May 22, 2006
Legislative Resources for the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005
President Bush has signed into law Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act of 2005.
- The bill extends for two years the 15 percent tax rate for dividends and capital gains.
- It extends through 2006 changes to the alternative minimum tax.
- It extends through 2009 a tax cut that gives small businesses a write off -- up to $100,000 -- for equipment and other depreciable assets.
- Among other provisions, the bill also eliminates, for 2010, the $100,000 income limitations on converting traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs.
May 11, 2006
Crazy Animal Laws
• Bear wrestling matches are prohibited in Alabama
• It is considered an offense in Alaska to push a live moose out of a moving airplane.
• Donkeys cannot sleep in bathtubs in Arizona
• Alligators may not be kept in bathtub in Arkansas
• In Hollywood California, it is illegal to drive more than two thousand sheep down Hollywood Boulevard at one time.
• In Sterling, Colorado, cats may not run loose without having been fit with a taillight.
• In Connecticut, any dogs with tattoos must be reported to the police.
• If an elephant is left tied to a parking meter in Florida, the parking fee has to be paid just as it would for a vehicle.
• In Quitman Georgia, it is illegal for a chicken to cross the road.
• In Boise Idaho, residents may not fish from a giraffe's back.
• It is against the law for a monster to enter the corporate limits of Urbana, Illinois.
• And one law that isn't animal related but is too good to pass up. In Indiana, the value of Pi is 4, and not 3.1415.
Source: Crazy Laws
April 04, 2006
DOJ Goes Fishing ... Subpoenas 34 Internet Companies in Hope of Resurrecting COPA
711Net (Mayberry USA), American Family Online, AOL, AT&T, Authentium, BellSouth, Cablevision, Charter Communications, Comcast Cable Company, Computer Associates, ContentWatch, Cox Communications, EarthLink, Google, Internet4Families, LookSmart, McAfee, MSN, Qwest, RuleSpace, S4F (Advance Internet Management), SafeBrowse, SBC Communications, Secure Computing Corp., Security Software Systems, SoftForYou, Solid Oak Software, SurfControl, Symantec, Time Warner, Tucows (Mayberry USA), United Online, Verizon, and Yahoo.
Information Week is reporting that the Department of Justice is leaving no stone unturned in its effort to "uphold the Child Online Protection Act." According to Information Week, which received its data through FOIA requests, DOJ has demanded information from at least 34 Internet service providers, search companies, and security software firms.
The bulk of the subpoenas were directed at Internet service providers and makers of content filtering software. The effectiveness of filtering technology is a critical issue in the COPA case. If the Department of Justice can prove that filters fail to shield minors from explicit material online, COPA may well be reinstated.
And if COPA is reinstated, ISPs will become content police for the DOJ.
File under fishing expedition.
February 13, 2006
Sarbanes-Oxley Resources by PwC
PricewaterhouseCooper is making its collection of SOX content accessible online. You will find the text of the law and the supporting SEC regulations; the firm's comments on both; PwC white papers and webcasts; as well as timely analysis and commentary.
Ron Jones, University of Cincinnati Law Library
February 11, 2006
Text of Signed Deficit Reduction Bill Includes Clerical Error ... Is It Law?
The Washington Times is reporting that S.1932, Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, as signed by President Bush last Wednesday did not pass both the House and Senate in identical form, and House Democrats now say that means it is not legitimately a law (read the Democrats would like to revisit the Medicare provisions). According to the report, here is the sequence of events:
After the Senate voted on the bill, aides said, a Senate clerk inadvertently changed the length of time Medicare would reimburse for certain medical equipment to be rented from 13 months to 36 months.
Congressional Quarterly reported that staffers discovered the error before the House passed the bill, but did not disclose the mistake until this week.
After the House vote, a Senate clerk changed the length of time back to 13 months and sent the bill to Mr. Bush.
The Senate passed a resolution stating they meant to say 13 months in the bill.
This could become every legislative history instructors' dream come true!
February 09, 2006
In Annual State Law Survey, DOL Reports that Minimum Wage Was "Hot Button" Issue
The minimum wage was the "hot button" issue in 2005. More than 140 minimum-wage bills were introduced in at least 42 States and the District of Columbia. In Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, State minimum-wage rates increased either because of new legislation that was enacted, because of laws that were previously enacted and that contained scheduled increases. In the January 2006 issue of Monthly Labor Review, BLS reports on additional state law developements included child labor, drug and alcohol testing, equal employment opportunity, human trafficking, prevailing wages, time off, wage payment, and worker privacy.
February 03, 2006
Patriot Act Extended 5 Weeks
The Associated Press is reporting that Congress sent President Bush a second five-week extension of the Patriot Act as Senate negotiators worked to close a deal with the White House on renewing the antiterrorism law with some new civil liberties protections.
January 23, 2006
The Return of the Broadcast Flag
There is a draft bill circulating on Capital Hill that would change the way we think about the future of digital TV while freezing in time the way we use broadcast content. Called, the Digital Content Protection Act of 2006, the current draft of the legislation would authorize the Federal Communications Commission to limit the unauthorized copying and indiscriminate redistribution of digital audio and video broadcast content over digital networks. How? By use of a Broadcast Flag, that is to say, by embedding digital code in broadcast content to signal digital TV reception equipment to limit the redistribution of digital broadcast content.
Remember broadcast flags? In ALA v. FCC, No. 04-1037 (May 6, 2005) the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC lacked authority to implement broadcast flag regulations. Writing for the DC Circuit, Judge Edwards made this crystal clear.
We can find nothing in the statute, its legislative history, the applicable case law, or agency practice indicating that Congress meant to provide the sweeping authority the FCC now claims over receiver apparatus. And the agency’s strained and implausible interpretations of the definitional provisions of the Communications Act of 1934 do not lend credence to its position.
[A]ll relevant materials concerning the FCC’s jurisdiction – including the words of the Communications Act of 1934, its legislative history, subsequent legislation, relevant case law, and Commission practice – confirm that the FCC has no authority to regulate consumer electronic devices that can be used for receipt of wire or radio communication when those devices are not engaged in the process of radio or wire transmission.
Obviously, the Digital Content Protection bill would "fix" that problem. And look what else it would do! From the draft:
(2) CRITERIA FOR CONTENT OF REGULATIONS -- In achieving the goal of preventing the indiscriminate unauthorized copying and redistribution of certain digital audio content over digital networks, any proposed regulations to govern digital audio broadcast transmissions and digital audio receiving devices shall –
(b) permit customary historic use of broadcast content by consumers to the extent such use is consistent with applicable law.
"Customary historic use?" As in no change? As in no new storage technologies, no convergance of PCs and digital TVs, nothing after the iPod?
For more, see
January 15, 2006
Countdown to February 3
With the Patriot Act set to expire on February 3, 2006, Liz Halloran, writing for US News, makes this observation:
Time is not on the Patriot Act's side. The House is not back in session until January 31; the Senate is preoccupied with Judge Samuel Alito's confirmation, and Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are planned for February on the administration's domestic-spying program. So it seems almost certain the dispute will linger beyond the February deadline. That means the Patriot Act may have to do the limbo more than a little while longer.
Read the entire article: One More Act for The Patriot Act
January 11, 2006
President Signs H.R. 972, Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act
From the White House:
"President Bush on Tuesday said, "America is a compassionate and decent nation, and we will not tolerate an industry that preys on the young and the vulnerable. The trade in human beings continues in our time and we are called by conscience and compassion to bring this cruel practice to an end."
Hightlights of H.R. 972
- Amends the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 to extend the sexually violent offender registration program to foreign offenses.
- Amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to authorize the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement to appoint a guardian ad litem for an unaccompanied alien child if the Director believes such child to be a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons.
- Amends the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 to: (1) provide victims of severe forms of trafficking with access to counsel; and (2) enhance specified U.S. efforts to combat trafficking in persons, including prevention of such activities by international peacekeepers.
- Amends the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to establish crimes of: (1) sex trafficking; and (2) trafficking for labor or services.
Ron Jones, University of Cincinnati Law Library
Get 2 Years Prison Time for Anonymously Annoying Someone Via the Internet
Upon reflection, this isn't as funny as it sounds. For one thing, "annoying" is not defined. Plus, think about the potential chilling effect this might have on whistleblowers?
January 10, 2006
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Background Resources
If executive authority becomes as important a topic in the Alito confirmation hearings as many pundits believe, the follow resources on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, ("ISA") Pub. L. No. 95- 511, 92 Stat. 1783 (codified as amended at 50 U.S.C. §§ 1801-1811, 1821-1829, 1841-1846, 1861-62), may provide some useful background information. In light of the domestic spying scandal, Alito's views on ISA, which establishes a legal regime for "foreign intelligence" surveillance separate from ordinary law enforcement surveillance, may be the issue that garners Republican votes against his confirmation.
- CR'S Report on The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: An Overview of the Statutory Framework and Recent Judicial Decisions (Updated April 21, 2005) (pdf)
- Intelligence-related Law Articles Bibliography (FISA, EO 12,333, assassination, FOIA, etc) by Mike Yared (Sept. 25, 2001)
- EFF's FAQ on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
See also Samuel Alito v. James Madison by John Nichols, The Nation On line Beat. I usually avoid citing to The Nation because the articles can be too inflammatory in their myopic "we're right, you are the village idiot" rants but not this time...
Grab some scratch paper to tally the number of times Alito is asked about the legality of domestic spying under ISA.
January 03, 2006
Manassas Using Zoning Ordinance As Anti-Immigrant Tool
The city of Manassas, VA, has come up with one outrageous, probably unconstitutional, and clearly bigoted zoning ordinance. It outlaws households consisting of a family's cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews. Why? Because Manassas is changing as Hispanic immigrants, legal and undocumented, move into what were once relatively homogeneous neighborhoods. Just like one would expect of people who are pursuing the American Dream, some of the immigrants share housing with their relatives to help out with the rent or mortgage. This form of home life would be banned under the new zoning ordinance.
See Moore v. City of East Cleveland, Ohio (1977) where Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., wrote:
"Ours is by no means a tradition limited to respect for the bonds uniting the members of the nuclear family. The tradition of uncles, aunts, cousins, and especially grandparents sharing a household along with parents and children has roots equally venerable and equally deserving of constitutional recognition. Over the years millions of our citizens have grown up in just such an environment, and most, surely, have profited from it."
Read the Washington Post story, Manassas Defends New Rule On Who Can Live Together, and the Post's editorial, Manassas's War on Immigrants.
December 30, 2005
What Do Librarians and Crystal Meth Users Have in Common?
The Patriot Act, of course.
In the Hanover Eagle, voices of reason, public librarians, speak about requiring a subpoena before releasing patron information. Sensible but out of step with the times.
Meanwhile, one opportunistic law enforcer, the Saline County (Arkansas) Sheriff Phil Mask, favors making the Patriot Act permanent because it's a useful tool to bust meth. If not, Sheriff Mask is quoted as saying "I think its gonna hinder us from doing the things we need to do…not only from terrorism, but for fighting this war on methamphetamine." Overreaching but in step with the times.
December 29, 2005
Before Monitoring Everyone Using Data-Mining Technology File Report with Congress
In The Curious Section 126 of the Patriot Act, William Arkin, blogging for the Washington Post, calls attention to the data mining notice requirements of Section 126 of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act Of 2005. Section 126 requires the DOJ to report to Congress "on any initiative of the Department of Justice that uses or is intended to develop pattern-based data-mining technology."
December 24, 2005
Love Those Pilgrims: 17th Century Christmas Laws Culminated in Criminalization of Christmas!
In 1645, Cromwell's Parliament abolished the observance of Christmas thus banning all civil festivities associated with the celebration of Christmas, including the sending of Christmas cards. The Puritans in Massachusetts bested Parliament by criminalizing Christmas 14 years later. In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense. The "Five-Shilling Anti-Christmas Law" stated:
Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas, or the like, either by forbearing labor, feasting, or any other way upon such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for each offense five shillings as a fine to the country.
The Five-Shilling Anti-Christmas Law were repealed in 1681. Was the Act of Parliament repealed? To the best of my knowledge, no!
December 22, 2005
Senate Agrees to a Six-Month Extension of the Patriot Act
The bill's future now rests with the House of Representatives, which comes back into session today. Sampling of media coverage of the Senate's action:
See also our earlier post identifying the 16 major provisions of the Act that were to expire on Dec. 31.
December 20, 2005
Superfund's 25th Anniversary
On December 11, 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA or Superfund), creating the Federal government's program to clean up the nation's uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. Read more about it.
BTW, did you know that 1 in 4 Americans live within 3 miles of a Superfund site?
December 19, 2005
USA Patriot Act Provisions: Countdown to Expiration
Here are the 16 provisions of the USA Patriot Act which are set to expire Dec. 31 if not renewed by Congress:
Section 201: Gives federal officials the authority to intercept wire, spoken and electronic communications relating to terrorism.
Section 202: Gives federal officials the authority to intercept wire, spoken and electronic communications relating to computer fraud and abuse offenses.
Subsection 203(b): Permits the sharing of grand jury information that involves foreign intelligence or counterintelligence with federal law enforcement, intelligence, protective, immigration, national defense or national security officials
Subsection 203(d): Gives foreign intelligence or counterintelligence officers the ability to share foreign intelligence information obtained as part of a criminal investigation with law enforcement.
Section 204: Makes clear that nothing in the law regarding pen registers _ an electronic device which records all numbers dialed from a particular phone line _ stops the government's ability to obtain foreign intelligence information.
Section 206: Allows federal officials to issue roving "John Doe" wiretaps for spy and anti-terrorism investigations.
Section 207: Increases the amount of time that federal officials may watch people they suspect are spies or terrorists.
Section 209: Permits the seizure of voicemail messages under a warrant.
Section 212: Permits Internet service providers and other electronic communication and remote computing service providers to hand over records and e-mails to federal officials in emergency situations.
Section 214: Allows use of a pen register or trap and trace devices _ a device that records the originating phone numbers of all incoming calls on a particular phone line _ in international terrorism or spy investigations.
Section 215: Authorizes federal officials to obtain "tangible items" like business records, including those from libraries and bookstores, for foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations.
Section 217: Makes it lawful to intercept the wire or electronic communication of a computer hacker or intruder in certain circumstances.
Section 218: Allows federal officials to wiretap or watch suspects if foreign intelligence gathering is a "significant purpose" for seeking a Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act order. The pre-Patriot Act standard said officials could ask for the surveillance only if it was "the" sole or main purpose.
Section 220: Provides for nationwide service of search warrants for electronic evidence.
Section 223: Amends the federal criminal code to provide for administrative discipline of federal officers or employees who violate prohibitions against unauthorized disclosures of information gathered under this act.
Section 225: Amends FISA to prohibit lawsuits against people or companies that provide information to federal officials for a terrorism investigation.