Senate Approves Brownback Bill


More than two years after Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction, the Senate approved indecency legislation late Thursday that would dramatically increase fines to $325,000 per violation from the current $32,500 maximum.  

The Senate bill was introduced by Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and passed by a unanimous consent vote.  “It’s time that broadcast indecency fines represent a real economic penalty and not just a slap on the wrist,” Brownback said in a statement.

The Senate measure must now be reconciled with a House bill, which would boost indecency fines to a maximum of $500,000 per incident.

The Senate bill, however, is free of other elements in the House bill that--fining performers, putting TV station licenses in play--that make that bill problematic. The Senate bill does not define indecent material or how the fines are assessed, or give the FCC power to revoke licenses.

The swift passage in the Senate measure surprised some Washington insiders. The Majority leader can call for approval by unanimous consent and, if no Senator opposes it, the bill is considered passed, though it must go through the formality of being brought up on the floor, often in the rapid wrap-up of business at the end of the day's session. A single Senate opposing the bill could have stymied legislation, but no one protested.