Congress Votes to Allow Internet Providers to Change FCC Rules

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On March 28, 2017, Congress passed legislation allowing internet services providers to collect and sell internet browsing history of their customers. Companies such as Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast will legally be allowed to take data from customers in order to have their advertisements more catered toward user’s interests. This is a major shift in how Internet user’s privacy will be regulated and protected for years to come. The Obama administration went to great lengths to restrict ISPs (Internet Service Providers) from collecting personal data from their consumers.

The Federal Communications Commission created restrictions during the Obama era to halt the providers from utilizing user’s activity online. The Net Neutrality law played a huge part in these companies blocking, controlling, and collecting information from Internet users. Online users had to be prompted prior to their data being collected. Another issue arising with companies collecting internet data is that they now have to protect it from hackers.

President Trump passed this legislation of overturning Internet protection by signing it into law on April 3rd, 2017. The White House stated, “The rule departs from the technology-neutral framework for online privacy administered by the Federal Trade.” The Trump administration feels as though these regulations were overbearing and unnecessary.

These major internet providers made sure give consumers a piece of mind by letting them know they had no grounds to worry. Comcast released a statement saying, “If a customer does not want us to use other, non-sensitive data to send them targeted ads, we offer them the ability to opt out of receiving such targeted ads.”

The FCC has already begun to create a plan regarding these changes. They have begun to map out the steps in which to reverse the Net Neutrality law. The proposal does, however, require the billion dollar companies to promise to upkeep the principles that the previous law required of them. These principles are mostly defined by not blocking users to specific websites or giving specific sites priority over other non-organically.

Ajit Pai, FCC Chairman, feels as though the repercussions of the restrictions ISPs has thus made their previous decision a “mistake.” He also commented about there will be a noticeable shift in leadership style within the FCC. Pai also brought up another change in how the FCC will be supervising zero-rating plans offered to consumers by ISPs. Many will find this to be a complicated situation in terms how companies will regulate data collection and how the companies, themselves, will be monitored. These changes will begin a shift of user-mindset on clear judgment online rather than relying on the protection of ISPs. Since society has become so dependent on the internet, the future of data collection and the legality behind it will be a back and forth battle.

 

 

Associations, Congress, the federal government and 2017 – A Busy Year

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This article was written by John Chwat and originally published in Association Trends

Beyond the headlines, trade and professional associations across the U.S. are preparing for a very busy 2017 with the new 115th Congress to start Jan. 3 and a new administration taking over after the Inauguration on Jan. 20. Leadership in the Congress and the future White House has indicated a “front loaded” first six months with issues, legislation, actions on regulations and policy after the State of Union (February thru July 2017) until the start of the August recess in Congress. Associations need to do their homework on targets for influence and presenting 2017 top priority issues to the right people and the right time. The past two months have seen many association “retreats” and positioning on what issues to present to the President-elect Trump transition and to leaders in Congress. Issues “homework” for association government relations includes:

  • Making a list (and develop strategies to meet with and present agendas) of all officials in top positions within the federal departments and agencies that impact the association. Follow these officials (and their deputies and assistant deputies) as more than 3,600 political appointments by the new White House will begin in the new year. Many of these below-the-Cabinet-level appointments will be announced throughout the early part of 2017. Transition with these officials will have tremendous impact on all issues.
  • Making a list of new leadership in Congress with their new staffs relating to the association priorities. Meet with these officials and staffs, either in Washington or in their state or district offices as soon as possible to inform, present and support your association priorities. All leadership staffs will embark early on in the year to set agendas for first session.
  • Engage with the “freshman” representatives and senators coming into the Congress, whether in Washington or their districts. They need association “education.”
  • Finally, do not forget your allied and supportive association “friends’ on joint issues. They, too, have had changes of staff, officials and leadership going into 2017, and will make great coalition partners in convincing Congress and the White House to support your priorities.

A key action item is adapting to changes in all committees and subcommittees of the Congress – what will the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., and his staff bring? Or the new chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., on education and labor issues? Other leaders have been slowly emerging but the total membership of all committees and subcommittees will be assigned and announced early in 2017 and these will form the basis of you priority issue presentations for 2017.

Association issues depend in large part of priorities set and interests established. However, for 2017, this poses a new opportunity that many associations might want to take advantage of in the coming months. No transition in the past (aside from Carter-Reagan and perhaps Hoover-Roosevelt) has offered such a dynamic change in policy and direction in the nation’s capitol. Here are some suggestions:

  • Make lists and rank federal regulations imposed on the association members the past eight or more years, and see if there are opportunities to revise or repeal these?
  • Review legislative priorities that may be able to be “moved” forward with the new leadership. New approaches to issues.
  • In the next four years, Congress will assert its “power” back from a more aggressive executive branch. Much activity and funding may devolve to state governments. How will these changes impact your association?

Finally, go beyond the headlines. See association issues as opportunities, such as revision of the tax code and impact on exempt or nonprofits; repeal or replacement of the ACA (“Obamacare”) offers new opportunities for association health plans; changes in Labor Department overtime rules, and lobbying reforms that could impact associations. The list is endless, but are you prepared for the changes to come?

Overtime Rule Halted, Not Over

John Chwat overtime rule haltedLast month I discussed the government’s pending overtime rule, which  was expected to shake things up for businesses around the country. The Department of Labor’s decision would have more than doubled the current salary limits for those eligible for overtime, with the potential of causing over a billion dollars in revenue loss for small enterprises. It was scheduled to take effect this month, but its implementation has been delayed.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III issued a preliminary injunction on the case, with the goal of preventing a mandatory payroll increase that may have resulted in layoffs for millions of people or fewer jobs altogether. This judgement was decided just before the Thanksgiving holiday, offering some relief to business owners who’d been wary of the change, like those in the security industry, with whom I’d spoke back in August.

The Labor Department, however, was not pleased. In a statement issued shortly after, the department expressed their disagreement with the ruling and promised to pursue its legal options. Thus, businesses remain in limbo about whether or not the rule will be implemented at all.

This delay is not an all out victory; it should not be perceived as such based on the current information. However, it does offer businesses some time to plan further and to begin implementing some of the structured changes to work culture and expectations to prepare for similar outcomes going forward.

With an administration transition just weeks away, there is no guarantee about whether this change to the Fair Labor Standards Act will be enacted. Yet I will provide updates on these developments as they occur.

3 Ways Overtime Laws Could Hurt Small Businesses

pexels-photo-87322-largeThe government’s new overtime rule is expected to debut at the end of the year, and will have major consequences for everyone, but mostly businesses. The US Department of Labor’s (DoL) revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act will more than double the current limit on income eligible for overtime pay, from less than $455 per week to $913 per week.

 

As a result, business would lose approximately $1.4 trillion trying to accommodate these new standards, especially those with white-collar employees. The biggest concerns obviously come from the small business community, who’ve only recently experienced recovery after the country’s economic crisis. Other labor laws exclude small businesses from such rules, this one makes no distinction. Hence, businesses will likely be affected in the following ways:

 

  1. Less Profit
    Paying overtime can be costly for business. Experts suggest that to be financially efficient, business payroll should only account for 20 to 30 percent of overall revenue. If these increases lead businesses to increase payroll budgets without a direct correlation in revenue, small businesses lose money. We should be looking to help those entities as much as possible, at this time.
  2. Fewer Jobs
    With less revenue, businesses may be more reluctant or wholly unable to grow in measurable, meaningful ways that would also create more jobs. Small businesses are the vanguards of new job growth in the United States, with this dynamic shift, our rather consistent unemployment rates may change for the worse.

  3. Decreased Wages
    As a preemptive measure, some companies may actually lower employee wages so that overtime is not an unnecessary burden. This practice will be in effect whether or not an employee actually receives overtime, which will be damaging to the economy, decreasing spending power. Such a move would also be damaging to certain businesses’ ability to compete.

 

I spoke more on this topic in a recent interview with Security Systems News. Read more and let me Tweet me your thoughts or concerns on this matter.

Five Necessary Skills for Becoming A Successful Lobbyist

professional man in suspenders and a bowtieUnlike the elected officials with whom lobbyists most engage, the career path to becoming a lobbyist is not as strictly defined. It is true that many of the most prominent professionals in the industry are attorneys, but a degree in law is not required for lobbying, nor will it alone provide you with the tools necessary to be impactful in the field. Rather, those interested in joining nearly 13,000 other influencers in the industry should work to ensure that she/he possesses and develops the following skills:

  1. Communication
    At the heart of the work lobbyists do is communicating with lawmakers on behalf of special interests (large and small) and organizations. Thus, it is the most primary skill necessary for meeting the objectives of this role. Communicating involves being able to articulate clearly and professionally through written and oral means. Furthermore, you should be skilled at speaking publicly and comfortable engaging more than one type of person or group, in ways that most interest and connect with them. It’s very important to note that communication doesn’t end at your ability to speak or write well, but also your ability to listen intently and genuinely. Every interaction should be an exchange. If you’re only hoping to speak your piece without hearing what either your client or the lawmaker has to say, you’re in the wrong business.
  2. Networking
    As a lobbyist, especially in Washington, you will come in contact with a lot of very important people, even when you’re not actively on an assignment. You should be a people person, someone who’s approachable, friendly, and capable of using the aforementioned communication skills to build a rapport with the person about their own skills, connections, and relation to what you do in one way or another. The first rule of networking is making sure that you’re offering to address a need rather than asking for a favor. Keep business cards with you at all times, and expect one from your new contact. Then, make it a point to follow up with that person, reminding them of your conversation or connection, and if you can help one another, remember to follow up, make further connections, and build a list of potential advocates, mentors, and supporters. Who you know is the key to all things.
  3. Analytical
    Another key factor of the job is strategy. In other words, you have a task, how do you go about completing it? This requires analytical and critical thinking skills, which encompass a thorough understanding of proper timing, tools needed, and ways to navigate your way through the sometimes opaque process. Consider that many of those that congressmen with whom you will meet, will also be meeting with others, in addition to managing their own careers, serving their constituents, and working on a number of other tasks. Before you’ve picked up the phone to schedule a meeting, you should already have a game plan and action steps to reach the finish line.
  4. Research
    In order to create a strategy, you will also need to be adept in research. Study everything about your cause and how it works in tandem with the goals or needs of the congressperson. You should know it like the back of your hand, but also come prepared with visuals, such as graphs and charts, and other necessary materials to put the pieces of the puzzle together for your audience. Anticipate all questions and study the correct answers to provide data that will help influence a final decision.
  5. Persuasive
    Still, merely providing research is not enough to make impact. A great lobbyist must also be convincing, able to truly persuade and influence decisions in the favor of his interest. This is a fundamental part of politics, and the cornerstone for all of the work you will do. Be able to show policymakers why your interest makes political sense and how it benefits them as well as the public.

Apple, Amazon, and Google Have Created a Lobby Organization

When people think of lobbying, they tend to think of the traditional industries that have engaged in the practice. Industries such as agriculture, finance, business, and manufacturing have frequently used lobbyists and lobbying firms to promote their interests in the government. That being said, as new forefronts of business and commerce continue to open and expand, new forms of lobbying and new groups are going to pop-up to serve the needs of these new business niches. One such example of this is the teaming up of three of the largest technology giants in the world to create an organization that will represent them and their interests when it comes to writing laws and the US government.hammer-719066_640

Apple, Google, and Amazon, usually rivals in basically every field, have teamed up to form the newest Washington D.C. advocacy group, Financial Innovation Now. The main purpose of this newest group is push for more comprehensive legislature when it comes to the topics of technology, cyber security, and basic access to financial services. The group will also be focusing on issues of fraud prevention, online lending, and making payments in real time over the internet. This is a big move for any group of companies, especially ones that are currently locked in a battle for marketshare in industries ranging from personal tablets to phones to online sales.

The fact is that this sort of group has quickly become necessary as technology has taken off and begun horning in on businesses that were traditionally done in person. Financial service apps are on the rise (ranging from apps like Venmo that allow you to transfer money between friends to official banking apps) and the increase in technological access and capabilities are already putting pressure on industries to do with things like cyber security. There’s a lot to lose with a congress that is slow to move and resistant to change and the imperative behind this new organization is to make sure that congress is approaching technology laws with the knowledge to make the right choice and not look at the laws through outdated views.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

EU Lobbying is Killing the Death Penalty

After seeing the dramatic effects of World War II, Europe rallied in opposition against the death penalty.  In the case of such extreme horror, the lines of justice were blurred.  Capital punishment no longer was a quick solution for separating guilty members of society from good people.  As a result, no execution has taken place on the territory of the Council of Europe’s states since 1997 (with the exception of Belarus).

WASHINGTON - JULY 01:  Activists participate in a vigil against the death penalty in front of the U.S. Supreme Court July 1, 2008 in Washington, DC. The Abolitionist Action Committee and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty held the vigil to abolish the death penalty to mark the 1972 and 1976 Supreme Court rulings suspending the death penalty and later allowing executions to resume.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – JULY 01: Activists participate in a vigil against the death penalty in front of the U.S. Supreme Court July 1, 2008 in Washington, DC. The Abolitionist Action Committee and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty held the vigil to abolish the death penalty to mark the 1972 and 1976 Supreme Court rulings suspending the death penalty and later allowing executions to resume. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The United States has been slower to action, because capital punishment is a long-contested tradition in many states.  Recently, an increase in lobbying efforts from the European Union have recently influenced the abolition of the death penalty in many American states.

The death penalty is used in 58 countries worldwide and enforces an estimated 5,000 executions each year. A recent Politico article addresses the recent activity of EU lobbyists to abolish the death penalty.  Author James Panichi writes how the strongly committed the lobbyists are in fighting the death penalty, acting through diplomacy to enact change around the globe.  A program known as the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) provides grants to NGOs to implement projects to fight torture in developing tortures and abolish the death penalty globally.

While the European Court of Auditors was not able to establish a direct causal link between EU spending and progress in the U.S. campaign, lobbyists are confident that the campaign’s success exists in measures that are difficult to quantify.  The involvement of European lobbyists in highly sensitive political affairs gives them the opportunity to educate U.S. politicians about the impact of capital punishment in society.  According to James Panichi, six of the seven U.S.-based projects funded by the EU to promote the abolition of capital punishment have had a “combined positive impact” on the debate.

Any influence on a stagnant political issue means lobbyists are creating change.  In Europe, justice has been proven to function without capital punishment.  The involvement of European lobbyists in U.S. politics is an exciting development as our intercultural relationships become ever more important.

The Iran Deal Lobbying is Getting Intense as Vote Nears

The deal between the United States of America and Iran has been controversial since it’s inception. Based around the Iranian nuclear program, the deal is aimed at lifting sanctions against the government, leaders, and businesses in Iran in return for full access to the nuclear program and promises that it won’t be used for anything other than peaceful purposes. As anyone who has any knowledge about both the political situation in the Middle East, as well as that of our own United States can image, this deal has gone down terribly with a large number of politicians. While those against the deal are mostly coming from the Republican party, there are also some Democrats speaking out against easing up on Iran.

As the vote to enact this deal gets closer and closer to happening, lobbying both for and against the deal has ratcheted up as well. While lawmakers were home for the August recess, advocacy and lobbying groups for both sides have been active spreading their message and trying to win votes and support for their cause. They also haven’t just been sticking to one or two mediums to get their point across. Along with getting groups of people to attend the public meetings legislators are holding in regards to this issue, the groups are also taking full advantage of technology.

The lobbying efforts on both sides have lead to mass influx of TV ads, of telephone calls to congressional offices, and to massive social media campaigns across the most popular platforms, including the likes of Twitter and Facebook. New ads across all mediums are appearing with some regularity and, unfortunately, they all seem to take a scary tone in an attempt to sway viewers out of fear. While this current lobbying battle isn’t as strong as those based on issues such as Obamacare and social security, it is a glimpse at how future lobbying battles based on foreign policy might end up looking. The use of media in this battle has been on a much more intense scale than of those in the past, something that will only continue in the future. It will be interesting to see both who uses the better tactics, as well as how lobbyists in the future will reappropriate those tactics for future lobbying and advocacy campaigns.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

9 Year Old Lobbyist Secures $1 Million

Lobbyists get a bad rap and are subject to stereotypes that frequently hide the truth. One of the most popular stereotypes is that all lobbyists are white men in suits working in the political shadows to gain favor for those who support the status quo. However, in an example that will shatter negative stereotypes about lobbyists, a 9 year old girl in Tallahassee, Florida has successfully lobbied for $1 million to be used to support visually impaired children and their families. The money is going to deal with the fact that blind children in Florida aren’t eligible for state assistance from the ages of 6-13, putting extra social and financial strain on them and their families.

john chwat, lobbying, the chwat group, washington dc

Paloma Ricci met with State Representative Dennis Baxley on her lobbying trail to gain funding for Florida’s uncovered blind children.
Credit Elizabeth Ricci via Paloma’s Dream / WFSU News

Paloma Ricci is a 9 year old girl who has founded Paloma’s Dream, an organization that works to educate visually impaired people across the state of Florida. She realized that there was a massive sector of this group that was even more underserved than the others; children and their families who fell between the gaps of state assistance. She worked to push the Florida legislators into funding services that would help visually impaired children in her age group. Her efforts were a success and governor Rick Scott approved the $1 million she asked for. Not only that, but half the fund will recur, meaning that there will continue to be money to assist children in need.

While this has been a huge success for Paloma, she’s not done. Her final goal is to raise $8 million in funding so that everyone who falls into the assistance gap can have the funds they need to be able to learn and progress in their lives. The money is going to help subsidize the cost of the technology needed in the classroom as well as for communication classes run by the Department of Education’s Division of Blind Services Program. With plans to already return to the legislature next year to lobby for money, it seems as though there might be a new lobbyists to watch out for in Florida.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

NY Education Reform Spurs Lobbying “Arms Race”

Education policy is a big business all over the country. Regardless of your opinions on the current state of the US education system, there’s no denying that it is worth a lot of money and will continue to be so in the future. When states open up their education policies to review and change, they inevitably open the gates to the lobbyists who are working to influence the new policies in favor of their clients. Now, with the announcement of New York state’s decision to update it’s education policies, lobbyists and their benefactors around the state are gearing up for for a whirlwind of politics, money, and influence.

So far, since the start of 2006, numerous education interests and the lobbyists working on their behalf have spent at least $124 million trying to influence politicians, officials, and locals to support their causes (around $16 million was spent just last year). That’s not all though. The New York State Teachers Union and it’s New York City affiliates have also spent another $45.3 million in the past 9 years, although they are considered to be labor organizations as opposed to educational organizations. Now if you take all that money and you add in political education spending, you realize that education interests and teachers unions have spent $285.5 million over the past decade on lobbying and in pursuit of their goals. Clearly education reform is important to many different organizations and it means that the decision to update the current legislation is going to simply increase the amount of money spent.

With educational lobbying and spending increasing every year (it’s been a 57% increase since 2006) and education issues topping the state’s 2015 legislature session, the spending on education reform and education lobbyists is only going to increase. More and more people, and therefore companies and organized groups, are growing concerned with education and education reform as the United States continues to slip in world rankings. It seems as though this trend isn’t going to end any time soon, meaning that education lobbyists are going to increase in importance and have increasing amounts of money behind them as they try to persuade politicians and lawmakers that their side is the correct one.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.