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Freed From Iraq Bill, Lawmakers Have FUN With Legislation!

April 27, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

With Iraq legislation out of Congress’s hands for now (that’s Iraq-bill crafters Murtha and Obey celebrating at right), we can start to look ahead to some other interesting and upcoming legislative battles in Congress. Here is a brief list of some bills that have recently been making progress in the long journey towards becoming law:

On Thursday, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D, NJ) introduced a gun control bill that may be non-controversial enough to see some action despite the fact that the Democratic leadership has been shying away from any and all gun legislation recently. The bill, S.1237, would close a loophole that currently allows people on terrorism watch lists to purchase guns. Lautenberg has introduced this same bill in the past, but it did not came to a vote in the Republican-led Congress. Now, with the backing of President Bush and The Justice Department, and the Democrats in control, the chances of it being approved and becoming law are much higher.

Also on Thursday, Representatives Jay Inslee (D, WA) and Don Manzullo (R, IL) introduced H.R.2060, The Internet Radio Equality Act. The bill could rescue internet broadcasters from crippling new royalty rates that are scheduled to take effect on May 15. It would undo the recent ruling of the federal Copyright Royalty Board to triple royalty rates on a per-song basis. RAIN has more information on the specifics of the bill and is asking people to call their Representatives and ask them to sign on to the bill as co-sponsors.

It is looking like S.185, the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, which was introduced by Arlen Specter (R, PA) on the first day of the 110th Congress, may make its way to a vote on the Senate floor this session. It has been referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee who held a hearing on the bill this past Thursday. At the hearing, “influential U.S. senators ”">vowed … to restore to foreign terrorism suspects the right to challenge their imprisonment, saying Congress made an historic blunder by stripping them of that right last year." And with Democrats in control, influential Democratic senators such as those that have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, will likely have the ability to follow through on their vows. Habeas Corpus, the right for prisoners to have their detainment reviewed by a court of law, has only been suspended twice in the history of the U.S. First, in a few states during the Civil War, and second when Congress voted last year to allow the administration to indefinitely detain a non-citizen suspected of connection to terrorists or terrorism as an “unlawful enemy combatant.”

H.R.1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, was passed by the House Judiciary Committee late on Wednesday evening. The bill would would expand the definition of hate crimes to include crimes committed against a person based on their sexual orientation or gender. It would also allow the U.S. Attorney General to provide assistance to state and local officials in investigating and prosecuting hate crimes cases. Now that it has been “marked up” by the committee, the bill will go to the House floor to be voted on by the Committee of the Whole House in the next couple of weeks.

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