TLJ News from May 6-10, 2012

Bill Would Ban Use of Federal Telemedicine Funds and Interstate Telecommunications in Connection with an Abortion

5/10. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and others introduced HR 5731 [LOC | WW], the "Telemedicine Safety Act", a bill to prohibit the use of federal funds for "telemedicine abortions", and to criminalize providing an interstate "telemedicine abortion".

This bill contains two provisions regarding federal funding. First, it states that "No funds made available under a telemedicine law ... may be used for telemedicine abortions or for assistance to facilities that offer telemedicine abortions".

Second, it states that "No equipment, infrastructure, or other items purchased using funds made available under a telemedicine law may be used for telemedicine abortions".

This bill defines "telemedicine law" to include, among other things, the statutory provision that serves as the basis for the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) universal service subsidies for health care providers for rural areas. This provision, which was enacted as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, is codified at 47 U.S.C. § 254(h)(1)(A).

That is, if this bill were enacted, any facility receiving FCC rural health clinic subsidies, or other federal telemedicine funding, would be barred from performing an abortion.

The bill also contains a criminal prohibition of the use of interstate telecommunications in connection with an abortion. It would add a new Section 1824 to Title 18, the criminal code, that states that "Whoever knowingly provides a telemedicine abortion across State lines shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both."

The bill defines the term "telemedicine abortion", for both the federal funding provisions, and the criminal prohibition, as "the use by a health professional of telemedicine services to prescribe, dispense, procure, administer, or otherwise provide any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance, device, or method to terminate the life of an unborn child, or to terminate the pregnancy of a woman who is pregnant, without such health professional conducting an in-person medical examination of such woman during her current pregnancy, with an intention other than -- (A) to produce a live birth and preserve the life and health of the child after live birth; or (B) to remove an ectopic pregnancy, or to remove a dead unborn child who died as the result of a spontaneous abortion, accidental trauma, or a criminal assault on the pregnant female or her unborn child."

It also defines "telemedicine services" as "a telecommunications link to an end user through the use of equipment that electronically links patients and health professionals at separate sites in order to exchange health care information in audio, video, graphic, or other format for the purpose of providing health care services".

The bill has 47 original cosponsors representing both parties.

This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee (HJC), House Commerce Committee (HJC), House Agriculture Committee (HAC), and House Natural Resources Committee (HNRC). Such multiple referrals provide multiple opportunities to block passage of a bill, and hence, diminish that likelihood of enactment.

Rep. Steve KingRep. King (at right), who is a member of the HJC and HAC, issued a release that states that "Telemed abortions involve dispensing powerful and dangerous abortion drugs, like RU-486, without a doctor present. The drug is administered after a brief video conference between the doctor and patient."

"Planned Parenthood's ulterior motives must be made known", said Rep. King. "Their aggressive promotion of the gruesome practice of abortion by video conference is expanding the destructive 'abortion on demand' culture in America -- all in the name of increased profits. Telemed abortions, without the overhead costs of a surgical abortion, allow Planned Parenthood to make even more money while preying on young women and violating FDA regulations. Eight percent of women who take the abortion drug known as RU-486 require surgical intervention to complete their abortion. This new practice leaves those women at grave risk, and should never be supported with taxpayer dollars. Telemed abortions threaten and endanger women and we should not allow Planned Parenthood to maximize their profits. We cannot let this practice continue."

More News

5/10. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced in a release the start of the Quick Path Information Disclosure Statement (QPIDS) pilot program. The USPTO stated that "The program reduces the number of Requests for Continued Examination (RCEs) filed for consideration of an IDS after the issue fee is paid."

House and Senate Bills Would Affect Employer Demands for Employees' Personal Passwords

5/9. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and other Senate Democrats introduced S 3074 [LOC | WW], the "Password Protection Act of 2012", a bill that pertains to employers' practice of demanding and using employees' personal passwords.

On the same day, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and other House Democrats introduced HR 5684 [LOC | WW], the companion bill in the House.

The Senate bill was referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The House bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee (HJC).

The list of sponsors of each bill is notable for the absence of Republicans. The list for the House bill is also notable for its lack of members of the HJC.

These two bill are substantially identical. They would amend 18 U.S.C. § 1030, the "Computer Fraud and Abuse Act", which is the primary federal anti-hacking statute.

Subsection 1030(a) currently contains seven numbered prohibitions, some of which contain multiple parts. The just introduced bills would add an eighth prohibition. An employer would be prohibited from demanding that its employees or prospective employees disclose passwords or other information that would enable access to their accounts at social networking websites, but only if the employer engages in monitoring for employment related purposes.

The bill is directed at employees' use of social networking sites and e-mail sites. Although, it does not use the terms "social networking" or "email". Moreover, it would also provide employees some privacy in using web sites that enable the unauthorized sharing of copyrighted works, and pornography.

See, full story.

Connecticut Representatives Again Introduce Telecommuter Tax Fairness Act

5/8. Rep. James Himes (D-CT) and Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced HR 5615 [LOC | WW], the "Telecommuter Tax Fairness Act of 2012".

This is a bill to limit abusive state taxation of the incomes of individuals who live out of state, but who use internet and computer technology to telework for a company in the tax imposing state.

This bill would amend Title 4 to provide that "In applying its income tax laws to the compensation of a nonresident individual, a State may deem such nonresident individual to be present in or working in such State for any period of time only if such nonresident individual is physically present in such State for such period and such State may not impose nonresident income taxes on such compensation with respect to any period of time when such nonresident individual is physically present in another State."

The bill further provides that "For purposes of determining physical presence, no State may deem a nonresident individual to be present in or working in such State on the grounds that -- (1) such nonresident individual is present at or working at home for convenience, or (2) such nonresident individual's work at home or office at home fails any convenience of the employer test or any similar test".

This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee (HJC).

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the companion bill in the Senate, S 1811 [LOC | WW], on November 7, 2011.

The state of New York aggressively taxes out of state teleworkers. Many of its targets reside in the state of Connecticut. Hence, for many years members of Connecticut's delegation have introduced similar bills. See, for example:

See also, stories titled "Supreme Court Denies Cert in Challenge to State Income Tax on Out of State Teleworkers" and "Connecticut Legislators Seek End to New York's Taxation of Out of State Workers" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,244, November 1, 2005.

Senate Confirms Nguyen for 9th Circuit

5/7. The Senate confirmed Jacqueline Nguyen to be a Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals (9thCir) by a vote of 91-3. See, Roll Call No. 88. See also, Congressional Record, May 7, 2012, at Page 2931.

President Obama nominated her on September 22, 2012. See, White House news office release and release. The President appointed her Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in 2009. Before that, she was a state trial court judge in California, appointed by former Governor Gray Davis. Before that, she was a federal prosecutor.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) voted no.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC), spoke in the Senate in support of Nguyen. He also complained about delaying tactics of Senate Republicans, just as Senate Republicans complained about Senate Democrats' delaying tactics during the Bush administration.

There are two other pending nominations for the 9th Circuit. Paul Watford and Andrew Hurwitz. Both were approved by the SJC earlier this year.

Sen. Leahy stated that "it takes nearly five months longer for the Ninth Circuit to issue an opinion after an appeal is filed, compared to all other circuits. The Ninth Circuit’s backlog of pending cases far exceeds other Federal courts. As of the end of 2011, the Ninth Circuit had 13,913 cases pending before it, far more than any other circuit." See, transcript.

He added that "Before we hear any more talk of slowing down or shutting off judicial confirmations, we have a long way to go. We need to work to reduce the vacancies that are burdening the Federal judiciary and the millions of Americans who rely on our Federal courts to seek justice."

Any nominations remaining at the end of the 112th Congress will lapse. If President Obama loses the election in November, then the lapsed nominees will be replaced by the nominees of a Republican President.

People and Appointments

5/7. The Senate confirmed Kristine Baker to be a Judge of the U.S. District Court (EDArk). See, Congressional Record, May 7, 2012, at Page 2931.

5/7. The Senate confirmed John Lee to be a Judge U.S. District Court (NDIll). See, Congressional Record, May 7, 2012, at Page 2931.

Go to News from May 1-5, 2012.