Michelle Capezza of Epstein Becker & Green recently returned from the TechAmerica DC Fly-in held February 10th and 11th in Washington, D.C., a Tech Policy Summit that brought together members of technology councils, business leaders and academicians from across the country to discuss various policies and legislation impacting today’s technology companies and our economy. As a member of the New Jersey Technology Council and an NJTC Ambassador, Michelle joined the NJTC delegation for this summit which included James Barrood (President and CEO-NJTC), Karen Lisnyj (Government Affairs-NJTC), Kevin M. Pianko, CPA (Partner, Weiser Mazars), James C. Bourke, CPA (Partner, WithumSmith+Brown), Stuart Hanebuth (Vice President, Power Survey Company), Richard Napoli (CEO, ObjectFrontier, Inc.) and Venu Myneni, CEO Radiant Systems, Inc. Following a briefing regarding various policy initiatives, our delegation had the opportunity to meet with New Jersey Representatives in the House and Senate to discuss these policies, including Senator Cory A. Booker, Congressman Leonard Lance, Congressman Scott Garrett and staff for Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr., Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr., Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo, Congressman Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, and Congressman Christopher H. Smith. The following are a few of the important policy priorities that were discussed and debated during the Tech Policy Summit:
High-Skilled Immigration Reform and Skills for the 21st Century Workforce. Recognizing the need for high-skilled workers in the technology industry, delegations addressed bills such as the Immigration Innovation or “I-Squared” Act of 2015 (see our January 22, 2015 blog post Current Visa Caps Hold for 2015 but Bills Introduced to Loosen Restrictions on High-Skilled Guest Workers by Patrick Lucignani). Problematically, many foreign students are educated at U.S. institutions but are unable to remain in the U.S. and work, and they return to their home countries taking their knowledge and skills with them. Further, more American students need to embark on STEM careers and it is imperative to increase education and training for the high skilled jobs of tomorrow. Since it will take many years to improve the educational system and guide American students to these careers, delegations advocated for high-skilled immigration reform to meet immediate demands. Whether this can become a reality will depend on whether this issue can be separated from more comprehensive immigration reform which is being debated in Congress.
Cybersecurity/Threat data sharing and a Federal data breach notification law. Recognizing that economic expansion rests on the creation of new and innovative business models that leverage internet-based platforms that are trusted, secure and accessible, there is an imminent need for common sense data and cybersecuity policies. Delegations advocated for enhanced national cybersecurity and critical infrastructure protection through support for an environment that fosters real time threat sharing between the government and private sector, an incentive-based voluntary approach to cybersecurity to develop a framework that utilizes industry best practices and promotes voluntary adoption. In addition, a national standard is needed for data breach notification that preempts state laws and provides greater penalties for cybercriminals to deter and combat bad actors and punish criminals. It is anticipated that legislation in this regard will be introduced this year.
Availability and delivery of high speed broadband communications. It is becoming increasingly important to keep the internet open and encourage deployment of new, faster broadband to ensure innovation, economic growth and social interaction, especially to geographic areas that could benefit from increased development. Delegations advocated for policies to make more spectrum available for licensed and unlicensed use and encourage incentives for government spectrum users to share, sell or lease their spectrum.
Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA). Since its enactment in 1998, the ITFA has banned federal, state and local governments from taxing internet access charges and multiple taxes on electronic commerce. However, this moratorium is set to expire on October 1, 2015. Delegations advocated for a permanent ban on taxation of internet access charges as provided in H.R. 235.
The tech sector clearly favors passing of law and other legal reforms that will spur economic growth, create and protect jobs, reform our immigration policies, protect privacy and security and improve educational systems. Developments on these issues will be watched closely by Epstein Becker Green attorneys in its workplace management, immigration, litigation and regulatory practice groups who can assist businesses navigate these issues as they evolve.