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August 16, 2013

New Ground: ALEC Conference Moves Forward on CDA, Considers Health IT, Data Privacy

  Communications Daily

By Sara Friedman

The Communications and Technology Task Force unanimously approved a resolution to oppose intermediary liability for Internet providers under the Communications Decency Act. The resolution was in response to a National Association of Attorneys General letter asking Congress to change Section 230 of the CDA to open Internet providers to possible liability, said John Stephenson, task force director. The resolution next goes to the American Legislative Exchange Council board. The task force plans to discuss interconnection agreements more in the upcoming months through presentations and panel discussions, said Stephenson in an interview. The resolution was approved at the ALEC conference in Chicago in early August.

The task force saw health information technology as an emerging area where ALEC members could take action, said Stephenson. A Mississippi legislator explained a measure in his state that addresses "the rising costs of Medicaid through better health information technology systems," and Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation, told the task force about the potential for telemedicine.

"Health information technology and what it can do to control costs is a great example of where someone brought forward an issue that happened in his state and now we can take it back with us to our states and work within our structures to pass it there," said task force public-sector Chairman Blair Thoreson, a North Dakota Republican state representative.

ALEC wants to provide ideas of how legislators can act next, said task force private-sector Chairman Bartlett Cleland, who works full time as Institute for Policy Innovation policy counsel. "It is critically important for the future of healthcare that state legislators start understanding what they can do and start to act, so we can drive down healthcare costs and get healthcare to more people."

The task force decided to push its data privacy model bill to its December meeting, because a few "definitions and requirements need some work to make it ready for prime time," said Stephenson. He will convene meetings with the American Civil Liberties Union, law enforcement groups and state legislators from Texas, Montana and Maine to fix some of the challenges in the bill.

"We are really setting some new ground here, and we are trying to write something that works within our federal and state framework," said Stephenson. "We need to give citizens some sensible protections, but still ensure that the law enforcement can do its job."

Thoreson said this legislation is particularly important given the recent leaks about National Security Agency monitoring. "The privacy issue continues to be one that blows up because people are concerned that their rights are protected," he said. "We want to work with law enforcement and all agencies to make sure that we are doing things to keep people lawful but we are not going past that boundary and getting information that is not needed to do that job."

Education technology will be revisited at the next ALEC meeting, said Stephenson. "The Education Task Force approached us about creating a joint working group to explore broadband education with the rise of online courses and emphasis of virtual classroms and digital learning today."

Cleland said education is facing similar challenges to healthcare in terms of technology. "Education, like healthcare, is going to face an earthquake, and legislators will do what they can to place no roadblocks in their way in terms of legislation," he said.


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