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Anti-Spam. As of January 1, 2004, anti-spam legislation takes effect that will require e-mails to be sent without the use of false identities and with valid postal addresses and legitimate opt-out reply functions. In addition, if the e-mails are of a non-family nature, a warning must be attached. This will probably send some spammers off-shore, however, it will hopefully reduce unsolicited emails from domestic sources.

Affirmative action revisited. In its most significant ruling since striking down a quota-based system 25 years ago, the Supreme court decided, on Monday, that colleges and were at liberty to select students based, in part, on their race. The Justices did, however, emphasize that race cannot be the overriding factor in student selection. At issue was whether admissions policies that give students of one race an edge unconstitutionally discriminate against applicants from other groups. In two decisions involving the University of Michigan, (the law school case is Grutter v. Bollinger, 02-241; the undergraduate case is Gratz v. Bollinger, 02-516) the court underscored that racial quotas are unconstitutional but left room for the nation's public universities -- and by extension other public and private institutions -- to take race into account when making selections.

The Supreme court decisions are not expected to affect Nevada's higher education system since no limit is placed on the number of undergraduate students who can be accepted, as long as they meet scholastic requirements.

Association Health Plan legislation approved. The House Education and Workforce Committee last week approved legislation (H.R. 660) sponsored by Rep. E. Fletcher (R-KY) that would encourage small businesses to jointly form or join association health plans (AHPs) in order to obtain more affordable health insurance for their employees. Under this legislation AHPs would be allowed to operate across state lines without being subject to most state regulation.

Silencing Telemarketers: Although unpopular with the Direct Marketing Association, a national 'do-not-call' list is at the rescue of those tired of having cold calls from telemarketers interrupt dinner. The Federal Trade Commission announced that starting July 1, it instigated a national do-not-call list to block many sales calls. Consumers can then register to be on the list for free by phone or online. Strangely, calls on behalf of politicians are exempt!

Internet Sales Tax Lawsuit Joined by Illinois. Several large retailers that are now charging taxes on Internet sales will become the target of a law suit by the attorney general of Illinois, the goal of which is to attempt to collect back taxes from those corporations. There is currently, however, a Congressional moratorium on taxes on Internet purchases and Internet access until a workable solution can be developed to ensure such taxes do not add to the complexity and burden on businesses. The moratorium, however, expires later this year.

Recently, a deal was reached among retailers and 37 states and D.C. whereby consumers will pay sales tax based on the state in which they reside as opposed to currently, whereby retailers only collect taxes according to which they have a physical presence.

Amber Alert Bill Passes in Congress. On April 10th Congress passed a package of child safety protection messages, including a national 'Amber Alert' Network. Within hours of the House of Representatives passing bill 400-25, Senate approved it on a 98-0 vote. The President's signature is expected to follow shortly. The legislation provides matching grants to states and communities for equipment and training for the Amber Alert network, which will distribute news of abductions through radio and TV broadcasts as well as highway signs. The bill also reduces federal judges discretion regarding criminal sentencing.

The passage of Amber Alert legislation was the goal of the family of Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted from Salt Lake City last year, and is named after Amber Hagerman, a 9 year old Texas girl, who was the victim of abduction and murder.

EPA Sides with Environmentalists. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is endorsing Massachusetts' low emissions program, which is causing some surprise since the EPA's move is at odds with White House efforts to overturn a similar law in which a California regulation is being opposed by The Justice Department on the basis that the state has no authority to create fuel economy mandates that conflict with federal law. The President's stance is that further scientific study is required before additional restrictions are placed on car emissions.

Also on the subject of greenhouse gases, President Bush urged a cautious approach to dealing with climate change and rejected the 1997 Kyoto treaty as 'too costly'.

The ACLU has launched a hard-hitting new advertising campaign that depicts the Attorney General as an extremist "editor" of the Bill of Rights. Claiming that such legislation as the USA Patriot Act is eroding the freedoms of the American people in favor of a 'radical ideology', the American Civil Liberties Union has called on Americans to "stop the Ashcroft assault on our civil liberties."

The "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act" (USA PATRIOT Act) was designed to broaden the surveillance capabilities of law enforcement following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Act contains new provisions governing criminal and foreign intelligence investigations and in so doing, affects state and local privacy laws.

Web sites with information pertinent to the Patriot Act include:
The American Library Association
Center for Constitutional Rights
Jurist

Summaries of decisions from the Supreme Court are now available via Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute direct Project HERMES feed. These are not the decisions themselves nor excerpts from them, but summaries (syllabi) prepared by the Court's Reporter of Decisions.


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