The following is a report of how some major bills fared last week in Congress and how Southern Maryland's representative, Steny H. Hoyer (D-5th District), and Democratic Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes voted.
INTERNET WINE SALES
The House on Tuesday passed a bill (HR 2031) making it easier for states to block the direct sale of out-of-state alcoholic beverages to their residents. Debate centered on the growing business of small wineries and micro-breweries using the Internet to make sales and skirt state laws. The bill empowers states to get federal court injunctions to enforce laws governing beer, wine, and liquor sales across state lines, while protecting Internet service providers against legal action. A yes vote supported stricter state controls.
The House refused to kill the Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC) by denying it funds for new projects. This occurred Monday during debate on a foreign aid bill (HR 2606) that was later passed. Backed by U.S. taxpayers, OPIC provides investment insurance and other subsidies to help American corporations do business in economically undeveloped, politically unstable countries. Supporters say OPIC operates at no net cost to taxpayers while creating thousands of U.S. jobs. Critics say it provides "corporate welfare" by allowing large corporations to shift billions of dollars of financial risk to taxpayers. A yes vote favored eliminating OPIC.
The House on Tuesday passed legislation (HR 987) delaying workplace safety rules on repetitive stress injuries at least until 2001, when Congress receives a National Science Foundation study of the issue. The bill keeps the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) from issuing regulations this year to reduce the incidence of repetitive stress injuries such as those associated with heavy lifting or typing on computer keyboards. A yes vote favored delaying OSHA regulation of repetitive stress injuries on the job.
TRADE WITH VIETNAM
The House on Tuesday defeated a measure (HJ Res 58) that sought to penalize Vietnam for the way it limits emigration by its citizens. The measure sought to overturn President Clinton's decision to exempt Vietnam from trade penalties. Under the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, countries without free emigration can be denied loan credits and guarantees for purchasing American exports. A yes vote was to apply Jackson-Vanik trade penalties to Vietnam.
The Senate approved $7.4 billion in emergency aid to farmers of crops such as wheat, soybeans, corn, tobacco and cotton, as well as to dairy farmers, ranchers and growers of certain specialty crops. The aid consists, in part, of direct "transition" payments, disaster assistance, crop insurance, loans and support for specific commodities. The money was added to a fiscal 2000 appropriations bill (S 1233) for the Department of Agriculture. Senators designated it "emergency" funding. That means it is exempt from statutory spending limits and will be taken from budget surpluses in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. A yes vote supported emergency aid to farmers.