Recess is Over. What Now For Tech Policy?


The much-vaunted August Congressional “District Work Period” has come to an end, but it was not altogether uneventful. While Members of Congress returning home were not greeted by throngs of anti-immigration true believers as expected, they did interact with citizens concerned about a country on the brink of war halfway across the globe for the third time in the young century, a changing health care system, and other provincial issues raised in town halls and at listening posts throughout the country.

As Congress returns to work this week, we reset our focus on what remains of the first session of the 113th Congress, hopeful that we will see some movement on the issues we care about. Having hosted discussions about the economic impact of the tech community in seventeen cities throughout the country, we believe the stage is set for more informed debates in Congress, and for our community to have a lasting impact. On those two points, we are cautiously optimistic about making progress this year.

While we thought immigration would be the number one issue discussed during recess, it has since been overshadowed but the situation remains highly volatile, if largely unchanged in scope. The Senate bill stands, and the onus is still on the House of Representatives to take up the Senate bill, or present a solution of their own that is strong enough to become law. As Steve Case’s latest op-ed hammers home, our global competitors in the battle for talent are stepping up their game and closing the gap. So, now is the time for the House to act.

Bringing some hope is a recent memo from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to the Republican caucus. In it, he signaled the possibility that the House might begin deliberating significant changes to the nation’s broken immigration system “this fall.” On this note, we remain steadfast in our support of rebuilding our immigration system from the ground up, working with members of Congress, and supporting other groups who are also working to find an effective and expedient resolution. We will maintain our efforts alongside the National Immigration Forum, Partnership for a New American Economy, FWD.US, among others, and we look forward to continued dialogue with our Congressional allies.

On the broken patent system, we anticipate an updated discussion draft of legislation from Chairman Leahy and Chairman Goodlatte. Thanks to the efforts of the entrepreneurial community, we have made it clear to our Congressional allies (through multiple efforts) that patent trolling has intense negative effects on our ability to grow the economy and create innovative products. As a result, the pursuit of litigation reform is a commonsense solution that will make the “business” of being a patent “troll” unattractive by severely restricting the revenue model.

We expect upcoming drafts to reflect the suggestions for reform we have long discussed, and we will continue to advance the dialogue and work towards a resolution. We’re looking forward to continued collaboration with the Coalition for Patent Fairness, CCIA’s Patent Progress community, EFF and Trolling Effects, and others in the hopes of continued success.

While there will be little government action of data security and regulation, we’re keeping an eye on key developments. On data security -- and in response to fallout from the NSA spying scandal -- we’re working on ways to help startups become more intentional and transparent about what they do with user data, and better communicate this information to users.

As for data regulation, the U.S. is currently working on a trade agreement with Europe that could spell changes in domestic policy. Though we are unlikely to see any draft versions, we hope to find clues in the current debate over of EU privacy laws. We’re also following movements in the health information technology space at the FCC and the FDA as the introduction of health information exchanges with the Affordable Care Act, and the explosion of health-focused startups, could mean the storage and transmission of more personal health information than ever before.

On these issues, and all the others that affect our community each day, we must be realistic about how and when these issues can be handled. The House of Representatives will be in session for just 9 days this month. In that time, they must deliberate motions on war with Syria, tackle the debt ceiling (again), and try to push through a resolution on the budget, just to name a few agenda items.

While the calendar is stacked against us through the end of the year, we must remain engaged in key issues, and vocal in our support of legislation. Stay involved with us on Twitter and Facebook as these issues develop; we look forward to continuing to serve as a convener of these discussions on important issues, and hope that in doing so, we can produce faster and more productive resolutions.