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Originally published Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 3:44 PM

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Voterama in Congress

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WASHINGTON — Here’s how the state’s U.S. House members voted on major issues in the week ending Dec. 6. The Senate was in recess.

House

Gun-control renewal

On a nonrecord “voice” vote, the house on Dec. 3 renewed for 10 years a statute outlawing firearms capable of evading X-ray machines at airports and walk-through metal detectors used by airports and other facilities. The bill (HR 3626) is now before the Senate, where it is likely to be passed without change and sent to President Obama before the law expires Dec. 9. Reflecting the political sensitivity of gun measures as well as the pre-eminence of aviation security, the Republican leadership, which controls the flow of legislation in the House, arranged for the bill to be passed on a nonrecord vote. The National Rifle Association (NRA) did not object to this low-profile strategy and gun-limits groups supported it. The sponsor, Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., is not seeking re-election in 2014.

Financial-regulation law

By a vote of 254 for and 159 against, the House on Dec. 4 voted to strip the Dodd-Frank financial-regulation law of its requirement that most private-equity firms register with the Securities and Exchange Commission registration and meet SEC reporting requirements about their balance sheets. The GOP-sponsored bill (HR 1105) is now before the Senate. The requirement aims to give regulators information for measuring any systemic risk these firms pose to financial markets and provide transparency to investors. But critics say it imposes unnecessary costs and red tape on job-growing firms that were not responsible for the 2008 financial collapse. The bill applies to firms with portfolios of between $150 million and $1 billion and debt-to-equity ratios under 2-to-1.

Voting yes: Doc Hastings, R-Pasco; Dave Reichert, R-Auburn

Voting no: Suzan DelBene, D-Medina; Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens; Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor; Jim McDermott, D-Seattle; Adam Smith, D-Bellevue; Denny Heck, D-Olympia

Not voting: Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane

Financial conflicts of interest

By a vote of 186 for and 225 against, the House on Dec. 4 defeated a Democratic amendment to HR 1105 (above) that would continue SEC regulation of private-equity firms but with simplified disclosure requirements designed to reduce filing costs and red-tape while still yielding important information to investors and regulators. In particular, firms would have to still disclose their fees, report any conflicts of interest in their management of assets and abide by fiduciary standards for acting in their clients’ best interests.

Voting yes: DelBene, Larsen, Kilmer, McDermott, Smith, Heck

Voting no: Hastings, Reichert

Not voting: Herrera Beutler, McMorris Rodgers

Outsourcing American jobs

By a vote of 185 for and 227 against, the House on Dec. 4 defeated a Democratic bid to continue SEC regulation under HR 1105 (above) of any private-equity firm with a controlling stake in companies sending U.S. jobs overseas. The motion also sought to require equity firms receiving SEC exemptions to disclose any workforce reductions by companies under their control.

Voting yes: DelBene, Larsen, Kilmer, McDermott, Smith, Heck

Voting no: Hastings, Reichert

Not voting: Herrera Beutler, McMorris Rodgers

Abusive-patent litigation

By a vote of 325 for and 91 against, the House on Dec. 5 passed a bill (HR 3309) giving courts more tools for curbing an abusive business and litigation strategy known as “patent trolling.” The practice consists of holders of weak patents threatening or filing patent-infringement lawsuits of dubious validity, then collecting settlements because the targeted company cannot afford or chooses not to pay the high cost of lengthy litigation.

This bill makes it easier for judges to impose penalties on parties filing frivolous suits; requires upfront identification of the company behind the infringement claim; limits discoveries during lawsuits; and requires the accusing party to pay legal fees if their claim fails, among other provisions.

Critics say patent trollers exist only to extort settlements from startups and small businesses, while defenders say their main purpose is to protect the intellectual property of small inventors.

Voting yes: DelBene, Larsen, Hastings, Kilmer, Reichert, Smith, Heck

Voting no: McDermott

Not voting: Herrera Beutler, McMorris Rodgers



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