are paid. Increasing transparency in government spending is essential for accountability and fiscal responsibility.”

The bill specifies that the earmark database must be searchable by recipient, sponsor and State, and be available online “as soon as” an earmark is reported in Congress. It also specifies that data outlining the financial outlays of federal agencies must be downloadable.

Link

Noisier Hybrids

Edolphus Towns (D-NY) recently introduced the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, which would put in place a minimum sound requirement so that blind people have a way to detect when hybrid vehicles are approaching.

>Because blind pedestrians cannot locate and evaluate traffic using their vision, they must listen to traffic to discern its speed, direction, and other attributes in order to travel safely and independently. Other people, including pedestrians who are not blind, bicyclists, runners, and small children, also benefit from hearing the sound of vehicle engines. New vehicles that employ hybrid or electric engine technology can be silent, rendering them extremely dangerous in situations where vehicles and pedestrians come into proximity with each other.

Link

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

And finally, this one’s at least notable for its name. John Campbell’s (R-CA) Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Act of 2008 would create a line on Federal tax forms to make it easier for people to make voluntary make donations to the federal government above their normal tax liability.

>Mr. Campbell says he has heard the “cries” of those wealthy Americans – Mrs. Clinton, Warren Buffett, Barbra Streisand – who reject the lower tax rates passed in 2001 and 2003 and complain that they and their fellow rich don’t pay enough. “It’s a great injustice that citizens wishing to fulfill their dream of paying more taxes cannot simply check a box on their 1040 form to make a donation,” he says. His bill would give liberals a chance to salve their consciences without having to raise taxes on millions of Americans who already feel overtaxed as it is.

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Comments

  • Anonymous 04/21/2008 4:50am

    The Cornyn bill (Federal Spending Info Online section) is puzzling to me. This has already been introduced, passed, and implemented (see www.usaspending.gov). While I suppose a searchable database of earmarks would be good, OMB compiles their definition of earmarks here: http://earmarks.omb.gov/.

    Seems like Cornyn is coming to the federal spending transparency effort a little late in the game. But I suppose I’m glad he decided to show up at all.

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