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Technology.

Technology constantly changes the way we live, work, and socialize. Innovations and technological advancements stimulate our economy, improve workplace training programs and make it easier for businesses to deliver goods and services to the ever-expanding marketplace.

The relationship between technology developers and the businesses that rely on their products to operate is vital. It is important for businesses to partner with academic research and development institutions to help speed up the commercialization of budding technologies so these advancements can be brought to the marketplace more quickly. It is also important to recognize and safeguard against the cybersecurity threats which jeopardize both the assets and growth of Louisiana businesses

The council will actively support technology policies that improve the strength and competitiveness of Louisiana businesses and industries in the global marketplace.

Major Issues.


Fiscal Transparency

LABI Position: Support efforts to increase the transparency of state and local government operations and enhance public online access to information.

Government Efficiency

LABI Position: Support efforts to operate state government in a more efficient, cost-effective and fiscally responsible manner, including privatizing state government services where feasible, and the utilization of technology.


Current Issues.


Broadband: Support policies that encourage private investments in Louisiana from technology companies. Investing in advanced technology infrastructure is necessary to support new innovations and the explosion of technology usage. Extending broadband services to more Louisianans will create jobs, lead to the development of new, innovative products and fuel economic growth. It will connect Louisiana citizens to educational and employment opportunities and open the door to better, less expensive health care. Louisiana should be technologically neutral and support an all-of-the-above approach to connecting more Louisianans. Oppose legislation which would seek to regulate the internet or broadband as a utility.

Education: Because the pace of technology continually increases, our teaching methods must adapt to this ever-changing environment. Support expanding electronic distance learning systems that give equal access to all students.

Gig Economy: The gig economy has proven to be a lifeline to many during tough economic times. Oppose proposals to reclassify independent contractors as employees as they will hurt both workers and businesses.

Internet Regulation: Oppose legislation and regulations that impose costly and unnecessary obligations on companies that make use of the internet in their business model.

Patent Enforcement: A strong patent system is needed to support emerging technologies and innovative ideas. Continue to safeguard the patent process to help protect intellectual property rights. Also, support efforts to deter bad faith patent enforcement.

Research and Development Incentives: Support the expansion of incentives designed to aid our state’s research and development industries.

Sandboxes: Support policies which would make Louisiana more welcoming of innovative companies by creating a framework for innovators to conduct live testing of new products or services in a controlled environment under lightly regulated supervision.

Sales Tax Exemption for Research & Development: Support sales tax exemptions for the cost of material and equipment purchased for the purpose of research and development.

Tax Incentives: Support the availability of fair and equitable tax incentives for economic development, including those for job retention, job creation, and facility modernization. Support business tax measures that encourage the retention or relocation of jobs and businesses to this state. Oppose efforts to weaken Louisiana’s existing economic development incentives.

Technology Transfer: Create a statewide technology transfer network which transcends geographic and political boundaries to develop commercially viable technologies from our state’s universities and colleges.

Worker Training: Study and develop legislation that would allow businesses, small businesses in particular, greater access and flexibility in the use of monies for worker training specific to technology.


Ongoing Policy.


Cybersecurity Issues: Support continued research, innovation and collaboration between government, educational institutions and the business community to foster a secure infrastructure environment for commercial, consumer and intellectual property protection and public safety. Support education of the business community of cybersecurity threats and best practices to mitigate these threats.

Technology Contracts: To increase business participation and competition for state government technology contracts and initiatives, LABI supports efforts to make technology-related requests for proposals easily available online to the technology community at large.


Contacts.


Jim Patterson serves as Director of the Technology Council. In this capacity, his responsibilities include technology issues that impact Louisiana’s businesses.

Jim Patterson

Director, Technology Council, LABI
(225) 938-5388
jimp@labi.org

Shawn Usher

Chair, Technology Council
Sparkhound

In an effort to boost oil and gas production, the Trump administration is proposing to scrap Obama-era regulations on methane emissions, saying the rules were an overstep in authority. But Louisiana industry representatives say they’re still committed to reducing emissions.

The proposal, according to the Wall Street Journal, gets rid of requirements for the industry to install technologies that monitor and limit leaks from new wells, tanks and pipeline networks and to more frequently inspect for leaks. It also forestalls legal requirements that would have forced the EPA to set rules on emissions from thousands of pre-existing wells and industry sites.

Exxon Mobil has previously pushed against rolling back such regulations, saying it supports having government-backed rules to curb methane emissions. A local spokeswoman for Exxon Mobil was unable to be reached for comment before this morning’s deadline.

Steve Waguespack, president and CEO of LABI, says the association will review the proposal later today once its been released and will solicit feedback from association members.

“American energy producers are making great investments in the market to reduce emissions across the board, including on methane,” Waguespack says. “The data shows their investments are working. Natural gas is not only a clean-burning fuel that helps drive a lot of these emission reductions, it is also a natural resource that helps create Louisiana jobs. Louisiana energy producers will proudly continue their commitment to creating good jobs in our state and investing in new technologies to reduce emissions.”

Louisiana’s oil and natural gas industry is committed to reducing its environmental impact, says Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association President Tyler Gray, through smart regulations, infrastructure, technology and industry initiatives.

“LMOGA supports sound regulations that protect public health and the environment and allow the industry to safely deliver affordable and reliable energy for America,” Gray says. “Smart regulation of volatile organic compounds drives down methane emissions and allows for innovation and technological advancements that help environmental performance and strengthen industry’s actions to reduce emissions.”

Officials form BRAC declined comment for this story.

By: Stephen Waguespack

Many of us watched with interest this week as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg endured hours in the Congressional hot seat, stoically defending his company’s consumer privacy protocols in the face of mounting allegations of data mismanagement. While his testimony was fairly vanilla, the real action was with the barrage of pointed questions thrown his way from various members of Congress. In fact, it was somewhat ironic this week to see Facebook feeds dominated with scrutiny of Facebook itself.  For instance, a picture of Zuckerberg sitting on a bumper seat to prop himself up while testifying became even more popular on the social media platform than vacation photos and food pictures for a day or two.

While the whole circus generated a chorus of clicks, and plenty of reasons to give an “angry” face, “heart” or even a “haha,” it also raises some thoughtful questions of Congress’s role in regulating the Internet in general.

Congress is right to take a closer look at this social media network and how our data is used by all that hold it. This review must be thorough as a matter of protecting privacy, consumer welfare and national security. But Congress should also be careful not to fall into the trap of over-regulating when it comes to Internet usage.

According to a recent national Internet ranking, Louisiana ranks 23rd out of 50 states in what the survey calls “ultra-fast” Internet access. This is advanced service with speeds of one gigabyte per second – enough to download a two-hour HD movie in about the time it takes to read this sentence.

This level of speed and service is exactly what is needed to compete for investment in the new economy. Access to other high-speed tiers of service have us on par with states like Virginia, Michigan and South Carolina. This level of high-speed Internet service, especially in rural and underserved areas, helps economic and job growth, healthcare access, worker training and numerous other market possibilities that require fast Internet service.

This momentum did not occur thanks to a heavy-handed government approach, rather; it is from a competitive and robust technological marketplace that continuously evolves each day. This vibrant market must be protected, and any governmental efforts to throw obstacles in its path must be stopped.

One example of such a threat is a partisan attempt by some in Congress to restore one of the most damaging technological, regulatory abuses of the Obama administration.

Back in 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) upended decades of successful, bipartisan policy by approving a dramatic extension of federal regulation over the Internet.

They did this in the name of “protecting neutrality,” but the results were anything but neutral. Costs rose, and so did delays in high-speed deployment. Lawyers suddenly had to weigh in on technical decisions that previously were resolved by engineers.

Even worse, in the years after the rules went into effect, the U.S. saw its first-ever decline in Internet investment outside of a recession and in 2017, broadband investment was actually lower than it was in 2015.

The pain was especially hard for rural communities where these new rules forced suppliers to cancel or scale back efforts to deploy high-speed Internet service. As a Crowley, La. Internet provider explained in a joint statement last year; the impact was to “delay build-out to unserved areas and service to small businesses and residential consumers.”

Last December, the FCC, under new leadership, agreed to cancel this federal overreach and replace it with a more reasonable approach. While thankfully cooler heads prevailed at that time and these destructive policies were rescinded, there is now once again a move afoot in Congress to restore some of these rules. The vote is apparently closer than it should be – a surprising development given the overwhelming evidence of problems with the previous rules.

For Louisiana, restoring heightened federal control over our high-speed Internet service would be a disaster on many levels. About a third of Louisianans live in small towns and rural areas, a much higher percentage than the national average. Those residents’ ability to access the best in healthcare, education and other necessities increasingly depends on having quality high-speed Internet service. A vote in favor of restoring the overreaching rules would once again slow Internet investment and build out, negatively impacting a significant portion of Louisiana residents.

We urge our entire congressional delegation to resist any efforts to reimpose net neutrality rules. Governmental micro-management of the Internet was a bad idea when first imposed by the Obama Administration, and it remains a bad idea today.  Consumers across the country are starting to reap the benefit of a technological evolution that stems from healthy and competitive markets rather than bureaucratic federal regulators. The last thing the market needs is more government…which is a message everyone should be willing to “like” and “share.”

By: Stephen Waguespack

It hit me this week while fielding questions from radio listeners on The Jim Engster Show: as much time as we all spend these days talking about what divides us, the truth is we are not as far apart as most think.

A few callers asked about proposals for new revenue streams, mandates or regulations on businesses and non-profits, while others wanted to explore different options to fight poverty. The affordability and quality of health care were discussed, as was the specific structure of our tax code and its inability to provide stability for both private markets and public services.

While most of the callers came from a more liberal political perspective than I do, many of the topics were the right ones on which to focus.

For all the fussing and fighting in politics today, I think that all Republicans, Democrats and independents want good public schools, safe and growing communities and affordable health care when they need it. There should be no disagreement on that. No one is out there credibly advocating for a shrinking economy or less transparency in government.

There is another unifying dynamic out there that we don’t often discuss, but I think can help eventually lead to sensible solutions: technology.

We all live in a much different era than the one when many of our government programs and agencies were first designed. This is the era where innovative ideas not only drive our economy, but our daily behavior. These trends allow us as consumers to reinvent our habits and expectations almost daily, causing the markets to become increasingly agile and forward-thinking to meet this ever-changing demand.

A new app can literally change overnight the way we travel, eat, operate a business, communicate with family or purchase a host of everyday items. News of a popular show goes viral in an instant and the show is binge-watched in a weekend, while popular retail stores and brands that were once deemed critical to meeting our needs are often forced to evolve or die at a moment’s notice. No company wants to fall prey to the Amazon Effect, constantly looking for predators around every corner.

Government is different. Too many of our leaders say the only way to fix societal problems is to do it the old-fashioned way. They want us to slow down, pick a number, wait in line and just blindly invest big money in big government programs that have been around forever. Yawn.  Today’s voters realize that is not how today’s world works and are rightly pushing back.

I think this disconnect is one of the primary causes of the divide and rebellion we see in America today. Bureaucrats say if you want better schools you must stop asking so many questions and just put more money into the program. Same with traffic congestion and health care. Voters in the real world are not buying it anymore, because nothing else in their life still works that way. 

Consumers now get detailed information, pricing options and specific services that perfectly meet their expectations anytime they want them through an app on their phone, yet government wants that freedom and mobility to be ignored in the public arena. Some officials are still confused why voters no longer want to just blindly pay for a low-performing school that their child must attend because of some government-drawn attendance zone. But their confusion is the equivalent of a local librarian being confused as to why today’s students won’t solely use books drawn from dusty shelves, organized by the Dewey Decimal System and card catalogues, to research their papers. It is tone-deaf in approach and unrealistic in application. Government is still selling battleships when consumer demand is for speedboats.

It seems silly. Why the resistance to force government to technologically evolve as the rest of the world has done? Technology is not liberal or conservative. It is fair game for all. Why shouldn’t someone be able to choose the best school option for their child, use a version of a ridesharing app to get them there each day and easily monitor the details of their performance on their phone? 

State government spends billions each year directly on buildings, personnel, overhead and entitlements to educate our kids because that is the way we have always done it. Imagine if government began using many of those same dollars to give parents more power to choose.  What would that type of parental empowerment do to change poverty, community involvement and school performance? You think those buildings and systems would evolve just as quickly as Amazon or Apple does in the private sector to capture that consumer’s interest? I think the successful ones would immediately run to their consumers (the parents) and ask them how they can best meet their needs and keep their investment. The others would be forced to evolve or lose their customers. Wouldn’t the DMV and other legacy state government models feel the same pressure with competition from technology?

The state of Ohio has a website called WWW.OHIOCHECKBOOK.COM where every dollar spent by all levels of government is displayed. Want to see the check written by a local town to the service company that provides the chemicals to the local public pool? It is on there. Want to see every dollar spent by the local school system and a list of their contacts? It is on there, and it is written in plain English and accessible by just a few clicks. It is hard for government to hide dollars and poor performance in a transparent system like that.

Imagine if in Louisiana consumers could easily access that type of information from their phone? What do you think that would tell us about how efficiently our government is using our taxpayer dollars? How many of those investments would look like dollars spent to meet the needs of the people as compared to dollars spent to meet the needs of the bureaucracy?

There is only one way to find out.

A major injection of technology and transparency in government might help bridge this divide we seem to have between conservatives and liberals in meeting our needs. Everyone wants good schools, strong economies, safe communities and affordable health care. But less and less of us are willing to continuously buy government’s message that the only way to get there is fewer questions and more money. The market has evolved. Consumer expectations have evolved. Government must also… if they don’t want to fall prey to the Amazon Effect.