High-tech won support in Congress in 1999

In a Congress often characterized by sharp partisanship, one subject generated almost universal accord in 1999 — advanced technology.

From protecting inventors to promoting electronic commerce, most Republicans and Democrats agreed most of the time on high-tech issues during the first half of the 106th Congress, according to the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI).

The council, which represents U.S. companies that produce advanced technology products and services, developed a report card on last year's key technology votes. The report card shows that Republicans voted in favor of high-tech issues 90 percent of the time while Democrats voted favorably 70 percent of the time.

Such bipartisan support is unusual, said council spokeswoman Connie Correll. It is much more common when one party strongly supports an issue that the other opposes it.

Strong support from Republicans was not surprising, she said. Republicans tend to be pro-business and against restrictive regulations that could crimp growth in high-tech industries.

But high-tech businesses also received strong support from Democrats, "especially from new Democrats" from California, who are more pro-business and favor free trade more than traditional Democrats, Correll said.

The ITI supports "free trade, innovation and minimal government regulation," said Rhett Dawson, the organization's president.

One issue that cost the Democrats points on the ITI report card was widespread Democratic opposition to a law that limited the legal liability of businesses to Year 2000 problems, Correll said. The law passed despite Democratic resistance.

Neither party may score so well during 2000. Top issues for the industry council include normalized trade relations with China and lifting controls on computer exports. Both promise to be troublesome issues, Correll said.

Democrats who value labor union support may oppose normalized trade relations with China, she said. And Republicans worried about national security may oppose exporting advanced computers to countries that could use them for military purposes.

For 1999, voting scores for individual House members ranged from a low of 12 earned by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), to 100 — the highest score — which many House members earned. The organization did not calculate numerical scores for senators.

Correll said the council will use low scores to identify members of Congress who "might need more education" on high-tech issues.

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