TLJ News from October 16-20, 2011

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).

People and Appointments

10/19. The Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) approved the nominations of Mark Hornak (to be a Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania), Robert Mariani (U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania), and Robert Scola (U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida).

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:

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.

People and Appointments

10/17. The Senate confirmed Cathy Bissoon to be a Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. See, Congressional Record, October 17, 2011, at Page S6622.

Go to News from October 11-15, 2011.