The 114th Congress Convened on January 6, 2015
When the new Congress convened, the House consisted of 246 Republicans and 188 Democrats, with one seat vacant. The Senate is now 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats and 2 Independents. Approaching deadlines and recently lapsed programs will help drive action in Congress this year. For example, the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) supports U.S. exports by providing insurance and loans to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. products. The bank’s charter was extended through June under the continuing appropriations resolution, H.J.Res 124, enacted in September, but unless reauthorized the bank wouldn’t be able to issue new financing. Also, more than 50 temporary tax incentives were renewed for 2014 under H.R.5771, allowing a wide range of businesses and individuals to claim them during the 2015 filing season. These “tax extenders” expired Dec. 31, 2014, less than two weeks after the legislation was signed into law. Congress may not revisit the issue again until the end of 2015, before the 2016 filing season, which has been the trend for dealing with extenders over the past several years. However, some lawmakers have said the tax breaks should be addressed through a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code. This would provide an opportunity to make some provisions permanent and eliminate others for good, instead of revisiting the issue every year or two.
Rep. Darrell Issa just announced that patents will be the subject of one of his panel’s very first meetings this year. He and full Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte plan to reintroduce the Innovation Act “sooner rather than later.” While Rep. Issa is interested in adding a little to the measure, he expects it’ll probably look a lot like the one that the House passed in late 2013. Issa also noted that associations representing universities, technology companies, biotech and pharmaceutical firms are all looking to tweak various rules that govern the patent system and accumulating wish lists could complicate chances for patent reform in the new Congress. So while Issa believes a patent reform bill that cleared the House last year could be a starting point for addressing frivolous litigation, he also believes the debate easily could dredge up other issues in copyright, like the new war between Google and the movie studios. Issa did say he would try to bring all parties to the table. Issa also blasted the PTO for poor management at a hearing last year and said he may want to tack on provisions aimed at encouraging better management of that agency.
On the positive side, Congressman Scott Peters has just been appointed to the Judiciary Committee, and he has been an ardent opponent of any weakening of the patent system that would adversely affect innovation.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has offered his clearest roadmap to date on net neutrality. He’s circulating a proposal among commissioners by Feb. 5, holding vote on Feb. 26 and pretty much backing utility regulation of broadband. However, incoming Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune said that he’d like to move a bill ‘that might be an alternative to Title II’ – and those plans are getting a little firmer. Republicans are likely to drop such a bill next month, in hopes of preempting Wheeler’s official announcement of the new rules.The bill would establish a new ‘Title X’ provision of the Communications Act under which telco’s would be held to strict net neutrality principles – which would supersede any regulation under ‘Title II’. Former Congressman Rick Boucher who chaired the key subcommittee has written a good explanation that can be accessed by clicking here.
Repeal of Medical Device Tax
On January 7, Reps. Paulsen and Kind introduced their bill, the Protect Medical Innovation Act, H.R.160, with 254 cosponsors. Senators Hatch and Klobuchar introduced their version of repeal legislation today, S.149, the Medical Device Access and Innovation Protection Act. This version of repeal legislation is supported by a bipartisan group of 10 Senators, with five Republicans and five Democrats. A letter endorsed by a broad, multi-industry coalition of companies advocating for prompt consideration of repeal is being sent to Congressional leadership. CONNECT is a signatory.
Sen. Orrin Hatch is set to reintroduce his high-skilled immigration bill this week. Hatch’s Immigration Innovation – or I-Squared Act would raise the yearly cap on H-1B, or “high-skilled,” visas from 65,000 up to 195,000 and remove limits on the number of high-skilled visas for employees with advanced degrees. Hatch’s bill would also enable visa holders’ spouses to work, increase visa holders’ ability to move between jobs, recapture unused green cards from previous years and eliminate yearly per-country caps for employment-based visa petitioners. The bill already has bipartisan backing, with Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Chris Coons and Richard Blumenthal, as well as Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and Marco Rubio, as original co-sponsors. The bill is the first tech immigration bill this Congress.
Tax/Small Business Legislation
The House of Representatives voted to make it easier to reduce taxes, passing a rule on the first day of the new session to let lawmakers assume that lower levies boost the economy and cover some of their own budgetary costs. The adoption of so-called dynamic scoring gives Republicans greater leeway to adopt tax policies that otherwise, would have been scored as increasing the U.S. budget deficit.
SBA Seeking Comments on Proposed Rule Amendments to the National Defense Authorization
The SBA is seeking comments from small businesses that contract or subcontract with the Department of Defense. The proposed amendments make changes to regulations relating to the non-manufacturer rule by proposing to allow a joint venture to qualify as a small business for government procurement. Additionally, the SBA is requesting comments regarding procedures for the NAICS code. The deadline to submit comments is February 27, 2015. To read the proposed rules, click here. To submit comments, click here.
$75 Million in State Tax Credits Available
The California Competes Tax Credit is an income tax credit available to businesses that want to come to California or stay and grow in California. The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) will be hosting a workshop on January 23, 2015 on how to apply for this credit. The tax credits are negotiated by GO-Biz and approved by the California Competes Tax Credit Committee. The application period opened on January 5, 2015 and will close on February 2, 2015. More information can be found on the program here.The online application for the credit can be accessed here.
Friday, January 23, 2015 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. San Diego Miramar College Business & Math Building, M110 10440 Black Mountain Road, San Diego, CA 92126
To attend this free workshop, register here