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Other legislative activities
Keywords Legislation, Education, Local governments, Federal governments, Funding
House floor action on the conference report for H.R. 3064, the District of Columbia spending bill, now includes the FY2000 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations conference report. Action on the bill has been rescheduled at least once and the timetable may slip further since the proposed across-the-board cut of 1.4 percent and the problematic proposals in the District of Columbia appropriations are delaying the final bill. The Committee for Education Funding (CEF), a coalition of education and related organizations, including ALA, has gone on record opposing proposals for across-the-board cuts, and on October 18 called on Congress to support funding levels at least $2.9 billion over FY99. According to reports from the ALA Washington Office, the across-the-board cut would result in more than $400 million less than the original conference report total for library programs and education. The bill would provide only a $1.1 billion increase over FY99, $100 million less than the President's request and $700 million less than the Senate levels.
In his opening statements, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA), supporter of Bliley's Truth in Telephone Billing Act; chair of the Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee; and sponsor of the Schools and Libraries Internet Access Act, H.R. 1746, said his bill "eliminates the need for the improper new taxes imposed by the FCC that many have dubbed the 'Gore Tax'.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) responded, "The good news is the Fifth Circuit Court rejected arguments that the FCC's actions constitute a tax. It's not a tax. That's really good news that paints a wonderful picture for our country of global trade and the proper information skill set. There is hope now, given by the E-rate".
Speaking in support of Rep. Tauzin's legislation were cosponsors Reps. Jerry Weller (R-IL) and Thomas Tancredo (R-CO). Both objected to the current construction of the E-rate funding mechanism and called it "an unauthorized tax".
Kent Lassman, deputy director for technology and communications policy with Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, offered qualified support for H.R. 1746, stating it "presents a solution that would be - at best - a marginal improvement over the current situation. More likely, it would result in an unfunded entitlement that might actually limit opportunities for America's children to learn from, and by, using technology".
Cheryl Parrino, CEO of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), testified as the administrator of the E-rate and other universal service programs. The FCC's USAC charter prohibits her from taking a position on any legislation.
The remaining witnesses spoke against the proposed bill. Kelly Levy, acting associate administrator of the Office of Policy Analysis and Development at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), told the Subcommittee that NTIA is not prepared to undertake such a grant program, adding, "We see no need for new legislation to change the E-rate program in order to bring the full promise of the Information Age to our children". NTIA is the agency within the Department of Commerce that would be required to administer the bill's proposed technology block grants.