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STATE Policy Agenda

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Innovation/Technology/New Economy

Executive Summary

State legislatures, local councils, and courts across the country have reacted in different manners to the rise of the innovation, sharing, and gig economies in an effort to oversee or regulate disruptive technology.  One of TechNet's top priorities is to prevent regulation from stifling new, innovative business models that have arisen or that have yet to emerge.  A critical rule to follow is that any creation of new legal or regulatory requirements should be tailored to the new product, directly tied to an identified harm, limited to gaps in existing coverage, focused on bad actors, and narrowly tailored to avoid conflicts or discrepancies in the law and unintended consequences.  Another is to make sure new rules on sharing and gig economies do not unfairly focus on Internet-based models.  TechNet will promote policies to encourage the development of entrepreneurship, mobile commerce, and the next wave of innovation in the new economy.  Establishing an innovation-friendly policy framework is the key to the competitiveness of the technology industry.

Access to Markets

While legislatures, local councils, and courts must balance new innovations with consumer protection, TechNet opposes regulatory restrictions imposed to protect existing markets from competition, such as excessive insurance requirements, caps on the number of services a company can provide, and unreasonable barriers to market entry.

TechNet supports legislation to protect consumers when it is based on an identifiable harm that has or could occur.  TechNet opposes legislation that regulates specific technologies based on unknown impacts to a consumer.  In circumstances where policymakers have identified a significant threat or occurrence of harm that is not already prohibited or otherwise addressed by existing law or regulation, the cost, difficulty, and practicality of implementing new rules and regulations should be analyzed against the magnitude and probability of potential harm.  Further, policymakers should note the difficulties inherent in state and local regulation on companies and products that are multi-state or global in operations, including the interplay of other state or federal legal requirements.

Access to Innovation

Far too many federally funded research projects fail to move from the idea phase to the new business phase.  State and federal law should be changed to encourage faster, more efficient commercialization of federally funded research.  Additionally, federal policy should be changed to fund development projects in addition to its almost exclusive emphasis on research.  TechNet supports the use of non-exclusive licenses to promote competitive markets and the exploration of new ownership models, including co-ownership between inventors and universities.

Dynamic Labor Laws

The modern workforce requires a flexible employment environment that allows workers to find opportunities that best match their skills, interests, and availability.  TechNet opposes efforts to eliminate or severely restrict this essential flexibility, including restrictions on the use of independent contractor and consultant classifications, inflexible overtime rules, and indiscriminate expansion of collective bargaining rules.  TechNet supports efforts to develop new avenues and “safe-harbors” that empower companies to provide benefits to workers without impacting classification outcomes.  Furthermore, TechNet encourages policymakers to look at the array of benefits and tools available to independent professionals to help them become more resilient as successful self-employed business persons, including tax policy, deductions and credits relating to the purchase of healthcare coverage, disability and long term care, social security and Medicare, and retirement and emergency savings.  Improving these benefits, encouraging participation, and making them fairer towards employees is the best place to start, either in conjunction with or before talk of new social safety net regulatory requirements.

Fair and Inclusionary Laws to Promote Diverse Workforce

TechNet member companies are consistently competing for the nation’s best and brightest workers and seek to attract the most talented students from across the country.  Strong, pro-inclusionary, and anti-discriminatory state laws are needed to ensure that these efforts are successful and that the talent pool feels welcome and protected from discrimination across the country.

TechNet will engage on relevant legislation that could impact workforce recruitment efforts, complicate human resources administration, or undermine the technology community’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Environmental Stewardship 

New technologies are typically far more efficient than those they displace and can save the economy ten times the energy that they consume.  TechNet member companies have developed and maintain significant practices and policies to protect the environment and promote conservation, recycling, and waste reduction.  Efforts to expand or create new mandated environmental programs should be inclusive, balanced, and data-driven in order to achieve stated aims and avoid significant disruption.

With respect to product scope and mandated environmental programs, TechNet's members support a balanced approach.  Government mandated environmental programs often call out and set special requirements for information technology products.  States should not show bias between industries when setting mandates for products with similar compositions.  Similarly composed products, regardless of sector, must have equal requirements.

Internet Access

A core value of TechNet is embracing policies that expand access to the Internet and technology, provide a safe and secure consumer experience, and promote strong industry competition (while opposing provisions that would create unnecessary regulations or legal requirements).  TechNet will support government efforts to increase access to the Internet when those efforts open new routes to high speed access not previously available, support a competitive marketplace, are cost effective, and focus on consumer demand.

With the rapid evolution of technologies, rising consumer demand for data, and the dawn of the “Internet of Things,” TechNet believes that telecommunications policy and regulation must support continued private investment in broadband networks to build on the $1.4 trillion in private capital already invested.

TechNet supports policies that promote broadband adoption and digital literacy to bridge the digital divide. TechNet supports policies and programs that increase Internet adoption at home and expand digital literacy so that no student is subject to the “homework gap.”

TechNet also strongly believes in protecting one of the great benefits of the Internet age, and that is the impact it has had on free speech. TechNet will work vigorously to defend this right and will oppose efforts that unfairly restrict freedom of expression on the Internet, either directly or with legal or regulatory tools that would allow private parties to suppress the free exchange of ideas.

Reasonable Statutory and Regulatory Framework

New technologies bring new products and services to market.  On occasion, these new products and services generate significant policymaker interest because of transformative features with little precedent and high consumer interface.  Autonomous cars, unmanned aerial vehicles, self-service healthcare, and similar innovations are examples.

While some lawmaking can be needed or helpful, TechNet will be vigilant against unnecessary, harmful, or hostile laws and regulations.  Generally speaking, efforts to modernize the legal framework can be supported if they:

  • Support the underlying and future innovation inherent in the product or service.
  • Focus on prohibiting negligent, reckless, or criminal conduct and on the actors rather than the technology.
  • Avoid duplicating existing requirements and creating unclear or confusing overlap or conflicts with existing requirements.
  • Recognize the benefits of the new technology.

Autonomous Vehicle Standards

Ongoing advancements in the operation of autonomous vehicles are in the process of allowing a revolutionary change that enables independent operation free of the cost, inefficiency, and public safety dangers associated with human operators.  TechNet supports implementation of a legal framework, preferably uniform and at the highest level of governmental jurisdiction available, that promotes fully autonomous operation of roadway and aerial vehicles.  Specifically, TechNet opposes laws or regulations that require human control or intervention capabilities or places unreasonable operating restrictions on autonomous vehicles.  Moreover, TechNet opposes the creation of duplicative or patchwork rules that would confuse the public and inhibit the use of technology that has public safety, efficiency, and environmental benefits for society.

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