P> Several Senate and House members have formed the industry-backed Internet Caucus. Creation of the caucus was prompted by the passage of Sen. James Exon's Internet smut law, said founding member Rep. Rick White, R-Wash. Other members of the caucus, which plans to broaden members' understanding of the Internet and the World Wide Web, include Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The House International Economic Policy and Trade Subcommittee has begun work on the proposed Export Administration Act of 1996, intended to sharply reduce export controls. The act would reduce the time allowed by government officials to stop a proposed export and would allow companies to sue the government for unfairly halting exports. Export controls were formed to slow the spread of advanced technology to countries such as China or the former Soviet Union.

Lobbyists for the infotech industry are girding for a mid-April debate on the Senate floor over a new immigration bill. Several senators, notably Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., are likely to propose amendments to restrict immigration of highly educated foreigners, such as software developers. The infotech industry opposes such restrictions, saying foreign experts are needed to compensate for shortfalls in U.S. expertise.

Five Democrat members of the House, led by California Rep. Anna Eshoo, introduced a bill to eliminate Sen. James Exon's Internet smut law. The Online Parental Control Act of 1996 would replace Exon's ban on "indecent material" with restrictions on material that is "harmful to minors." The bill also would allow on-line providers to escape lawsuits if they took steps to segregate harmful or obscene material from children.

California's voters rejected a ballot proposal to restrict lawsuits against high-tech companies whose stocks fail to perform as marketed. The 59 percent to 41 percent vote was a victory for California's lawyers and a sharp defeat for Silicon Valley, where many companies complain they have been sued unfairly when their stock prices dip. The lawyers will try to extend their victory to November by asking the voters to approve a law easing shareholder lawsuits in California's courts -- nullifying a more restrictive federal law pushed through Congress last December by the infotech industry.

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