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Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Energy and Commerce to move on data privacy, children’s online safety bills

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will move forward with a big markup Thursday — the American Privacy Rights Act, a bipartisan data privacy bill, and the Kids’ Online Safety Act, which would establish new federal safeguards for children online.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) sent out a markup notice late Tuesday night. Thursday’s session will begin at 10 a.m. and should take up most of the day.

In addition to APRA and KOSA — learn your acronyms, people — the committee will also mark up some health care bills and CRA disapproval resolutions.

There’s pretty significant tech industry and business group opposition to both bills. House GOP leaders also aren’t in any hurry to move forward on the twin measures, to say the least.

Yet getting these bills through Energy and Commerce is a win for privacy advocates who’ve been pushing similar legislation for years.

APRA is a bipartisan deal between CMR and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the panel. CMR and Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) had earlier struck a bicameral agreement outlining the framework for a data privacy push in Congress.

The CMR-Pallone bill would create new federal privacy standards, including on how information is collected, used and retained by tech companies. It would allow users to opt out of targeted advertising. There’s also a “private right of action” that lets individual Americans to sue “covered entities” that misuse their personal data without consent. Small businesses are exempted from these requirements.

In addition, the bill includes an updated version of COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. That legislation mandates a ban on targeted advertising to minors, among other restrictions.

As we’ve reported, there’s pretty strong opposition from Big Tech, business groups and advertisers, as well as some civil liberty advocates, to the CMR-Pallone proposal.

However, NFIB — which represents small businesses — has come out in favor of the exemption included in the legislation.

“Specifically, we thank the Committee for recognizing that small businesses are not the intended target of this legislation,” said Andrea McGee, one of NFIB’s top lobbyists, in a letter to CMR and Pallone on Tuesday.

KOSA, which is sponsored by Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Erin Houchin (R-Ind.), Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) and Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), would create an array of new requirements for online platforms to “exercise reasonable care” that they’re not harming children. It would impose restrictions on access to minors’ personal data, and parents would be able to limit how any platform is used.

The advancement of KOSA in the House is a big deal considering that the bill has been stalled for months in the Senate Commerce Committee despite having 70 co-sponsors. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) are the lead sponsors.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — a KOSA cosponsor — said he was still trying to secure a unanimous consent agreement to hold quick votes on the bill. Senate leaders want to try to avoid burning several days of floor time on legislation that has such overwhelming support.

KOSA could still move across the Senate floor at some point in July, with or without a time agreement.

— John Bresnahan and Andrew Desiderio

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