Legislative Updates

 

Constitutional Amendment Limiting First Amendment (S.J.Res.5)

  • NRB Position: Oppose
  • Summary: This proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution would serve as a limitation on the First Amendment. Frustrated with the U.S. Supreme Court's opinions on campaign finance and political speech, specifically the Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings, Democrats rallied around this proposal from Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) in 2014. The legislative language states that it would not abridge freedom of the press but does not identify other First Amendment freedoms.
  • Status: When then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) brought this up for a vote shortly before the 2014 elections, NRB warned that this could establish the press as a super-class of speaker and leave other free expression at the mercy of the federal government. All members of the Senate Democrat caucus supported advancing this legislation, but it was halted from advancing by most Senate Republicans in a procedural vote. Amendments to the U.S. Constitution require 2/3 support in both the House and the Senate, and then ratification by 3/4 of the States.

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Equality Act (H.R. 3185/S. 1858)

  • NRB Position: Oppose
  • Summary: The so-called Equality Act is a misnomer. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), would add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" as protected classes in numerous sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and like its much narrower predecessor, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, it does not have an effective exemption for religious employers. In fact, it would specifically forbid any appeal to the broad, bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 in the case of any court challenge stemming from this bill. In this aggressive attack on RFRA, the Equality Act appears to be drafted as a sword against those who only wish to live daily according to the tenets of their faith regarding marriage and human sexuality. Significantly, RFRA simply provides a balancing test that ensures deference to the constitutional right of religious liberty unless there is a "compelling government interest" achieved by the "least restrictive means."
  • Status: The Equality Act was introduced in July 2015, within a month of the Supreme Court's Obergefell ruling on marriage. The bill has attracted the support of 168 Representatives and 40 Senators.

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Fair Play Fair Pay Act (H.R. 1733)

  • NRB Position: Oppose
  • Summary: The so-called Fair Play Fair Pay Act (H.R. 1733) would pave the way for a "performance fee" to be attached to every piece of music played on a terrestrial radio station. Sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), this bill would establish a new performance royalty right for terrestrial radio, a record label-preferred royalty rate-setting structure for other media, and support for new royalties for pre-1972 recordings.
  • Status: This bill was introduced in April 2015. It currently has the support of 13 Representatives. NRB opposes a radio performance tax in any form and has voiced concern with this proposal.

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First Amendment Defense Act (H.R. 2802/S. 1598)

  • NRB Position: Support
  • Summary: The First Amendment Defense Act, sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), is written to be a shield against attempts by the federal government to use tax treatment, licensing, grants, and the like to coerce or discriminate against individuals or organizations that merely wish to live in light of their religious conviction that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This bill is very important after the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges marriage ruling, particularly after the shocking admission by U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli to the Justices that tax treatment of religious organizations upholding biblical marriage is "certainly going to be an issue."
  • Status: This bill was introduced in June 2015. The bill currently has the support of 146 Representatives and 37 Senators. NRB has urged its immediate approval by Congress.

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“Next Generation Television Marketplace Act” (H.R.3720 in 113th Congress)

  • NRB Position: Oppose
  • SummaryThis bill would have eliminated a number of provisions from federal communications law, including "Must Carry" rules for local commercial television broadcast stations to be viewed on pay-TV platforms. While supporters of the bill lauded it as a broad deregulatory effort, NRB had emphasized for years the great importance of "Must Carry" rules for Christian television broadcasters. Legislation like this could be fatal to many Christian TV stations and may harm the ability of millions of Americans to continue accessing the religious programming on which they rely.
  • Status: This bill was last introduced in December 2013, in advance of Congressional consideration of satellite legislation and a general review of the Communications Act. NRB opposed this bill. 

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Protect Women's Health From Corporate Interference Act (H.R. 5051/S.2578 in 113th Congress)

  • NRB Position: Oppose
  • Summary: This legislation would have removed employer health plans from the purview of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). It would have been the first such carve-out to the 20-year-old RFRA, which demands deference to religious liberty unless there is a "compelling government interest" achieved by the "least restrictive means."
  • Status: Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) were the sponsors of this bill in their respective chambers shortly after the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision. Senate Democrats quickly forced this bill directly to a full Senate vote. It failed on a procedural vote.  

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The Local Radio Freedom Act (H.Con.Res.17/S.Con.Res.4)

  • NRB Position: Support
  • Summary: Sponsored by Rep. Michael Conaway (R-TX) and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) in the House and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in the Senate, this Concurrent Resolution declares that Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station for broadcasting sound recordings over-the-air, or on any business for such public performance of sound recordings.
  • Status: These Resolutions are pending review in the House Judiciary and the Senate Finance Committees. The bill has the support of 205 Representatives and 20 Senators. The recruitment of additional cosponsors for these resolutions should be encouraged to further discourage attempts to slip performance tax language into any legislation. NRB opposes a radio performance tax in any form. It is possible performance royalties may be up for debate again in the 114th Congress.

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