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Net Tax Freedom Act nears vote

Republicans in the House of Representatives promise to vote this spring on legislation that would safeguard the Net from any new taxes.

House Republicans today promised to vote this spring on legislation that would safeguard the Net from any new taxes.

When announcing their legislative agenda for this congressional session, Republicans slated a March floor vote on the Internet Tax Freedom Act. The Senate version of the bill cleared its Commerce Committee last year, and also is awaiting a vote.

Introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Rep. Chris Cox (R-California), the Net Tax Freedom Act places a five-year ban on states and localities passing new taxes specifically aimed at online access, e-commerce, and other Net services. Proponents of the bill say new taxes will stunt the Net's commercial growth.

The bill has gained momentum despite ongoing opposition from U.S. mayors and some state lawmakers, who say the legislation strips them of their rights to tax and create new revenue streams.

If both houses of Congress pass their bills, members will then conference on any differences between their versions.

Supporters of the Act say the House Republicans' move today is a sign that the legislation could be pushed ahead by Easter, when Congress takes its next break.

"I think there is a good chance it will be taken up this session," David Seldin, a spokesman for Wyden, said today.

House Republicans, however, have yet to fully agree on the matter.

"I don't believe the speaker has officially taken a position on it, but it falls in line with his other policy positions," said Andrew Weinstein, spokesman for Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia).

Overall, the Net Tax Freedom Act has garnered 103 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, and eight in the Senate. Also supporting the pending legislation are the leaders of several high-tech hotbeds, including the governors of California, New York, Massachusetts, and Virginia.