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Bills on Spoofing, Screening and Stroke Move to House Floor

Tying up some legislative loose ends on Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved four pieces of legislation by voice vote, including a bill banning fraudulent telephone calls and three public health bills.


Identical bills were considered but never passed by the 109th Congress.


In light of increasingly common consumer scams perpetrated by manipulating caller ID information, the committee approved the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2007 (H.R. 251). The bill would prohibit telecommunications providers from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with fraudulent or harmful intent.


Bill sponsor Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) advocated for the legislation, noting that caller ID crimes sometimes falsely display Congressional office numbers to obtain sensitive consumer data.


Arguing that any regulations should not overreach, ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) said, “There are legitimate reasons why someone may need to manipulate caller ID — for instance, in the case of domestic violence shelters that often have to alter their caller ID information to protect the safety of violence victims.”


Provisions in the bill would allow for caller ID manipulation in emergency circumstances.


Referencing a controversy during the November elections, Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) offered an amendment that requires automated and pre-recorded telephone calls — such as the political messages known as robocalls — to accurately transmit the telephone numbers of origin. Green’s amendment was adopted by voice vote.


Correcting what the panel called an oversight, the committee went beyond the Combat Meth Act of 2005 — which was passed by the previous Congress — to pass the Native American Methamphetamine Enforcement and Treatment Act (H.R. 545). The legislation would make Indian tribes eligible for government grants to assist children affected by methamphetamine addiction.


Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) noted that the methamphetamine addiction rate is three times higher among Native Americans than among other minority populations. Under the 2005 act, Indian tribes were not eligible for government grants to tackle addiction complications.


In addition, the committee approved three pieces of health care legislation that had stalled during the 109th Congress: the Stroke Treatment and Ongoing Prevention Act (H.R. 477), the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 1132), and the Trauma Care Systems Planning and Development Act of 2007 (H.R. 727).


The STOP Stroke Act, introduced by Reps. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Chip Pickering (R-Miss.), would authorize increased spending on education, prevention and treatment programs related to strokes, the nation’s third-leading cause of death.


Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-Ore.) estimated that the bill, which would allocate $5 million per year to the Department of Health and Human Services for prevention and treatment activities, would reduce stroke fatalities by 150,000 each year. Capps offered one technical amendment that passed by a voice vote.


In another attempt to increase awareness and detection of preventable diseases, committee members approved H.R. 1132, which would reauthorize funds to support breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income, minority and uninsured women. The reauthorization also would increase funding for the program from $202 million to $275 million over the next five years.


Bill sponsor Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said that early detection “is key to fighting breast cancer.” Baldwin offered a substitute amendment to the bill that would give rural states flexibility in prioritizing education and prevention services. Baldwin’s substitute passed by voice vote.


Finally, the committee approved H.R. 727. Sponsored by Green, the measure would reauthorize annual appropriations of between $8 million and $12 million to increase access to emergency medical services in underprivileged urban and rural areas.

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