CAPITAL ROUND-UP

P> The Federal Communications Commission will soon start reviewing telephone pricing rules, sparking industry concern that the commission might lift the on-line industry's exemption from the phone industry's universal service regime.

If the commission changes the pricing rules -- and also lifts the on-line industry's exemption -- on-line subscribers would have to contribute to the $20 billion fund used to subsidize long distance phone charges. Naturally, on-line industry officials want to keep their exemption. But telco deregulation -- and the steady reduction in long distance telephone costs -- will gradually reduce the significance of this on-line exemption over the next few years.
Sen. William Cohen's procurement reform measure is still mired in Congress following President Bill Clinton's veto of the 1996 Defense Authorization Bill. The measure is a small part of the defense bill, which Clinton vetoed because it allocated funds for the creation of a national missile-defense system. So Republicans and Democrats have restarted negotiations over the defense bill, giving the Maine Republican's opponents -- mainly in the small-business sector -- more time to amend the procurement reform measure, which includes some complex provisions that would allow contract officers to limit the number of companies that could bid on a contract.
Also, Cohen last week announced that he would retire from politics in November -- along with Rep. William Clinger, R-Pa. Clinger's retirement opens up the chairmanship of the House Government Reform Committee. His replacement will be chosen next January, and the favorite is Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.
Congressional leaders are trying to verbally amend the lobbyist registration law passed in late 1995. The law -- which restricts industry's discussions with senior government officials such as program managers or department chiefs -- apparently was not meant to cover industry's conversations with Senior Executive Service officials, except if they are working in the White House or hold a Schedule C political appointment.
Infotech booster and Democratic Rep. Ron Wyden may not be returning to Congress because it seems he is falling behind in Washington state's senate race against Republican businessman Gordon Smith. Even Wyden's hometown newspaper has come out in support of Smith -- much to Wyden's horror. Wyden has been a prominent -- albeit unsuccessful -- campaigner against the Internet censorship bill pushed by Sen. James Exon, D-Neb.

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