Strong States, Strong Nation
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Nearly 1,000 elected state legislators and a 1,000 more from business, academia and legislative staff converged on the Music City last week for the annual National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Some 150 sessions over the course of the week focused on Technology, Communications, Global Competitiveness, Health Care, Energy, Homeland Security, Political Reform, Education, and the”ABC’s of Public Health preparedness-.and other Calamities” (really, that was the title).Keynote sessions included speeches from former U.S. Senator and Ambassador to China James Sasser, world renowned historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, former Governor and EPA Secretary Christine Todd Whitman (one of my political heroes), U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, and well-regarded Democratic and Republican pollsters Peter Hart and Frank Luntz. Like any big convention, it’s easy to get”lost” if you don’t set a few priorities. For this year’s conference, our focus was on establishing relationships in two key states, Georgia and Texas, and trying to influence key policy resolutions legislators were considering on advanced technology policy issues. As a former legislator in California, I know first hand that lawmakers will often take ideas from the NCSL conferences and introduce legislative bills in their own legislative bodies.A quick update and some great news on the Network Neutrality issue from NCSL. There was a resolution that was introduced and passed in support of the anti-regulation position on Net Neutrality. This puts NCSL on record as opposing any Congressional activity to regulate the Internet and affirming support for innovation and market forces to drive Internet growth as opposed to regulation. As expected, there was a healthy debate by both sides with businesses that are part of the DC-based NetChoice Coalition pushing to change the resolution and AT&T and Verizon plus Cisco fighting back. I was able to make a strong argument on the impact Net Neutrality would have on our ability to deploy QoS to manage network traffic, which was a key argument that struck a chord with legislators. In the end, we were able to convince a key Senator to reject the amendment and pass it as originally written which is a good result for those with a non-regulatory bent…I include Cisco in that company.