Good News:

  • Several states’ legislative sessions ended (IN, NJ [2006-07 session], NM, UT, VA, WA, WV, and WY) with no negative bills for the profession being passed.
  • High priority bills that would have restricted physician incentives for pharmaceutical market research in Washington (H.B. 2756, S.B. 6302) and prohibited any political calls made by automatic dialing systems (including for survey research purposes) in Colorado (S.B. 48) have all failed.

Bad News:

  • Physician honoraria continues to be a target for legislative action.
  • The trend of attempting to expand do not call laws to include legitimate research contact continues.

Legislative Sessions – There are 33 states, the District of Columbia and Congress in Regular Session.

Current Legislation

  • Online
    • Phishing
  • Pharmaceutical Incentive Reporting
  • Privacy
    • Identity Theft
    • Outsourcing
  • Tax/Budget
    • Census Funding
  • Telephone
    • Automated Polling
  • Sales
    • Do Not Call
    • Fax
    • Mail
    • Spam
    • Text Messages

Current Legislation

Congress – Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) introduced the Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act (APCA) (S. 2661), to combat “phishing,” the practice of using fraudulent e-mail addresses or fake web sites to lure recipients into providing personal or financial information. S. 2661 defines “phishing” as a deceptive practice under the Federal Trade Commission Act, and creates multiple enforcement mechanisms by providing strong civil and criminal penalties against “phishers.” This bill should have no negative impact on the research profession.

Pharmaceutical Incentive Reporting
CA – Rep. Feuer (D) has introduced A.B. 2821, which would prohibit any pharmaceutical company, or agent, from offering or giving a gift totaling more than $250 in value to a medical or health professional. The definition of “gift” includes honoraria. A.B. 2821 also would require pharmaceutical companies to file annual reports with the State Department of Public Health, including the first and last name of “gift” recipients and their business address. This legislation concerns MRA greatly, and we will be working with our grassroots volunteers in California to deal with it.

MA – Sen. President Murray (D) has introduced S.B. 2526, that makes various changes to healthcare regulation. Most importantly, S.B. 2526 includes a prohibition on the pharmaceutical industry and their agents, from giving doctors, doctors’ families and doctors’ employees a gift of any value, including payments, entertainment, meals, travel, honorariums, subscriptions or company trinkets. This ban would include honoraria for survey research purposes. S.B. 2526 is subject to “Executive Session” – meaning, the entire legislature could possibly vote on this measure. As with CA A.B. 2821, this legislation concerns MRA greatly, and we will be working with our grassroots volunteers to deal with it.

Identity Theft
Congress – Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced the Social Security Identity Theft Prevention Act (H.R. 4505), to protect seniors from identity theft and require a new secure Social Security card. H.R. 4505 would have negligible impact on the research profession.

Congress – The House Judiciary Committee discharged the Global Online Freedom Act (H.R. 275) on February 22, clearing its path for consideration by the full House of Representatives. H.R. 275 (which passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on October 27, 2007) would prohibit U.S. businesses from locating any data containing personally identifiable information (PII) within an “Internet-restricting country.” “Locating” includes “computer storage or processing by facilities of a remote computing service,” “electronic storage by any electronic or computer server or facility of an electronic communications system,” or similar storage modes. H.R. 275 would also prohibit U.S. businesses from providing PII “to any foreign official of any Internet-restricting country,” except for legitimate law enforcement purposes. Violations could result in civil and criminal penalties, as well as private rights of action in U.S. courts, “without regard to the citizenship of the parties.” In addition to businesses being held liable, every “officer, director, employee, agent, or stockholder” of the businesses could be subject to penalties, and fines levied on individuals may not be paid, either directly or indirectly, by the business itself. Because of the broad scope of H.R. 275, and its impact on companies that do business with the People’s Republic of China, it is not likely to pass. However, MRA will be in contact with the sponsor to explain the bill’s potential detrimental impact on the research profession.

Census Funding
MRA joined a letter to Senate budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, requesting full funding for the 2010 decennial Census in the Fiscal Year 2009 federal budget.

Automated Polling
NJ – Rep. Milam (D) introduced A.B. 2325, which would prohibit callers from delivering a recorded message, unless for emergency purposes or where a current relationship exists between the caller and the subscriber. A recorded message call is defined as a “telephone call made to deliver a recorded or artificial voice message, but does not include automated record telephone operator introductions for the purposes of accepting a call or message.” Because A.B. 2325 would negatively impact research conducted using automated methods (IVR, robopolling, etc.), MRA will be contacting the sponsor of this bill to advocate on behalf of the survey and opinion research profession.

Do Not Call
GA – Rep. Rice (R) has introduced H.R. 1449, which would urge the Federal Trade Commission to remove the exemption for politicians’ calls currently allowed under the Federal Do Not Call Registry. According to the measure, “politicians are using the same telemarketing techniques to sell their candidacy in the same way as businesses market their products.” This resolution demonstrates a worrisome and growing trend -- many state legislatures wish to expand their own do not call registries to include political and automated calls. MRA will be in contact with the sponsor to explain the important distinctions between research calls and other calls.

IL – Rep. May (D) has introduced H.B. 4999, which would provide that a person who uses or causes the use of a facsimile machine to send unsolicited advertising is liable to the recipient or other person that suffered damages as a result of the violation. An unsolicited advertisement is defined as sent for commercial purposes only. Legitimate faxes sent for research purposes, without appearing commercial in nature, are not included in the scope of this legislation.

CA – Rep. Nunez (D) has introduced A.B. 2059, which would require a person that sends mail solicitations to consumers in order to request consent to contact via telephone for solicitation purposes, to include a clear identification of the sender and notice that the recipient may be contacted by a telephone solicitor even if the person is registered on the federal Do Not Call registry. This legislation poses no negative impact for survey and opinion research.

CA –Rep. Huffman (D) introduced A.B. 2950, which would declare the intent of the Legislature to prohibit false and deceptive commercial e-mail. The legislation defines commercial as only sales-related, and would therefore pose no negative impact for legitimate survey research e-mails.

NJ – Rep. Milam (D) introduced A.B. 2330, which would establish criminal and civil penalties for the transmission of commercial electronic mail messages. A “commercial message” would mean an e-mail in a sales-related context, so A.B. 2330 would pose no negative impact for legitimate survey and opinion research.

Text Messages
NY – Sen. Connor (D) has introduced S.B. 7129, which would include text messaging within the scope of the state telemarketing sales registry. The bill would prohibit sending text message advertisements to persons registered on the state telemarketing sales registry. Because legitimate survey and opinion research text messages are not commercial in nature, S.B. 7129 should pose minimal threat to the research profession.