Ronald Reagan once said, the scariest words people will ever hear are, “I’m with the government and I’m hear to help”. Next week Congress is back at it after their Summer recess and embarrassing Town Hall meetings.

Health Care “reform” (the focus-group way of saying ‘government takeover of health care’) will be the big story. But there are several other debates going on over a variety of very important laws that could effect the advertising industry.

When the Feds get back, on the table will be:

Appropriations: Arguably, Congress’ most important task is making sure the government has enough money to keep running. Lawmakers will spend the next weeks scrambling to pass appropriations bills for fiscal year 2010, but there’s no way they’ll everything done by Sept. 30, the end of FY2009. Aside from health care reform, this will be Congress’ main task between now and December, as the Senate has only approved four of the 12 appropriations bills.

Defense spending: Perhaps the most contentious of the spending bills now in play. Before leaving in July, the House of Representatives passed a $636 billion defense spending bill, cutting additional funding for some programs, like the F-22 fighter jet, made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing. But the Senate hasn’t acted yet, and President Obama vowed to veto any defense bill loaded with pork. With jobs on the line and a midterm election ahead, expect a showdown. Let’s hope he means it.

Debt limit: In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., earlier this month, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said it is “critically important that Congress act” to raise the government’s $12.1 trillion statutory debt limit “as soon as possible.” Geithner didn’t suggest a new level, but he said Uncle Sam could be maxed out by mid-October. Lawmakers will act quickly, with much grumbling from Republicans and conservative Democrats. It could also affect spending bills. This is ridiculous as he wants to raise an already record debt ceiling, they need to make cuts.

Union membership: Since the beginning of the year, the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to join unions, has been the lobbying focus for organized labor. They’ve met a formidable wall of opposition, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A compromise may be in the works, and you’ll undoubtedly keep hearing about the debate, but for now, Congress has bigger issues to tackle.

This one could have one of the biggest effects on our industry as it could cripple small businesses.

Telecom: Many telecom issues have been pushed aside to make way for health care and other pending Democratic priorities, but some things are likely to pass. Among them: a bill that allows digital broadcast satellite providers to continue to import network signals to rural areas. If lawmakers don’t act, providers lose this ability as of Dec. 31. Mostly likely Congress will take action. That’s good news for providers like DirecTV and DISH.

Executive compensation: Technically, it’s part of financial regulatory reform. But executive compensation has been a hot issue ever since Congress ponied up $700 billion in bailout funds for the financial sector last year. In June, the House approved a bill to give shareholders a “say on pay” for executives. It also requires the biggest financial companies to disclose their incentive-based compensation practices. The Senate is expected to take up the bill this fall. Another area where Government has no business meddling.

Estate tax: President Obama wants to see a permanent extension of the estate tax, but that’s unlikely to happen this year. Instead, look for Congress to give it a one-year extension, as it’s slated to expire for a year in 2010. For 2009, estates valued at less than $3.5 million are exempted from the tax, which has a maximum rate of 45%. Continuing the sad legacy of progressive taxation. It’s unconstitutional.

It will be an interesting end to the year as we try to break free of this recession and the Obama administration tries to keep it going.

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