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Congress Considers Bills Before Leaving Washington, D.C. in October

Posted By John Chwat, Director, Government Relations, Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The U.S. Congress left Washington, D.C. for the better part of October 2016 to campaign on district activities. They return on Monday, Nov. 14, after the presidential elections for what is termed a “lame duck” session until the end of the year. During this four to five week period, Congress rushes to pass many bills that have been held up for a year or more. The new Congress convenes after the New Year.

Before they left, the House and Senate did consider bills that the industry is focused on. Some of these include:

On Sept. 27, 2016, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed S.2607, the “Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things,” or DIGIT Act and sent it to the Senate for consideration. The key portion of the bill is to authorize the secretary of commerce to create a federal working group on the Internet of Things (IoT) that includes various stakeholders including the private sector. In the report, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the working group would require at least 12 employees for about $3 million.

On Sept. 20, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed and reported to the full Senate S.2644, the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) authorization bill for 2017 and 2018. The bill contains two sections that are of interest to ESA members and the industry at large. The two sections of interest relate to "spoofing prevention" and misleading or inaccurate caller ID information including calls from outside the U.S., text messaging, enhanced message service (EMS) or short message service (SMS) and media message service (MMS), but excludes real-time two-way voice or video communications. This provision also includes a directive to the FCC to propose regulations and consumer awareness requirements; a General Accounting Office (GAO) study on actions by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the FCC to combat fraudulent caller ID activity. The other provision relates to requirements for accessing 911 dialing for multi-line telephone systems and its installation and manufacturing.

In addition, the U.S. House passed an FCC-related bill in September 2016 that came over from the Senate (S.253) and incorporated eight House bills relating to communications, including HR2669, the Anti-Spoofing Act and HR4167, Kari’s Law Act, which are referenced in the Senate bill above. This House bill and the Senate passed bill (S2644) will be worked out in a House-Senate conference before the end of the year.

Prior to the Congress recess, the U.S. House voted 246-177, to delay implementation of the labor department's overtime rule from December 2016 to June 2017. ESA worked with the sponsor of this legislation, other industry groups and business organizations to secure House passage. This continues ESA opposition to the Administration's overtime proposed rule in which ESA submitted comments against the rule earlier this year to the U.S. Department of Labor. President Obama has already sent a message to Congress threatening to veto any bill that delays implementation of the rule. Republicans voted unanimously for the bill, along with five Democrats: Reps. Brad Ashford of Nebraska, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. The rule, initially set to take effect in December, will double (to $47,476) the salary threshold under which virtually all workers are guaranteed time-and-a-half pay whenever they work more than 40 hours in a given week. It is not assured that the Senate will address this legislation prior to adjournment at the end of the year, however, Sen. Lankford (R-OK) introduced S.3462 to delay the rule six months and Sen. Vitter (R-LA) introduced S.3429 to delay the rule until December 1, 2018.

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