Tech Issues Should Bring the Parties Together

The election is still days away so speculating about what legislation that the U.S. Congress will work on next year may seem like folly.

After all, the candidates keep telling us this is the most important election in our lifetime and it represents the “starkest choice in decades.” That should translate into vastly different legislative agendas depending upon who wins, right? Don’t be so sure.

Regardless of who wins, there are a handful of issues that are critical to the country and the tech communities around which there has been a framework of bipartisan agreement.

Legal Immigration Reform

After years of supercharged debate, the discussion around immigration may have reached a crescendo. Both candidates have campaigned in favor of legal immigration. Both have supported the often evoked concept of “stapling a green card to every graduate diploma.” Now that President Obama’s Mini DREAM Act Executive Order is in place, will we finally be able to separate the “legal” from the “illegal” and move forward on encouraging the world’s best and brightest to study, work and build innovative new companies here in the U.S.

Both presidential candidates support this goal, and lawmakers have introduced multiple proposals over the years. Proposals focused on “startup visas” (for foreign-born entrepreneurs who start companies here) and increasing the number of green cards for STEM students should move forward.  The National Venture Capital Association is focused on legislation that not only “allows” immigrants to start companies here, but motivates them to do so.

Online IP Protection

Neither political party wants to be responsible for curbing innovation. Also, neither political party wants rogue websites enabling the theft of intellectual property. This past year, many NVCA members in the tech sector worked to derail the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which, as drafted, would have exerted chilling effects on startup companies and the innovation engine we need to power U.S. economic growth. While the SOPA/PIPA legislation was thwarted, the copyright issues that were driving it remain.

We expect elements of both bills to return in new legislation in 2013.

When this happens, we’ll need more than social media and grass roots opposition. That’s why the NVCA has worked to identify areas of consensus among the disparate stakeholders and developed workable alternatives to some of the more aggressive proposals put forward in SOPA and PIPA. If the legislation is brought to the table again, we are poised to bring solutions.

Coming together to develop consensus on this is not a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s an American competitiveness issue.

Cyber Security

In less polarized environments, this issue would seem like a classic, bipartisan no-brainer. Certainly, nobody wants his or her information stolen online. Likewise, no company wants to serve as the weak link that lets cyber attackers into our infrastructure.

Of course, effective cyber security measures should improve overall security without overreaching from a constitutional standpoint or overburdening small businesses. So far, divergent opinions on these last two points have made a broad-based agreement elusive thus far.

That said, Obama has identified cyber security as a priority of his administration, and a Romney presidency may want to kickoff his term with a law enforcement and national security win. Thus, the NVCA must remain vigilant to ensure that any proposal does not treat all businesses the same and takes into account the impact of protective measures on the operations of startup companies.

Granted, none of these issues brings the national sizzle that some of the hot-button election issues provided. But after months of skewering each other over jobs and the economy, it’s a good bet many lawmakers will be looking for issues that can demonstrate some real progress.

These issues are important to the venture and tech communities and good for the country. They should get done regardless of who is sworn into office next year.

Emily Baker is vice president of federal policy and political advocacy for NVCA and can be reached at