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Breaking news: House Science & Technology Committee reintroduces science bill, with porn ban intact

I want to point out that your voices are being heard. Washington politicos are reading your comments.

On Monday, I wrote a story about political chess moves called Republicans nuke science bill by forcing porn down Dem throats. The short form is that when Republicans inserted an anti-porn addendum (along with a bunch of unpalatable changes) into a science bill, the Democrats were forced to rework the bill.

ZDNet readers posted more than 50 thoughtful comments about the article. OK, a few were a little out there, but most were very interesting and thought-provoking. It was a good discussion, the sort I'm proud to be able to facilitate.

After the article ran, I was contacted by Alex Dery Snider, Communications Director for the House Committee on Science and Technology. She wanted you to know that the Committee is reintroducing the bill, with some modifications.

Before I go into those modifications, I want to point out that your voices are being heard. I spoke to another staffer on the Committee, who told me that not only are they reading my ZDNet Government articles, but they're also reading your comments. So keep up those TalkBacks. They are making a difference.

About the reintroduction of the bill

Normally, I don't like to include long quotes from other sources, but here's exactly what Alex told me about the bill:

Today, House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) will introduce The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. The bill is expected to be considered under suspension tomorrow. Bills considered under suspension cannot be amended and need to pass with support from two-thirds of those present, rather than a simple majority.

The bill is identical to H.R. 5116 with two exceptions: it reduces the authorization period from five to three years, and it adopts language from the Motion to Recommit banning the use of the authorized funds to pay the salary of federal employees disciplined for looking at pornography at work. It includes the 52 amendments to H.R. 5116 adopted on the House Floor.

“The reintroduced America COMPETES Reauthorization Act is a 50 percent cut in the funding path from H.R. 5116 as introduced. While I certainly would have preferred the stability a five-year authorization would have given our science agencies, I am willing to compromise with the Minority, in the interest of getting a good bill through the House and to our colleagues in the Senate. This legislation is too important to our nation’s scientific and economic leadership to let it fall victim to political gridlock,” said Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). “The bill has a less steep funding trajectory than the 2007 COMPETES, H.R. 2272, which passed the 110th Congress 367 to 57, with the support of 143 Republicans, 101 of whom are serving in the 111th Congress.”

My thoughts

I beat up on our politicians pretty ruthlessly on Monday, so I won't do much more of it today. I'm glad to see the bill is being reintroduced, but I honestly think the whole porn thing is a silly game.

Clearly, we don't want Federal employees surfing porn while at work. But that should be part of any employer's employment policy and shouldn't have to be a rider on a science and technology bill. And since we're limiting Federal employee use of porn, what about Facebook? Is it OK to play Farmville, as long as the animals are fully clothed? What about Twitter? What about eBay or buying things on Amazon?

An employer's expectation for all of these things should be specified to every employee -- and certainly to those who get paid by our tax dollars. But adding it to our science bill?

I've said this to our politicians before and it's still valid: focus on what's important and stop playing political games. Many Americans need help; we have tougher competition than ever before. To paraphrase President Kennedy:

And so, America's politicians: ask not what political gamesmanship can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country.

No matter what, special thanks go to Alex for keeping us in the loop.