Internet makes work for Congressmen |

Internet makes work for Congressmen

by Merrie Leininger

The Internet is taking up a lot of the time for Congress in this

short session.

Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nevada, said the session is usually short

during election years – there will be a summer break in August

and the session will end the first week of October.

He said he will be spending August in northern Nevada for a series

of town meetings.

Bryan said in a teleconference with Nevada media Thursday that

some of the issues he and and his Senate colleagues are working

on include Internet gaming and Internet privacy.

Virtually Illegal. Bryan an said he is concerned with Internet

gaming because there is no way to regulate if the games are fair.

“If you play the game, is it rigged so there is no way you can

possibly win?” Bryan said. “If you win, how can you be assured

there will be a payoff? It is fraught with many problems.”

Bryan wants to get legislation passed that will penalize servers

which allow those Web sites to continue.

He is also concerned with the fact that there is no way to regulate

the age of those gambling over the Internet.

n How old are you?Bryan is planning on introducing a bill soon

that will address Web sites aimed at children that ask personal

questions about their family and their family’s finances.

“The FCC recently did a study of Web sites that are designed to

appeal to children that offer a legitimate service, and what they

found stunned many of us,” he said.

Eighty-nine percent of the sites solicited information about how

many people are in the family, when the children are home alone

and when the family takes vacations, among other things.

“Some of it is for undoubtedly legitimate marketing purposes,”

he said. “But you never know who you are dealing with, some could

be potentially dangerous.”

He said he is working with the FCC and the FBI to create a mechanism

that will not allow information to be given without a letter or

e-mail from the parent.

n Up in smoke.The tobacco legislation that went up in smoke earlier

this year may be re-introduced again this session, Bryan said,

but it is expected to be greatly pared down.

He said it will be difficult to predict what it will look like,

but he expected the sales tax increase will not be a part of it.

“Only 10 percent of those over 18 years old take up smoking,”

Bryan said. “The whole point was to target kids.”

The sales tax was expected to pay for anti-smoking campaigns aimed

at children and for research.

Bryan said health care officials do not believe they will be able

to stop the growing number of young smokers without the tax money.

n Slamming down the phone.Bryan is working on legislation with

co-sponsor John McCain, R-Arizona, on slamming.

Slamming is the practice of phone companies switching a long-distance

service without informing the customer.

“It is changed without their knowledge and certainly without their

consent,” he said.

The new legislation will require phone companies to have authentication

of the owner’s wish to have their long-distance carrier changed

and wage fines against those that don’t.

n Cash cow. Bryan said hearings have been going on in Congress

this week about regulation of the high fees and surcharges for

using ATMs.

“What was once a savings for the bank and a convenience for the

customer has become a cash cow for the bank,” he said.

The increased cost to use ATMs makes the bigger banks more powerful

and harder for the smaller banks to compete, he said.

“The large banks have many more ATMs and they can increase costs

dramatically. People who belong to smaller bank, now are moving

to larger banks,” he said.

n We’re in the money Bryan said with the budget balanced for the

first time since 1969, the debate about what to do with the surplus

is about to begin.

“The politics of dealing with a budget surplus is as daunting

as a budget deficit,” he said.

He said he is afraid people will just want to turn around and

spend the money, while he thinks it will better serve the country

by saving it and build up a large surplus to be used in the social

security system when it is needed.

“2032 is the year they are now giving us as the year we will be

unable to pay the full amount of benefits,” he said. “My preference

is not to spend it. I hope we can show some restraint, but historically

that has not been the case.”