Internet Taxes: Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., chairman of the communications panel of the Senate's commerce committee, has joined the campaign by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to bar states and
localities from taxing online commerce.

Burns plans to hold hearings soon on Wyden's bill, titled the Internet Tax Freedom Act.

Patent Reform: Information technology industry officials expect to reverse Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's last-minute amendment to the 21st Century Patent System Improvement Act, which is backed by the high-tech industry.

Rohrabacher, R-Calif., along with Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and university lobbyists won a floor vote in the House April 24
allowing universities and inventors to keep their patent applications secret until the patent is granted. Industry, including software companies such as Microsoft Corp., strongly opposed the measure, arguing that patent applications should be published after 18 months to prevent surprise patent-infringement lawsuits by the owners of secret patent applications.

Industry officials will try to excise the amendment during pending Senate debates or during the closed-door conference where selected leaders will write a single, final bill for passage by the Senate and the House by October.

Liability: A Senate panel has approved a bill intended to curb expensive liability awards similar to lawsuits charging computer companies with causing hand injuries or selling faulty software. But the bill, being pushed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate's commerce committee, and Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., faces opposition from the legal industry and a possible veto by President Bill Clinton, who vetoed a similar bill last year.

Technology Funds: The House Committee on Science has voted to continue the Commerce Department's controversial Advanced Technology Program, which provides funding for promising technologies. But the panel only approved spending of $185 million, $90 million less than requested by President Clinton.

Last year, Republicans tried to kill the program, saying the government should not be in the business of promising technologies for commercial development.

-Neil Munro

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