Balance Sheet

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Assets

? Decent Fellow. After becoming the White House's chief Internet policy wonk, Ira Magaziner finally offers Bill Clinton useful advice. Speaking before the March Conference on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy, Magaziner says the Communications Decency Act was "a bad act." If the Supreme Court strikes it down, Magaziner says he'll urge Clinton to veto a replacement.

? Power Play. A federal appeals court strikes down the EPA's attempt to force 12 Northeastern states to adopt California's superstrict auto-emissions regs. The rules, which include mandates to buy electric cars, are stricter than the Clean Air Act requires. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals says states that choose to adopt tighter pollution rules can do so. But "the case [for a federal mandate] must be made to Congress," not merely imposed on the states by EPA bureaucrats.

? Fall Guys. The Garden State makes room for Nature Boy. As part of her campaign to improve New Jersey's business climate, Gov. Christine "The Trenton Tornado" Whitman signs a bill recognizing professional wrestling as entertainment rather than a sport. Such deregulation keeps wrestling promoters from paying a $100,000 media tax the state levies on televised sporting events. New Jersey expects to get at least $200,000 a year in sales tax revenue from concessions at live matches.

? Net Gain. California's Board of Equalization, which supervises sales tax collection, votes to limit its taxing authority. It unanimously supports a moratorium on state and local Internet taxes pushed by Rep. Chris Cox (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Board member Dean Andal says Internet taxes could become "a substantial impediment to the growth of electronic commerce."

Liabilities

? Screen Gems. "New Democrat" Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), a Cato Institute aficionado, prove they're Lethal Centrists after all. They introduce a bill that would force television broadcast and cable networks to establish a "voluntary" code of conduct to make shows more "family friendly." Brownback suggests the Television Improvement Act of 1997 would do no less than "encourage the broadcasting industry to make raising children easier."

? Pork Products. When you think "gridlock," Kansas City immediately comes to mind, of course. A section of ISTEA, the federal highway bill, would give that bastion of self- reliance $15 million to start a light rail system. (See "Spinal Tap," Apr.) The $450 million project, reports the trade magazine ENR, would eventually link the two Kansas Cities (Missouri and Kansas), the KCI Airport, the Truman Sports Complex (home of the Royals and Chiefs), and the Country Club Plaza.

? Painful Remedy. One unintended consequence of the growing medical marijuana movement: What about the Americans with Disabilities Act? In California, Mission Viejo bulldozer operator Rodney Dunaway loses his job after failing a drug test. But he smokes marijuana off-duty to relieve his glaucoma. Dunaway's union claims glaucoma is covered under the ADA; letting him smoke pot merely offers "reasonable accommodation" for his disease.

? Child's Play. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the allegedly conservative chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, once again proves he's a reliable statist when the children are invoked. He supported federal child care mandates in the 1980s and the Family and Medical Leave Act and expanded child welfare payments earlier this decade. Now Hatch co-sponsors Ted Kennedy's proposal to give children universal health insurance, financed by a 43-cent hike in the federal cigarette tax.

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