2015 Legislative Highlights and Look at 2016

2015 was a very exciting year for CompTIA Advocacy, beginning with hope around immigration reform and other large legislative priorities, settling into a long partisan stalemate of inactivity, and ending the year with a flood of legislative accomplishment that cleared a large number of long-awaited priorities from the Congressional agenda. 

We kicked off the year with a very successful D.C. Fly-in in February. We had over 120 tech advocates from 27 states descend on Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and push for important priority issues. Thanks to our grassroots effort, the primary policy focus of the fly-in, the extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, eventually passed Congress in the legislative year – though we remain committed to achieving a permanent extension. 

We are currently gearing up for the 2016 D.C. Fly-in February 9 – 10, 2016 and look forward to having an even bigger group in Washington this year. The CompTIA team has secured many exciting speakers to participate in our afternoon policy panel series. We will learn more about our primary legislative ask for this year, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. If you have not signed up for the fly-in, there is still time. Please visit the D.C. fly-in website and register today.

This past summer our Federal Policy team refreshed and re-launched a number of
policy committees allowing our members to be even more engaged in the crafting of our legislative priorities. The Cybersecurity, Privacy, New and Emerging Technologies, Trade, Tax, Broadband and Workforce Development Committees have been well received by our membership and will continue to grow in 2016.

Despite a growing partisan divide in the House and Senate, and significant skirmishes with the White House, in the last weeks of 2015 Congress was able to overcome gridlock to advance a number of large bipartisan bills that would have seemed virtually impossible a few months earlier. 

The tech industry benefited from this sudden movement of key legislation and CompTIA was able to see several victories on issues we had set as priorities for the year.  For example, Congress passed Trade Promotion Authority, which will allow the President to advance trade agreements that will boost U.S. technology company exports, establish a level playing field for our goods and services, and in turn grow the U.S. economy.  Congress also advanced an extension the Export-Import Bank until mid-2016, and an extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (which prevents taxation of internet access).   Also included for passage was a landmark permanent extension of the R&D tax credit and a five-year extension of section 179 expensing – two provisions that will help small technology companies grow and innovate.  Congress was also able to advance a cyber security information sharing bill to share threat information in a targeted, technology neutral fashion, and on a voluntary basis as part of their end of year legislative package.

The White House has also had a busy year, advancing a number of regulatory priorities.  Most significant, however, was their successful negotiation of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which now awaits Congressional action.

While successful on a number of priority issues, Congress’ partisanship did hamstring an overwhelming number of issues important to the technology industry.  Despite initial optimism around Immigration reform and patent reform – both issues seen as top priorities for a large swath of the tech industry at the start of 2015 – they are no closer to moving through Congress than a year ago.  Despite significant support and a number of bills being introduced, a federal data breach notification standard (which would eliminate the current patchwork of state laws) was also unable to gain traction in 2015.

Much of this inaction can be credited to two significant factors – the polarization of the two parties in Congress and the looming 2016 election.  The increasingly powerful conservative movement among Republican policymakers (which successfully ousted Speaker John Boehner from his leadership post) has provided little room for compromise and has made seemingly non-controversial issues (most notably the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank) almost impossible to advance.

At the same time, the 2016 election has and will continue to shape much of the Congressional agenda. And while much of the 2015 policy landscape was dominated by debates around fiscal restraint, the outlook for 2016 will likely be framed around debates on national security given the recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, France. It is also likely that important debates on major issues – entitlement reform and tax reform, for example – will occur without meaningful progress until after the election.

Thank you for your support. CompTIA is looking forward to a successful 2016.