A Minute with Mary


By:  Mary Bono Mack
Date: July 27, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

As we head into the weekend, I just received some good news from the Speaker's Office. My Internet governance bill is expected to be voted on in the House of Representatives next week. My goal is simple, but critically important: Keep the Internet free of any government control.

As Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, I have convened multiple hearings on the Internet over the past year and a half. And there's one thing everyone agrees on: Don't mess up a great thing. Today, e-commerce continues to flourish, creating jobs for millions of Americans and providing a tremendous boost to an otherwise stagnant economy. But if we're not vigilant, Internet freedom could be jeopardized in the future, stifling innovation and growth.

In December, the United States will take part in the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai. At the WCIT discussions, a new treaty on Internet governance will be debated. Most worrisome to me are efforts by some countries to provide the United Nations with unprecedented new authority over management of the Internet.

To prevent this from happening, I have introduced House Concurrent Resolution 127. In many ways, this is a referendum on the future of the Internet. For nearly a decade, the United Nations has been angling quietly to become the epicenter of Internet governance.

A vote for my resolution is a vote to keep the Internet free from government control and to prevent Russia, China, India and other nations from succeeding in giving the U.N. unprecedented power over Web content and infrastructure. If this power grab is successful, I'm concerned that the next "Arab Spring' will instead become a "Russian winter', where free speech is chilled, not encouraged, and the Internet becomes a wasteland of unfilled hopes, dreams and opportunities. We can't let that happen.

This was a very busy week on Capitol Hill. I had a chance to talk with many of our Tribal leaders from back home when I addressed the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA). While I told the group that there is no consensus for moving forward with an online poker bill, I am also very concerned that the Senate is cooking up a "backroom deal" which could benefit Las Vegas but prove detrimental to Native American gaming interests. I will do everything possible to prevent that from happening, but we have to remain vigilant. Our Tribes have made tremendous investments in our local communities, creating jobs, boosting tourism and helping our economy. And just as importantly, they have been great neighbors, contributing to countless charitable and civic events. Thanks to NIGA's Ernie Steven Jr. for inviting me to this event.

I also had a chance this week to address the House Addiction Treatment and Recovery Caucus, where stakeholder groups from around the country came to discuss prescription drug abuse. On Monday, I sent a comprehensive proposal to head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy designed to reduce addictions and deaths from this growing public health epidemic, which now claims more than 20,000 American lives a year. As Co-Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Abuse, I was asked by the White House for my recommendations for the 2013 National Drug Control Strategy.

Here are just a few of the things that I proposed:

* Improving federal coordination of prescription drug abuse programs.

* Strengthening FDA guidelines for use of powerful narcotic painkillers.

* Developing new tamper-resistant technologies.

* Updating and expanding prescriber education.

* Launching a national public education campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of addiction and overdose.

* Reclassifying hydrocodone combination medicines from schedule III to a more restrictive schedule II.

If you want to read my entire letter to the White House, it can be viewed here.

As you know, I am very passionate about this issue. Alarmingly, the number of overdoses from prescription drug abuse continues to rise, and has now become a public health epidemic. More than 20,000 people a year die of prescription drug overdoses, and more than 15,500 of those deaths are directly related to prescription painkillers. The American public cannot wait any longer for committed action from the Federal government.

Here's a startling statistic: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the quantity of painkillers sold to pharmacies, hospitals and doctor's offices was four times larger in 2010 than in 1999. In fact, enough painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for one month. Additionally, nearly one out of every four high school seniors has used prescription painkillers, and the number of babies born addicted to opiates has tripled in the past decade.

This is more than a national epidemic -- it's a national tragedy. A comprehensive and committed national strategy can help us to save thousands of lives and spares millions of families from the heartache of addiction.

The House also spent a lot of time this week on reducing hurdles to job creation. This is especially important as U.S. economic growth slowed to 1.5% in the last three months. Unnecessary government regulations is one of the biggest culprits. As a way to help create new jobs and stoke the economy, I voted in favor of the Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act (HR 4078), which the Wall Street Journal calls "the largest overhaul of the rule-making process and larger administrative state since Ronald Reagan, and perhaps longer." The legislation was approved by a bipartisan vote of 245-172.

Today, many small businesses are struggling to survive because government regulations have gone too far, punishing the very entrepreneurs who create jobs and drive our economy. There's simply too much bureaucracy and red tape, and taxes on business are too high as well. It's a double whammy.

Unfortunately, the President's policies have failed and are only making the economy worse. Since President Obama took office, we've seen a 52% increase in new regulations deemed economically "significant", which is defined as costing the economy at least $100 million annually.

The Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act is a combination of bills aimed at cutting unnecessary government red tape, making it easier for small businesses to create jobs and boost the economy. HR 4078 imposes a moratorium on any new regulation -- with the exceptions being for public health or emergencies -- until the unemployment rate drops below 6% nationally. This bill also contains language to curtail so called "midnight regulations" and to highlight the preponderance of "sue and settle" agreements. Given the difficult economic times facing our nation, these are common sense steps which will help American businesses to grow, benefitting our economy and prosperity.

Earlier in the week, I led efforts on the House floor to repeal an outdated and expensive regulation which burdens America's nearly 20,000 automobile dealers, but provides almost no benefit to consumers. The five leading automotive trade associations in the United States -- including the National Automobile Dealers Association -- all supported H.R. 5859, which was approved unanimously by the House.

Why was this important? Well, for nearly 20 years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has required new car dealers to make available to buyers a booklet containing the latest information on insurance costs. But here's the problem: The information is rarely sought by consumers and its value is highly questionable. Insurance premiums are based primarily on factors that are unrelated to the susceptibility of damage to a vehicle, including the driver's age, driving record, location, and miles driven.

Additionally, a recent survey of 815 members of the National Automobile Dealers Association reported 96 percent of its dealers had never been asked by a customer -- not even once -- to see the insurance cost booklet that's at issue here today. Clearly, this is yet another example of where the cost of a federal regulation outweighs its potential benefit. As a nation, we simply can't keep doing business this way.

As I told my colleagues on the floor, this was an opportunity to tow a "clunker" of a regulation to the junk yard where it belongs and to provide America's nearly 20,000 automobile dealers with some important regulatory relief. Every Member of the House -- Republican and Democrat -- voted for this bill. I was especially proud of this effort because the legislation, authored by my friend and colleague, Congressman Gregg Harper of Mississippi, originated in my Subcommittee and I was able to guide it to passage. The Senate is expected to follow suit soon.

Once again, I want to thank all of you for your phone calls, letters, faxes and emails this past week. This is how representative government works best. Have a great weekend everyone and please keep the victims of last week's Colorado shootings in your thoughts and prayers.

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