Changes are coming to Congress, and potentially to the tech industry as well.
Tuesday's midterm election results are projected to give Democrats control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans will retain their majority in the Senate.
In addition to providing a check on the President Trump's and the GOP-controlled Senate's policy agendas more broadly, the changing Congress could mean that certain policy issues weighing heavily on the tech industry are more likely to come to the fore. In particular, with Democrats in control of the House, policy issues that have some forward momentum on both sides of the aisle may be the key ones to watch.
For many in the tech industry, data privacy is top of mind as Congress prepares for a shift in party lines. After months of Congressional hearings concerning data privacy, Republicans and Democrats may be motivated to, relatively quickly, find a consensus on a potential national privacy law that would pre-empt state laws such as California's consumer privacy law that goes into effect in 2020. Divisions will inevitably arise when it comes to the specifics of such a law, however.
"Republican members are likely to support legislation offered by large technology companies as it will tend to be more 'business friendly.' In contrast, Democratic members are likely to continue to push for tougher privacy rules that will go further than industry would prefer," said Brian Finch, public policy partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.
Debra Farber of BigID, which helps big tech companies with data management and compliance, cited the example of a bill introduced last week by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon that would create a "Do Not Track" registry allowing people to opt out of being tracked online: Despite a Democratic-controlled House, "this bill will likely not advance" with Republicans still in control of the Senate, she said.
Antitrust enforcement of Big Tech is another area that a split Congress may move on, albeit more slowly. With plenty of bipartisan chatter about the unprecedented size and power of companies including Facebook (FB) - Get Facebook, Inc. Class A Report , Alphabet (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report and Amazon (AMZN) - Get Amazon.com, Inc. Report , a bipartisan consensus may be possible. President Trump suggested he was "very seriously" looking at antitrust in a recent interview. While antitrust enforcement is principally handled by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, Congress can pass laws to strengthen the government's hand in bringing antitrust cases -- and House Democrats may well take a stab at doing so.
"Shoring up antitrust and giving increased scrutiny to these companies is definitely on the Democrats' agenda," said Gigi Sohn, a fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology & Policy.
Another issue that is critical to the technology industry, startups and major companies alike, is the flow of immigration.
Trump has endorsed legislation that would slash legal immigration by half in addition to restricting H-1B visas, and a recent analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy found that the denial rate for H-1B visa petitions spiked 41% during the last quarter of fiscal 2017.
That's bad news for tech companies that struggle to find enough skilled workers -- and more Democrats in Congress may serve to keep the Trump administration's immigration-unfriendly policies in check.
"One of the many key issues for technology companies is access to talent and continuing to foster a climate of innovation. Since at least WWII, the United States has been viewed globally as the place to go for the world's best and brightest talent, particularly those with advanced training in math and science. Immigrants start more than a quarter of new American businesses and are critical to the success of almost all of the rest," added Erik Severinghaus of cloud management platform SpringCM.
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