Hill Tech Happenings, Week of April 21

April 22
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on “The Future of the Internet.”
10 a.m., 253 Russell Building

April 23
The Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census and National Archives of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on the Electronic Communications Preservation Act, HR 5811.
2 p.m., 2154 Rayburn Building

Holt Bill Loses House Vote, Future in Doubt

HR 5036, a bill that would provide resources for jurisdictions to purchase paper-based voting systems for the 2008 elections, was voted down in the House on Tuesday. The bill was considered under suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority to pass. It fell short, 239-178. Bill opponents criticized the cost of the bill and claimed the program is redundant. USACM commented favorably on the legislation in a letter we sent to Rep. Holt earlier this year. With the 2008 elections quickly approaching, it would appear that the window of opportunity for this bill is closing fast. House leadership could reconsider the bill, but early indications are that this will not happen.

USACM Cautions Against Filtering

Today USACM released a letter (full text below) to Senate and House of Representatives education leaders cautioning against legislation that would promote or require universities to use filters to deal with copyright infringement on their networks. Our position is that filtering technologies are ineffective and costly in the long run because they can be foiled by technology, create new security vulnerabilities, and undermine fair use rights and research on new technologies.

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National Academies Releases Interim Report on Voter Registration Databases

The Committee on State Voter Registration Databases of the National Research Council released an interim report last week. An ad hoc committee under the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, and sponsored by the Election Assistance Commission, this committee is charged to identify and address issues and concerns associated with operating statewide voter registration databases.

The committee’s interim report is available online (registration required to read a free PDF file). The report is based on two public workshops and other work of the committee since mid-2007. The report is a compilation of recommended practices for populating and maintaining a statewide voter registration database. The report breaks its recommendations into two groups: those that can happen before the 2008 election, and those that would take more time. The recommended short term changes are:
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E-Voting Legislation Approved By House Committee

Last week the Committee on House Administration marked up HR 5036, the Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008. The bill, introduced by Representative Rush Holt (D-N.J.), would provide reimbursement for jurisdictions that would purchase paper-based voting systems for the 2008 elections. USACM commented on the legislation in a letter we sent to Rep. Holt in February. The legislation is consistent with our previous statements supporting transparent, accurate, and reliable election systems.

The bill was reported favorably out of committee by a voice vote, with amendments. The major changes included allowing retrofits and hand audits to qualify for reimbursement, and the amount of money available for reimbursement and for voting system research was changed to “such sums as necessary.”

It is unclear whether the House will consider the bill, given the short shrift given to Holt’s other voting legislation, HR 811. That bill was also favorably reported out of committee and then held from full consideration by the House due to issues in the Rules Committee.

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of April 7

April 9
The Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization and Procurement of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing on ID cards and background checks in federal security.
2 p.m., 2247 Rayburn Building

April 10
The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on identity theft. The witnesses are from the IRS or involved in tax-related issues.
10 a.m., 215 Dirksen Building

AP Computer Science is NOT Going Away

Today’s Washington Post has an article stating that the College Board, (the body that administers Advanced Placement courses) is doing away with several AP courses — including one computer science course. Reading the article, you’d likely reach the conclusion, as attested by e-mails I’ve seen this morning, that all AP computer science courses are being eliminated. This is not the case. There are two AP computer science courses — AP Computer Science A, and AP Computer Science AB. The college board is eliminating the less popular AB course, not the A course.

The other important issue that the story does not raise is that many thoughtful people from the computing community are working with the College Board to redefine what AP CS means. In fact, this is part of the e-mail the College Board sent out announcing the decision:

“Appropriate College Board committees will focus their efforts on improving and supporting the AP Computer Science A program, which will be enhanced during the next five years to better represent a full-year, entry-level college computer science sequence.

Our intensified commitment to AP Computer Science A will ensure that the course provides the best possible college-level academic experience and is supported by an increased array of curricular resources and professional development opportunities that will benefit AP Computer Science teachers.”

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ACM Washington Update, Vol. 12.4 (April 3, 2008)


[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] USACM Chair Interviewed About Electronic Voting for Chicago Television
[3] Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference Dates Announced
[4] Rod Beckstrom Appointed Cyber Security Center Director
[5] 08 Tech. Policy Outlook: Electronic Employment Verification Systems
[6] Intellectual Property Bill Moves in Congress
[7] About USACM
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