Emerging Technologies Washington Update

July 2, 2020

Pardon Our Dust

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This week: Coronavirus response; House passes massive infrastructure bill along partisan lines; California begins enforcing California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA); comment period announced for proposed FCC modifications to wireless infrastructure; Congress introduces bills aimed at strengthening U.S. leadership in AI.

Coronavirus Response

The Latest

House and Senate committees are continuing to hold hearings examining various COVID-19-related issues, including its impact on certain sectors and communities and the federal government response. This week, committees looked at issues ranging from the 2020 tax filing season and IRS COVID-19 recovery, safely getting back to work and school, oversight of the Treasury Department’s and Federal Reserve’s pandemic response, infrastructure development opportunities to drive economic recovery, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, and the Administration’s efforts to procure, stockpile, and distribute critical supplies.

This week the House and Senate passed a bill that extends the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) until August 8. About $130 billion in PPP funds remains uncommitted. The bill now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk. 

Also this week, the Treasury Department published its second Small Business Administration (SBA) PPP Loan Report and updated its Payroll Support Program FAQs. The SBA issued an interim final rule providing additional PPP guidance on eligible payroll costs. The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) announced the deployment of $10 million in CARES Act funding to the network of MBDA Business Centers and national minority chambers of commerce.

Elsewhere, the White House and federal agencies continue to take other steps to respond to the outbreak, including, but not limited to:

  • The Vice President Pence hosted a call with governors to discuss local, state, and federal COVID-19 response efforts.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it will extend partnerships with national pharmacy and grocery retail chains to provide access to COVID-19 testing.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published interim considerations for COVID-10 testing in homeless shelters and encampments and issued guidance for “Visiting Beaches and Pools.”
  • The Federal Communications Commission increased funding for its Rural Health Care Program to $802.74 million, the most in the Program’s history.
  • Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced nearly $800 million in grants to 347 airports in 46 States and 4 Territories.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published guidance on the development and licensure of vaccines to prevent COVID-19.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual Technology Transfer Report, which highlights agricultural innovations from scientists and researchers.
  • The Department of Education announced the creation of the Rural Tech Project, a competition for high schools and local educational agencies to develop “student-centered technology education” that can be used in rural communities impacted by the coronavirus.
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske announced the agency’s “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure” campaign to contain the spread of COVID-19 and support healthy and secure summer travel.

A complete overview of both congressional and Administrative response efforts is available here and updated daily.

What’s Next

Today the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to advance fiercely debated legislation aimed at preventing online sexual exploitation of children, the so-called EARN IT Act, S. 3398. The bill, as revised by a manager’s amendment, would remove technology companies of liability protections when users knowingly share child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on their platforms.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that the Senate will focus on a Phase 4 coronavirus relief package when it returns from its two-week recess on July 20, with the aim of finishing before the House and Senate depart for their August break. Over recess, staff is expected to begin drafting the next round of relief which is expected to include liability protections as entities continue to reopen.

Following Independence Day, the weeks of July 6 and 13 in the House will be devoted to remote committee work. On July 7, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment will hold a hearing on examining the impact of COVID-19 on the future of higher education.  The same day, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy will hold a hearing entitled, “Paycheck Security: Economic Perspectives on Alternative Approaches to Protecting Workers’ Pay During COVID-19.”

Relevant Resources

In Other News

House Passes Massive Infrastructure Bill Along Partisan Lines

Despite staunch opposition from the White House and House Republicans, on Wednesday evening the U.S. House of Representatives passed the $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act, 233-188. The 2,300+ page bill authorizes $494 billion in surface transportation projects, over $100 billion to upgrade schools in low income districts, $10 billion for child care facilities, $100 billion for housing infrastructure and $100 billion for expanding broadband access.

House Republicans warned that the bill– which they have largely characterized as an unrealistic “grab bag” of wishes, which also lacks funding– will be dead upon arrival in the Senate. Yesterday, Speaker Mitch McConnell said in plain words, “naturally this nonsense is not going anywhere in the Senate. It will just join the list of absurd House proposals that were only drawn up to show fealty to the radical left.”

Last July, the Senate passed a $287 billion highway bill known as America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (S. 2302) with bipartisan support. The legislation includes provisions to improve road safety, streamline project delivery, reduce highway emissions and contribute to economic growth. Nevertheless, three other committees with jurisdiction over surface transportation–Finance, Banking, and Commerce– have yet to develop their respective components of the bill.

California Begins Enforcing California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

On Wednesday, California began enforcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) despite industry requests to delay implementation due to the coronavirus pandemic. The CCPA went into effect on January 1, 2020, but a six-month enforcement grace period was provided to affected companies. Attorney General Becerra’s office now has the authority to issue warnings to businesses that might be in violation of the law, and give them 30 days to rectify the issue before facing possible fines or lawsuits. On Wednesday, Becerra would not confirm whether the state would immediately issue notices. Final CCPA regulations have yet to be approved by the California Office of Administrative Law.

Comment Period Announced for Proposed FCC Modifications to Existing Wireless Infrastructure

As reported in our June 11 Emerging Technologies Newsletter, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Declaratory Ruling on June 9 regarding state and local government review of modifications to existing wireless infrastructure (colocation) in an effort to facilitate the deployment of 5G networks.

Today’s Federal Register includes a notice about the proposed FCC rule changes that would allow applicants to excavate or deploy wireless facilities outside the boundaries of an existing tower site. Interested parties may file comments on or before July 22, 2020, and reply comments on or before August 3, 2020.

Congress Introduces Bills Aimed at Strengthening U.S. Leadership in AI

This month, Congress introduced several new bipartisan pieces of legislation aimed at positioning the United States as a leader in the establishment of artificial intelligence standards and guidance.  The combined legislative efforts are a response to China’s increased investment in AI and other emerging technologies, as documented in the congressionally mandated National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI)’s interim report.

The bicameral National AI Research Resource Task Force Act (S. 3890 / H.R. 7096), recently introduced by Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), and Mike Sherrill (D-NJ) in the House, and by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) in the Senate, would establish a committee comprised of representatives from academia, government and the private sector to develop a detailed plan for how the U.S. can build, deploy and manage a national AI research cloud. The legislation aims to broaden AI research beyond elite universities and big companies and to increase access to a wider array of researchers and entrepreneurs. According to a press release, the bill’s supporters range from universities like Princeton, Stanford and UCLA, to technology companies like Mozilla, Google, Microsoft, Amazon Web, IBM and others.

Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MI), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI), a founding member of the Senate AI Caucus, also introduced legislation this month known as the Advancing Artificial Intelligence Research Act (S.3891). The legislation would establish a national program to advance transparent and consensus-based standards for artificial intelligence (AI) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), authorize at least six research institutes to study the benefits and challenges of AI and its deployment, and establish a research grant-making program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) dedicated to AI. The bill authorizes annual amounts of $250 million for efforts at NIST and $50 million per research institute for fiscal years 2021 through 2025.