In light of the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., U.S. senators and representatives have introduced a flurry of legislation intended to address social issues that may contribute to juvenile violence. Hatch, along with Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is sponsoring the "Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act of 1999," which may be considered in the Senate as early as next week.
This week, Hatch announced that he plans to add several amendments to Senate bill 254, including one that applies to online sales of alcohol. The addition would permit state law enforcement officers to seek injunctions in federal court to prevent out-of-state companies from selling alcohol to minors over the Internet.
The amendment is similar to a bill (S577) that Hatch introduced in March. His "21st Amendment Enforcement Act" would give states access to federal courts to enforce their bans of direct shipments of alcohol. Currently, regulations vary widely among states: Some permit out-of-state wineries to directly ship wine to state residents under certain conditions, while others make such shipments a felony. According to Hatch, states have had difficulty prosecuting violators from out of state.
The other amendments mostly focus on entertainment industries. One calls for an examination of whether video-game, music and motion-picture companies market violent material to children. These industries would also be encouraged to develop voluntary standards and enforcement mechanisms for content ratings. In addition, Internet service providers would be encouraged to offer free or inexpensive screening software that would let parents limit children's access to online material. The remaining amendment would combat the posting of bomb-making instructions on the Internet.
The San Francisco-based Wine Institute and other winery trade organizations have met with Hatch's staff to discuss the alcohol-shipping proposals, which these groups feel are too broadly worded. Wine Institute senior vice president Robert Koch said he believes that Hatch may change his mind about including the shipping amendment; instead, he may craft a new bill. "We talked through a number of ways to balance the bill so it would not be injurious to the [wine] industry," he said. "There's plenty of time left in this Congress to come up with legislation that will work for everyone."
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