WASHINGTON – President Bush signed legislation Tuesday meant to stem the flood of unwanted e-mail pitches that irritate Internet users and drain the economy.
"Spam, or unsolicited e-mails, are annoying to consumers and costly to our economy," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said after Bush signed the bill. "This will help address the problems associated with the rapid growth and abuse of spam by establishing a framework of technological, administrative civil and criminal tools, and by providing consumers with options to reduce the volume of unwanted e-mail."
The bill was among several Bush was signing during the day. He signed several others previously but was posing at official signing ceremonies for them throughout the day.
In the Oval Office on Tuesday morning, Bush signed the so-called "can spam" (search) legislation. Passed by Congress earlier this month, the measure outlaws the persistent techniques used by e-mailers who send tens of millions of messages each day to peddle their products and services.
The bill supplants anti-spam laws already passed in some states, including California. It also encourages the Federal Trade Commission (search) to create a do-not-spam list of e-mail addresses and includes penalties for spammers of up to five years in prison in rare circumstances.
In the afternoon, the president went to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (search) to sign the American Dream Downpayment Act (search). It is aimed at helping families that can afford monthly mortgage payments but not the initial costs associated with buying a house.
Three-fourths of non-minority Americans own their own homes, but less than half of blacks, Hispanics and other minorities do. Through grants to state and local governments, low-income families would receive an average of about $5,000 to be help cover downpayment and closing costs on a first home.
"That's not right, and this country needs to do something about it," Bush said, citing of a minority homeownership rate of under 50 percent.
The other bills Bush was signing or holding photo sessions on:
— PEDIATRIC EQUITY RESEARCH ACT: The legislation signed previously by Bush gives the Food and Drug Administration additional authority to require pediatric studies to ensure safe use of medicines in children. It allows the FDA to require testing of drugs for use in children when drug firms do not test them voluntarily.
— AVIATION SPENDING: The Bush administration agreed to shield all air traffic control jobs from privatization for a year to get Congress to approve a $60 billion aviation spending bill. It calls for self-defense training for flight attendants and giving cargo pilots permission to carry guns.
The legislation, signed previously by Bush, provides $14 billion for airport construction projects, including $140 million to help small communities attract and retain air service, and $308 million to ensure air service to isolated communities. It also sets aside $2 billion for airports to install bomb-screening machines as part of automated bag-handling systems to speed luggage checks.
— BLACK HISTORY MUSUEM: The measure establishes a national museum of black history and culture as part of the Smithsonian Institution. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and a former civil rights leader, had introduced legislation in each Congress since 1988 to create the museum. Bush was signing it Tuesday afternoon in the Oval Office.
The estimated $400 million initial price tag would be split evenly between federal government and private sources. The bill authorizes $17 million in the first year to start the project. Bush's signature clears the way for fund raising and for the Smithsonian Board of Regents to choose a site.
— VETERANS BENEFITS: The bill Bush was signing Tuesday expands benefits for disabled veterans, their surviving spouses and children. It gives more money to disabled veterans to adapt their homes and cars to their living conditions, changing the car grant from $9,000 to $11,000, and increasing the housing grants from $48,000 to $50,000 for the most severely disabled veterans and from $9,250 to $10,000 for less severely disabled veterans.
— HOMETOWN HEROES SURVIVORS BENEFITS: The measure, signed previously by Bush, offers federal aid to the families of fire, police and emergency medical personnel who die of heart attacks or strokes on duty. Under the federal Public Safety Officers Benefits program at the Justice Department, families of these workers can receive a one-time benefit of $267,494 when their relative is killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.