Difficult Congressional Agenda Looms

Difficult Congressional Agenda Looms

This piece was originally published in the September 2018 issue of electroindustry.

Joseph Eaves, Director, Government Relations, NEMA

While people on the street may focus on daily political news cycles, NEMA stays above the fray, planning instead for a new Congress and mapping the policy areas that are most likely to affect NEMA Members.

Regardless of which party controls the 116th Congress, it will face several major matters beyond the annual appropriations process. NEMA is focusing on four categories, based on conversations with congressional staff, analyses of bills we expect to be left over from this Congress, and major problems facing the nation.

Although this agenda could change once the elections are decided and unforeseen world events unfold, we want NEMA Members to start thinking about the policy challenges and opportunities that await us in 2019.

Our four categories of advocacy are data and privacy, infrastructure, healthcare, and cybersecurity and the Internet of Things (IoT).

  • Data and Privacy: With the new European Union data privacy law now in effect and many global companies having changed their data policies as a result, we expect a push of similar laws and regulations to be debated in the U.S. Already, California entered the debate with a law that was passed in June 2018 but does not go into effect for a couple of years. Given the impact social media has on society and with monthly announcements of consumer data being hacked, Congress is considering this issue as well.

NEMA has been working with several stakeholder groups to ensure that we are part of the solution. Much like other regulations, NEMA prefers a nationwide versus a state-by-state approach.

  • Infrastructure: This is an issue we have been hearing about since the 2016 campaign. However, with tax reform passed, political agreement, a long list of incomplete bills from this Congress, and a President wanting to claim another campaign achievement, we believe early congressional action is possible. The biggest hurdle on this issue is the cost and how to pay for it, but the November elections will help answer those questions.

In anticipation, NEMA staff and Members have been working on a formal infrastructure policy statement that will be submitted to the Board of Governors for its approval at the November Annual Meeting.

  • Healthcare: With the ongoing debate about the Affordable Care Act and expected increases in healthcare costs, policymakers will continue to seek ways to reduce those burdens on their constituents. While Congress already passed legislation on the opioid epidemic, it may be pressed to take further action. Because of the impact of addiction on Members’ communities and workforce, NEMA will look for ways to address these concerns.

MITA will again seek to permanently remove the burden of the device tax following success in 2018 in getting the tax delayed for another two years.

  • Cybersecurity and the IoT: In our ever-connected world, threats of cyberattacks continue to grow. They now go far beyond such major systems as the electrical grid, extending into our homes and other personal properties. While the IoT gives consumers more control and helps them save energy, smart devices are now on the front lines of attacks and provide another internet gateway that must be protected. Much like data privacy issues, states are moving first on this front and are considering security regulations and laws on connected devices. Along with security are concerns about the energy consumed by all these devices.

NEMA expects some of this state work to make its way to Congress. While some in the industry hope to prevent a state-by-state tactic, others see a nationwide approach as a means to increase the impact of the new regulations. NEMA has begun working with like-minded stakeholders and will continue to do so.

Although Congress is a reactive body, it can be shaped by unforeseen events. NEMA and its Members need to be in the forefront so that once the political leadership is in place, solutions will be based on NEMA positions and not those of other stakeholders.

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