The Innovation Initiative Ventures Forward
I often say the House of Representatives is a lot like a truck stop off an interstate highway. Members come from and represent all walks of life. The pace is often frantic with unique interactions at every turn. But most importantly, the collective pulse of our country is felt through the halls of the House. And it is clear the desire for a more innovative economy, workforce, and government stretches over every congressional district.
That is why we formed the Innovation Initiative.
Our government has fallen far behind the advances we experience in our everyday lives. Like any transformative effort, the type of reform we hope to achieve with the Innovation Initiative requires collective support. That is why we formed the iTeam — Members of Congress committed to bringing innovation to government, and harnessing innovation to grow our economy.
Yesterday was a positive day in this effort.
Yesterday the House passed legislation to further each one of our goals.
Our government should adapt to changing times — rethinking what government does and how government operates. That is why the fact that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) hadn’t been updated since 1986 was particularly troubling.
ECPA originally afforded important privacy protections to consumers during the dawn of the Internet age. But technology has advanced rapidly, and ECPA quickly became outdated.
Representative Kevin Yoder’s bill — the Email Privacy Act — would extend our rights against unnecessary search and seizure to old emails. By protecting Americans’ digital privacy while also giving law enforcement the tools it needs to do its job, this commonsense policy update reflects the Gov 2.0 approach our initiative intends to replicate. I am pleased to say this bill passed unanimously.
In addition to privacy, we are committed to building a stronger economy. And doing so begins with creating a more vibrant environment for our nation’s entrepreneurs and startups. Starting one’s own business comes with inherent risk but can offer big rewards. But getting an idea off the ground often takes substantial capital. This is something I’m familiar with — I started my first small business right after high school.
Today, government barriers have made much needed seed capital harder and harder to come by — even if there are individuals ready to invest.
Several years ago, Congress passed, and the President signed, the JOBS Act. The goal was to help increase access to capital for startups. Unfortunately, some of the provisions in the bill were interpreted by the SEC against the spirit of entrepreneurship– thus keeping the barriers to capital in place.
To fix this, the House passed the Helping Angels Lead Our Startups (HALOS) Act to remove burdensome roadblocks and give new companies an opportunity to identify and interact with potential investors — thus producing an environment for startups to thrive.
We must always strive to solve today’s problems with new ideas in order to maintain our position as the global leader in the 21st century.
Yesterday showed how the Innovation Initiative is doing just that.
This type of legislation is the necessary fuel to achieve our goals. But the Innovation Initiative is more than a list of bills. It is a way of thinking and doing.
In Congress — and government in general — a jumpstart into the 21st Century requires a dialogue with individuals and organizations that are already blazing the path. But our challenges are not small and they are not conventional. So Representative Patrick McHenry and I hosted a unique policy event dubbed, the FORUM.
In the Congressional Auditorium, we heard Representative Will Hurd talk about the power of interconnectivity of health records to save lives. Representative Susan Brooks addressed retraining a workforce for skills needed in today’s dynamic economy.
American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks encouraged all policy entrepreneurs to search for the why in our journey to reform. And Zac Bookman, a Silicon Valley innovator showcased the power of open and transparent government budget data.
Each of these brief presentations captured the audience’s attention and imagination — including dozens of civic-minded high school students.
Following the Hill’s version of TED Talks, Zac remained on stage and joined Susan Molinari, Google’s Vice President for Public Policy; Donna Harris, CEO of DC incubator 1776; and Patrick and me in a panel discussion. Fittingly, this conversation was moderated by the President of the Conservative Reform Network’s Neil Bradley.
Now that is a lot of names and affiliated organizations but the topic of conversation was simple: innovation and the impact it has on all of our lives. As a former small businessman, I understood Donna’s comment that entrepreneurship reaches all corners of our economy and communities. But perhaps the most compelling exchange occurred when Patrick poignantly stated that his focus is on leveraging innovation to improve the everyday lives of families.
The substance of the FORUM matched the urgency of our public policy needs. This is what drove Patrick and I to establish the iTeam: the recognition that unleashing innovation requires more than a few smart people or ideas. It requires all of us — policymakers, entrepreneurs, thinkers, students, inventors — to work together. That was the mindset behind the FORUM. And that is what we will look to achieve moving forward.