July 22, 2024

New Congress, Same Old Issues

With control of the House and Senate about to switch parties, everybody is wondering how the new management will affect their pet policy issues. Cameron Wilson has a nice forecast for tech policy issues such as competitiveness, globalization, privacy, DRM, and e-voting.

Most of these don’t break down as partisan issues – differences are larger within each party than between the two parties. So the shift in control won’t necessarily lead to any big change. But there are two factors that may shake things up.

The first factor is the acceleration of change that happens in any organization when new leadership comes in. The new boss wants to show that he differs from the old boss, especially if the old boss was fired. And the new boss gets a short grace period in which to be bold. If a policy or practice was stale and needed to be changed but the institutional ice floes were just stuck, new management may loosen them.

The second factor has to do with the individuals who will run the various committees. If you’re not a government geek, you may not realize how much the agenda on particular issues is set by House and Senate committees, and particularly by the committee chairs. For example, any e-voting legislation must pass through the House Administration Committee, so the chair of that committee can effectively block such legislation. As long as Bob Ney was chair of the committee, e-voting reform was stymied – that’s why the Holt e-voting bill could have more than half of the House members as co-sponsors without even reaching a vote. But Mr. Ney’s Abramoff problem and the change in party control will put Juanita Millender-McDonald in charge of the committee. Suddenly Ms. Millender-McDonald’s opinion on e-voting has gotten much more important.

The bottom line is that on most tech issues we don’t know what will happen. On some issues, such as the broad telecom/media/Internet reform discussion, the situation is at least as cloudy as before. Let the battles begin.


  1. Glad to hear that you got the same problems in the US as we got them in Germany. At least some kind of relief :-/

  2. Love your site. You are dead on about this voting thing. What will this new congress do to make my life harder? My current buzz is this court ruling on friday about saving emails. Is this for real? This will be a nigthmare!

    U.S. companies will need to keep track of all the e-mails, instant
    messages and other electronic documents generated by their employees
    thanks to new federal rules that go into effect Friday, legal experts say.

    The rules, approved by the Supreme Court in April, require companies
    and other entities involved in federal litigation to produce
    “electronically stored information” as part of the discovery process,
    when evidence is shared by both sides before a trial.

    The change makes it more important for companies to know what
    electronic information they have and where. Under the new rules, an
    information technology employee who routinely copies over a backup
    computer tape could be committing the equivalent of “virtual
    shredding,” said Alvin F. Lindsay, a partner at Hogan & Hartson LLP
    and expert on technology and litigation.

    James Wright, director of electronic discovery at Halliburton Co.,
    said that large companies are likely to face higher costs from
    organizing their data to comply with the rules. In addition to e-mail,
    companies will need to know about things more difficult to track, like
    digital photos of work sites on employee cell phones and information
    on removable memory cards, he said.

    Both federal and state courts have increasingly been requiring the
    production of relevant electronic documents during discovery, but the
    new rules codify the practice, legal experts said.

    The rules also require that lawyers provide information about where
    their clients’ electronic data is stored and how accessible it is much
    earlier in a lawsuit than was previously the case.

    There are hundreds of “e-discovery vendors” and these businesses raked
    in approximately $1.6 billion in 2006, Wright said. That figure could
    double in 2007, he added.

    Another expense will likely stem from the additional time lawyers will
    have to spend reviewing electronic documents before turning them over
    to the other side. While the amount of data will be narrowed by
    electronic searches, some high-paid lawyers will still have to sift
    through casual e-mails about subjects like “office birthday parties in
    the pantry” in order to find information relevant to a particular

    Martha Dawson, a partner at the Seattle-based law firm of Preston
    Gates & Ellis LLP who specializes in electronic discovery, said the
    burden of the new rules won’t be that great.

    Companies will not have to alter how they retain their electronic
    documents, she said, but will have to do an “inventory of their IT
    system” in order to know better where the documents are.

    The new rules also provide better guidance on how electronic evidence
    is to be handled in federal litigation, including guidelines on how
    companies can seek exemptions from providing data that isn’t
    “reasonably accessible,” she said. This could actually reduce the
    burden of electronic discovery, she said.

    Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.