The TV companies and the 8(a) industry can breathe a little easier, now that Republican Sen. Bob Dole has decided to leave the Senate.
Dole's departure for the presidential campaign will probably postpone his tentative plans to sell portions of the TV spectrum and to bar affirmative action programs. Of course, if Dole is elected president, both issues may get high priority. But in the short run, the TV broadcasters may still lose during the debate over the proposed cut in the gas tax.
One of Dole's tax-cut proposals would pay for the cut by charging TV broadcasters $2.5 billion for use of the spectrum.
Maybe it's a coincidence, but it seems the Republicans are trying to schmooze the infotech industry. Dole is backing China's low-regulation, most-favored nation trade status, and Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., is already leading a drive to loosen government encryption control.
Both of these policies are backed by hardware and telecom companies. Also, Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, says he will soon propose a law giving software companies a tax break for exports. However, because the Senate's calendar is full, there is little chance that Pressler's proposal will become law this year.
Rep. Mike Oxley, R-Ohio, and Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., will each get their own subcommittee next year, says Rep. Thomas Bliley, R-Va., the chairman of the House Committee on Commerce. Oxley and Tauzin can't agree on who should take over when Rep. Jack Fields, R-Texas, retires from the chairmanship of the Telecommunications and Finance Subcommittee of the House Commerce Committee. Bliley said the Fields' subcommittee will be split into two committees -- one will be responsible for telecommunications and the other will be responsible for finance issues.
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., has introduced a medical-privacy bill that competes with a bill being pushed by Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah.
McDermott's bill contains tighter privacy-protection measures than Bennett's bill, which is primarily intended to ease the interstate transfer of patients' medical and billing records.