Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement Act of 2020
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Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 6096) to improve oversight by the Federal Communications Commission of the wireless and broadcast emergency alert systems, as amended.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
The text of the bill is as follows: H.R. 6096
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement Act of 2020'' or the ``READI Act''. SEC. 2. RELIABLE EMERGENCY ALERT DISTRIBUTION IMPROVEMENT.
(a) Wireless Emergency Alerts System Offerings.--
(1) Amendment.--Section 602(b)(2)(E) of the Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act (47 U.S.C. 1201(b)(2)(E)) is amended--
(A) by striking the second and third sentences; and
(B) by striking ``other than an alert issued by the President.'' and inserting the following: ``other than an alert issued by--
``(i) the President; or
``(ii) the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.''.
(2) Regulations.--Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commission, in consultation with the Administrator, shall adopt regulations to implement the amendment made by paragraph (1)(B).
(b) State Emergency Alert System Plans and Emergency Communications Committees.--
(1) State emergency communications committee.--Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commission shall adopt regulations that--
(A) encourage the chief executive of each State--
(i) to establish an SECC if the State does not have an SECC; or
(ii) if the State has an SECC, to review the composition and governance of the SECC;
(B) provide that--
(i) each SECC, not less frequently than annually, shall--
(I) meet to review and update its State EAS Plan;
(II) certify to the Commission that the SECC has met as required under subclause (I); and
(III) submit to the Commission an updated State EAS Plan; and
(ii) not later than 60 days after the date on which the Commission receives an updated State EAS Plan under clause (i)(III), the Commission shall--
(I) approve or disapprove the updated State EAS Plan; and
(II) notify the chief executive of the State of the Commission's approval or disapproval of such plan, and reason therefor; and
(C) establish a State EAS Plan content checklist for SECCs to use when reviewing and updating a State EAS Plan for submission to the Commission under subparagraph (B)(i).
(2) Consultation.--The Commission shall consult with the Administrator regarding the adoption of regulations under paragraph (1)(C).
(3) Definitions.--In this subsection--
(A) the term ``SECC'' means a State Emergency Communications Committee;
(B) the term ``State'' means any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and any possession of the United States; and
(C) the term ``State EAS Plan'' means a State Emergency Alert System Plan.
(c) False Alert Reporting.--Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commission, in consultation with the Administrator, shall complete a rulemaking proceeding to establish a system to receive from the Administrator or State, Tribal, or local governments reports of false alerts under the Emergency Alert System or the Wireless Emergency Alerts System for the purpose of recording such false alerts and examining the causes of such false alerts.
(d) Repeating Emergency Alert System Messages for National Security.--
(1) In general.--Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commission, in consultation with the Administrator, shall complete a rulemaking proceeding to modify the Emergency Alert System to provide for repeating Emergency Alert System messages while an alert remains pending that is issued by--
(A) the President;
(B) the Administrator; or
(C) any other entity determined appropriate under the circumstances by the Commission, in consultation with the Administrator.
(2) Scope of rulemaking.--Paragraph (1) shall--
(A) apply to warnings of national security events, meaning emergencies of national significance, such as a missile threat, terror attack, or other act of war or threat to public safety; and
(B) not apply to more typical warnings, such as a weather alert, AMBER Alert, or disaster alert.
(3) Rule of construction.--Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to impair, limit, or otherwise change--
(A) the authority of the President granted by law to alert and warn the public; or
(B) the role of the President as commander-in-chief with respect to the identification, dissemination, notification, or alerting of information of missile threats against the United States, or threats to public safety.
(e) Internet and Online Streaming Services Emergency Alert Examination.--
(1) Study.--Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, and after providing public notice and opportunity for comment, the Commission shall complete an inquiry to examine the feasibility of updating the Emergency Alert System to enable or improve alerts to consumers provided through the internet, including through streaming services.
(2) Report.--Not later than 90 days after completing the inquiry under paragraph (1), the Commission shall submit a report on the findings and conclusions of the inquiry to--
(A) the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate; and
(B) the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives.
(f) Definitions.--In this section--
(1) the term ``Administrator'' means the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency;
(2) the term ``Commission'' means the Federal Communications Commission;
(3) the term ``Emergency Alert System'' means the national public warning system, the rules for which are set forth in part 11 of title 47, Code of Federal Regulations (or any successor regulation); and
(4) the term ``Wireless Emergency Alerts System'' means the wireless national public warning system established under the Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act (47 U.S.C. 1201 et seq.), the rules for which are set forth in part 10 of title 47, Code of Federal Regulations (or any successor regulation).
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Mr. PALLONE. 6096.
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Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise today in support of H.R. 6096, the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement Act of 2020, or the READI Act, as it is known.
In times of crisis, Americans rely on communication systems to stay informed, check on loved ones, and access emergency assistance. Emergency alerts, in particular, are an effective mechanism for relaying lifesaving information to the American public in an instant.
The emergency alert system, or EAS, is one tool we have to issue such messages. Typically, an EAS message is originated by officials from local, State, Tribal, or Federal governments, known as alerting authorities. The messages are disseminated to the public by operators of broadcast cable and satellite TV or radio.
The Wireless Emergency Alert system, or WEA, on the other hand, allows emergency managers and other alert originators to distribute geographically targeted emergency messages to wireless customers' devices at a moment's notice.
Over recent months, Madam Speaker, local and State officials in California and Oregon have used geo-targeted emergency alerts to inform residents about wildfires and evacuation orders.
Simply put, our emergency alerting systems save lives, but there is plenty of room for improvement.
My colleagues may recall an incident that took place in Hawaii in January 2018 when the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency mistakenly issued an emergency alert through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Integrated Public Alert and Warning System.
The alert warned the public of an inbound ballistic missile threat, although there was no such threat. It was intended to be a routine test of the system, but the supervising officer who dictated the language of the drill mistakenly included the phrase, ``This is not a drill,'' causing confusion among the shift officers responsible for transmitting the alert to the public.
With five words, Hawaii was sent into a frenzy, which lasted about 38 minutes, until a follow-up notice was sent out correcting the error.
Now, there are more than 1,000 alerting authorities across the United States that rely on emergency alerting systems to notify the public of everything from law enforcement situations to evacuation and stay-at- home orders, child abductions, and natural disasters.
While the Hawaii incident was deemed an accident caused by human error, it is clear that there are gaps that must be addressed, and that is what this bill does.
The READI Act will ensure that there is better coordination between the Federal agencies that deal with emergency communications and their partners at the State and local levels. Specifically, the bill calls on the Federal Communications Commission to work with State Emergency Communications Committees to develop and update State plans to identify and close any gaps in protocol or accountability.
The READI Act also requires the FCC to study and report to Congress on the feasibility of expanding participation in the Emergency Alert System to include streaming services and internet platforms and whether such an action would increase the reach and reliability of emergency alerts.
Madam Speaker, I commend Representative Jerry McNerney for his leadership on this bill, especially as his constituents and neighbors all across California continue to grapple with the fallout from these historic wildfires.
Madam Speaker, I also thank Ranking Member Walden and subcommittee Ranking Member Latta for working with us to move this legislation through the Energy and Commerce Committee on a bipartisan basis.
Finally, Madam Speaker, I also thank Senator Schatz, who is leading this legislation in the Senate.
This is a really good bill that will make emergency alerts more effective and reliable, to keep our friends and neighbors safe when it matters most.
House of Representatives, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Washington, DC, November 10, 2020. Hon. Frank Pallone, Jr., Chairman, Committee on Energy & Commerce, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Pallone: I write concerning H.R. 6096, the READI Act. There are certain provisions in this legislation that fall within the Rule X jurisdiction of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
In order to expedite floor consideration of H.R. 6096, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure agrees to forgo action on the bill. However, this is conditional on our mutual understanding that forgoing consideration of the bill would not prejudice the Committee with respect to the appointment of conferees or to any future jurisdictional claim over the subject matters contained in the bill or similar legislation that fall within the Committee's Rule X jurisdiction. I also request that you urge the Speaker to name members of this Committee to any conference committee which is named to consider such provisions.
Please place a copy of this letter and your response acknowledging our jurisdictional interest into the committee report on H.R. 6096 and into the Congressional Record during consideration of the measure on the House floor. Sincerely, Peter DeFazio, Chair. ____ House of Representatives, Committee on Energy and Commerce, Washington, DC, November 13, 2020. Hon. Peter A. DeFazio, Chairman, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Washington, DC.
Dear Chairman DeFazio: Thank you for consulting with the Committee on Energy and Commerce and agreeing to be discharged from further consideration of H.R. 6096, the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act of 2020, so that the bill may proceed expeditiously to the House floor.
I agree that your forgoing further action on this measure does not in any way diminish or alter the jurisdiction of your committee or prejudice its jurisdictional prerogatives on this measure or similar legislation in the future. I would support your effort to seek appointment of an appropriate number of conferees from your committee to any House-Senate conference on this legislation.
I will seek to place our letters on H.R. 6096 into the committee report on the bill and into the Congressional Record during floor consideration of the bill. I appreciate your cooperation regarding this legislation and look forward to continuing to work together as this measure moves through the legislative process. Sincerely, Frank Pallone, Jr., Chairman.
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Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. McNerney), the sponsor of the legislation and a member of our committee.
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Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, I have no additional speakers. I ask my colleagues to support the legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time.
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