Juncture | March 20, 2012 at 2:05 am

Legislation Watch

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HR 2306: “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011”

HR 2306 is a rare example of bipartisan collaboration in a particularly divided Congress. Congressmen Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.), both prominent members of their respective parties, are cosponsors.  But the fact that the bill tackles a seemingly untouchable issue, federal marijuana regulation, is even more interesting.

During the previous two Congresses, Frank introduced legislation curbing federal enforcement of marijuana usage laws.  Both times, the bills had bipartisan support, but never made it beyond committee, and its latest incarnation will likely meet that same fate.  Since its introduction last June, HR 2306 has been recommended to both the House Judiciary and the Energy and Commerce Committees, but neither has acted.

Regardless, the topic is certain to galvanize groups seeking drug law reform, and the two prominent cosponsors add greater legitimacy to the marijuana legalization movement. Indeed, there are already proposed ballot initiatives in California, Colorado, and Washington state to decriminalize marijuana. Victories there could encourage the federal government to seriously examine the issue, as supporters of legalization are increasingly encouraged to advocate on both the state and federal level.

Currently, little discussion exists regarding this legislation, but as November approaches, accompanied by the aforementioned ballot initiatives and a Presidential campaign, HR 2306 will likely gain additional attention.  ¶

HR 3806: “One Subject at a Time Act”

While pundits are criticizing Congress for its inaction, Congressman Tom Marino (R-Pa.) is claiming legislators are doing too much simultaneously.  HR 3806 states, “Each bill or joint resolution shall embrace no more than one subject,” but this seemingly simple bill could have serious repercussions if signed into law.

The practice of attaching riders, or typically irrelevant legislative items attached to popularly supported bills, would be prohibited.  Indeed, many controversial bills have been attached as riders in recent years, and the most famous one was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  In reality, the Democrats introduced it as an amendment to the “Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009”.

HR 3806 has yet to pass the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, and has only received five cosponsors.  However, the importance of this bill lies not in its potential passage, but in its implications. Assisted in its drafting by the Williamsport, Pa. Tea Party, the bill’s focus is very appealing to small government conservatives and libertarians.  While HR 3806 may not become law, any discussion indicates sincere thoughts about restructuring the way Congress conducts its business. ¶

HR 1981: “Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011”

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) stole the legislative spotlight for January, but the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), has another bill, the “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011” under discussion.  While the title suggests possible bipartisan support, HR 1981 would significantly change the federal government’s role in monitoring the Internet.

Among the new punishments for possessing or creating child pornography are mandates for Internet service providers to maintain databases tracking convicted perpetrators’ IP addresses for one year at minimum. The goal is to locate individuals exchanging child pornography, but the implications extend well beyond that.  Essentially, information the government previously required a warrant for, Internet service providers would have to submit to authorities upon request.

The online community has remained silent, however, and because this legislation affects users rather than major service providers, few are protesting the bill.  Service providers have expressed disagreement with the expansion of federal authority, but the lack of outrage is most likely a product of minimal opposition from major online organizations. HR 1981 has passed the House Judiciary Committee, and is awaiting discussion by the full chamber. Expect for this bill to dominate discussion about civil liberties in the upcoming months.

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