Tech Law Journal Daily E-Mail Alert
October 24, 2011, Alert No. 2,308.
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Sen. Kirk Introduces Bill to Regulate Travel Web Sites

10/20. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and others introduced S 1753 [LOC | WW], the "International Travelers Bill of Rights Act of 2011", a bill to regulate travel web sites in a protectionist manner.

The bill would require any web site that "provides access to international travel services" to provide certain information "regarding the potential health and safety risks associated with overseas vacation destinations marketed on such website". It defines "international travel services" as providing consumers the ability to "reserve lodging at an overseas vacation destination".

For example, it would require the publication of information regarding the on premises employment of doctors and nurses, the use of lifeguards at swimming pools, and the availability of defibrillators.

The bill does not state its purpose. However, Sen. Kirk stated in the Senate that it would enable consumers "to make fully informed decisions, especially with regard to health and safety". See, Congressional Record, October 20, 2011, at Page S6877. See also, Sen. Kirk's release.

The bill would compel speech in a manner that is not tailored to achieve this goal. The bill would not require travel web sites to provide the same information regarding travel destinations located in the US.

Meanwhile, on October 6, 2011, Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) and others introduced S 1663 [LOC | WW], the "Travel Regional Investment Partnership Act", a bill to require the Department of Commerce (DOC) to subsidize the promotion of "domestic" tourism. It recites in its findings that "domestic jobs depend on the travel and tourism industry".

S 1753 would give rulemaking and enforcement authority to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The original cosponsors of S 1753 are Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Both S 1753 and S 1663 were referred to the Senate Commerce Committee (SCC).

Sen. Grassley Introduces Bill to Expand Regulation of Prepaid Cards, Digital Currencies, and Identification Numbers

10/18. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced S 1731 [LOC | WW], the "Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Counterfeiting Act of 2011". This is a broad bill with numerous provisions, most of which are not technology related. It would expand criminal prohibitions and law enforcement powers with respect to money laundering and financial practices generally.

The bill would revise 18 U.S.C. 1960, regarding "Prohibition of Unlicensed Money Transmitting Businesses". It would replace the current succinct definition of "money transmitting" with a broad and awkwardly worded definition of "money transmitting business".

The new definition would encompass, among other things:

  • any business that "issues, sells, or redeems ... prepaid access devices, digital currencies, or other similar instruments",
  • any business that transports, transfers, exchanges, or transmits "currency or funds in any form, including ... monetary value represented in digital electronic format", and
  • any business that facilitates the transfer of money "outside of the conventional financial institutions system".

Section 16 of the bill pertains to regulation of "prepaid access devices", "digital currencies", and numbers.

It would amend the definition of "financial institution" in 31 U.S.C. 5312 to include "an issuer, redeemer, or cashier or [sic] ... prepaid access devices, digital currencies, or other similar instruments". (The second "or" should probably read "of".)

Section 5312 provides definitions for regulation of currency transactions for the facilitation of tax collection and other purposes.

Also, it would add a very expansive definition of "prepaid access device". It would include not only devices, such as prepaid stored value cards, but also any "code, number, electronic serial number, mobile identification number, personal identification number, or other instrument that provides a portal to funds or the value of funds that have been paid in advance and can be retrievable and transferable at some point in the future".

The bill would also task the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with developing a "strategy to interdict and detect" prepaid access devices, digital currencies, and numbers.

This bill would also further expand the list of predicate offenses for the issuance of wiretap orders. Wiretaps pursuant to the criminal code may only be conducted pursuant to a court order. Moreover, these orders may only be issued when the application states that interception may provide or has provided evidence of violation of certain crimes, know as predicate offenses. See, 18 U.S.C. 2516, regarding "Authorization for interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications". The list of predicate offenses is already huge. This bill would add additional predicate offenses.

Senators and Representatives Introduce Bills to Facilitate Tax Collection on Internet Cigarette Sales

10/13. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and other Representatives introduced HR 3186 [LOC | WW],, the "Smuggled Tobacco Prevention Act of 2011", in the House. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), and other Senators introduced S 1706 [LOC | WW], the companion bill in the Senate.

Sen. Lautenberg, Sen. Durbin and Rep. Doggett issued a release that states that this bill would "combat criminals and terrorists who profit from the illegal trade of tobacco".

This bill would do nothing to prohibit the sale or consumption of cigarettes or other tobacco products. Rather, it would impose a federal regulatory regime that would enhance the ability of governments to collect taxes on the sale of tobacco products. The bill would not prohibit internet sales. However, internet based distribution is one of the targets of the bill.

Rep. Doggett stated in this release that "Tobacco products are the single largest, illegally trafficked, legal product on the planet. But current federal laws to stop smugglers are outdated and fail to give law enforcement officials the tools they need to enforce the law ... Snuffing out smuggled tobacco, whether sold here or shipped across our borders, can cut crime, raise revenue and boost health."

One of the practices targeted by this bill is the sale of cigarettes, via the internet, from jurisdictions with lower taxes, to persons in jurisdictions with higher taxes, who then resell without paying state and local cigarette taxes.

This bill would impose a regime intended to make it easier for state and local taxing authorities to collect taxes, and prosecute those who do not. It would regulate machinery used to produce, package and label tobacco products. It would require federal licensing of owners of such machinery, and others involved in the tobacco trade. It would also expand regulation of labeling and record keeping.

The sponsors of these bills are Democrats. There were similar bills in the 111th Congress, HR 5178 [LOC | WW], and S 3288 [LOC | WW]. Neither bill was passed by either body.

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In This Issue
This issue contains the following items:
  Sen. Kirk Introduces Bill to Regulate Travel Web Sites
  Sen. Grassley Introduces Bill to Expand Regulation of Prepaid Cards, Digital Currencies, and Identification Numbers
  Senators and Representatives Introduce Bills to Facilitate Tax Collection on Internet Cigarette Sales
Washington Tech Calendar
New items are highlighted in red.
Monday, October 24

The House will meet at 2:00 PM for legislative business. It will consider numerous non-technology related items under suspension of the rules. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 PM. See, Rep. Cantor's schedule for the week.

The Senate will meet in pro forma session.

Deadline to submit initial comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to its Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) [48 pages in PDF] regarding phone bill cramming. The FCC adopted and released this item on July 12, 2011. It is FCC 11-106 in CG Docket Nos. 11-116 and 09-158, and CC Docket No. 98-170. See, notice in the Federal Register, Vol. 76, No. 163, Tuesday, August 23, 2011, a Pages 52625-52632. See also, stories titled "Senate Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on Phone Bill Cramming" and "FCC Adopts Cramming NPRM" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,258, July 14, 2011.

Tuesday, October 25

The House will meet at 10:00 AM for morning hour, and at 12:00 NOON for legislative business. The agenda for the week includes consideration of HR 2042, the "Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act of 2011". See, Rep. Cantor's schedule for the week.

The Senate will not meet.

10:00 AM. The House Ways and Means Committee (HWMC) will hold a hearing titled "US China Economic Relationship". The witnesses will be Demetrios Marantis (Deputy USTR) and Lael Brainard (Department of the Treasury). See, notice. Location: Room 1100, Longworth Building.

10:30 AM. The House Commerce Committee's (HCC) Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade will hold a hearing titled "Internet Gaming: Is There a Safe Bet?". The witnesses will be Parry Aftab (FairPlayUSA), Ernest Stevens (National Indian Gaming Association), Keith Whyte (National Council on Problem Gambling), former Sen. Alphonse D'Amato (R-NY) (Poker Players Alliance), Kurt Eggert (Chapman University School of Law), and Dan Romer (Annenberg Public Policy Center). See, notice. Location: Room 2123, Rayburn Building.

1:00 PM. Day one of a two day meeting of the House Judiciary Committee (HJC) to mark up numerous bills. The agenda includes HR 3012, the "Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act". See, notice. Location: Room 2141, Rayburn Building.

Wednesday, October 26

The House will meet at 10:00 AM for morning hour, and at 12:00 NOON for legislative business. The agenda for the week includes consideration of HR 2042, the "Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act of 2011". See, Rep. Cantor's schedule for the week.

The Senate will not meet.

10:00 AM. The House Judiciary Committee (HJC) will hold an oversight hearing on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). See, notice. Location: Room 2141, Rayburn Building.

11:00 AM. The House Foreign Affairs Committee's (HFAC) Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific will hold a hearing titled "The Expanding U.S. -- Korea Alliance". The witnesses will be Chris Hill (University of Denver), Bruce Klingner (Heritage Foundation), Tami Overby (U.S. -- Korea Business Council), and Abraham Kim (Korea Economic Institute). See, notice. Location: Room 2172, Rayburn Building.

7:00 PM. The Folger Shakespeare Library (FSL) will host a lecture by Michael Whitmore (FSL Director) titled "Data Mining Shakespeare". He will address computer analysis of Shakespeare's plays. Tickets are required, but are free. See, notice. Location: FSL, 201 East Capitol St., SE.

Deadline to submit comments to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (OUSTR) in response to its notice in the Federal Register requesting comments to assist it in preparing its second notorious markets report. See, Federal Register, Vol. 76, No. 184, Thursday, September 22, 2011, at Pages 58854-58855, and story titled "OUSTR Announces Second Notorious Markets Review" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,303, September 22, 2011.

Thursday, October 27

The House will meet at 9:00 AM for legislative business. See, Rep. Cantor's schedule for the week.

The Senate will meet in pro forma session.

9:00 AM. Day two of a two day meeting of the House Judiciary Committee (HJC) to mark up numerous bills. The agenda includes HR 3012, the "Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act". See, notice. Location: Room 2141, Rayburn Building.

10:00 AM - 12:00 NOON. The House Intelligence Committee (HIC) will hold a hearing titled "Ongoing Intelligence Activities". See, notice.

Friday, October 28

The House will not meet. See, Rep. Cantor's schedule for the week.

Supreme Court conference day. See, calendar. Closed.

Deadline to submit comments to the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Computer Security Division (CSD) regarding its draft SP 800-121 Rev. 1 [49 pages in PDF], titled "Guide to Bluetooth Security", released on September 27, 2010.

Deadline to submit comments to the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Computer Security Division (CSD) regarding its draft SP 800-153 [24 pages in PDF], titled "Guidelines for Securing Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs)", released on September 26, 2010.

Monday, October 31

Deadline to submit comments to the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Computer Security Division (CSD) regarding its draft SP 800-107 Revised [24 pages in PDF], titled "Recommendation for Applications Using Approved Hash Algorithms", released on September 14, 2010.

Tuesday, November 1

9:00 AM - 5:00 PM. The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee (VPAAC) will meet. See, notice. Location: FCC, Commission Meeting Room, 445 12th St., SW.