Deseret News Op-Ed: “Utah must lead on federal data privacy legislation”

Utah must lead on federal data privacy legislation

Because we are home to one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in the nation, we’re perfectly placed to play an active leadership role in national tech policy formation.

By Matt Sandgren | Monday, January 27, 2020

Data greases the wheels of the digital economy fueling new innovations in health care, science, transportation and technology. Its uses are manifold — and growing — to the benefit of companies and consumers alike.

Exhibit A: Silicon Slopes.

Utah’s thriving tech corridor has powered a decade of unprecedented economic growth in our state. And what’s driving this growth? In large part, data. Companies like Banjo, Pluralsight, Domo and Qualtrics have leveraged this new digital currency to fine-tune their algorithms, improve their services and ultimately create thousands of jobs. Whether we realize it or not, Utah is experiencing a data boom that is revolutionizing the way we live, communicate, do business, solve crimes and even save lives. But whether this boom goes bust depends largely on federal legislators in Washington.

Without a nationwide law regulating consumer data privacy, states will fill the void—creating a complex patchwork of state laws nearly impossible for any small business owner to navigate. For evidence, look no further than California.

This month the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, went into effect, and businesses are already feeling the pinch. CCPA is a sweeping data privacy law that exacts a heavy toll across all sectors — to the tune of $55 billion in compliance costs or 2% of California’s total GDP. And though well-established businesses can often absorb these costs, many smaller businesses, like those with fewer than 20 employees, could face upfront costs of up to $50,000. For many entrepreneurs it may be an impossible choice: comply with the law or go out of business.

But CCPA’s impact doesn’t stop at state lines. Virtually any company, no matter its state of origin, must comply with CCPA regulations when doing significant business in California. And therein lies the rub: Without a unifying federal framework, state laws like CCPA and its imitators could become the de facto laws of the land for those engaged in interstate business. While reasonable people may argue over the merits of CCPA, it’s impossible to argue that legislators in California — or any other state — should be telling people in Utah how to do business.

What is more, CCPA is causing confusion for companies all across the country. Assuming the likelihood that other states follow suit in writing their own data privacy laws, this confusion will multiply exponentially. States play an important role as laboratories of democracy but absent a unifying federal policy, a web of conflicting state laws could put both innovation and interstate commerce at risk.

That’s why we need federal action on data privacy now. And the good news is, Utah is perfectly positioned to lead this effort.Because we are home to one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in the nation, we’re perfectly placed to play an active leadership role in national tech policy formation.

In the 15 years I spent on Capitol Hill advising Sen. Orrin G. Hatch on data privacy and related issues, I watched Silicon Slopes grow from an idea on paper to the juggernaut of our economy. Because we are home to one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in the nation, we’re perfectly placed to play an active leadership role in national tech policy formation. We can’t afford to let other states dictate our data privacy policies, and we certainly can’t afford to wait until the problem becomes untenable for Utah’s businesses.

The time for federal legislation is now. Utah’s congressional delegation must lead in advancing a national proposal that uniformly protects consumer privacy without imposing undue burdens on free enterprise. We can balance these twin imperatives by empowering consumers with clearly articulated privacy rights while also providing businesses with the regulatory certainty they need to innovate and grow. By enacting a federal law on data privacy we can reap the full benefits of the data revolution and ensure another strong decade of economic growth for both Utah and the nation.

Matt Sandgren is the executive director of the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation


Washington Times Op-ed: “Civility can restore our institutions”

Civility can restore our institutions

There’s hope that the ‘odd couples’ of the world can inspire looking beyond partisan differences.

By: Orrin G. Hatch

Long ago, on the eve of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln made a heartfelt plea to the American people: Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory … will yet swell … when again touched … by the better angels of our nature.  

In a nation as divided as ours, how can we answer Lincoln’s call? How can we bridle our political passions and heed the better angels of our nature? 

We can start with by practicing civility. 

Without civility, there is no civilization. It is the indispensable public virtue — the protective wall between order and chaos. But that wall has weakened in recent times.  

Consider the steady disintegration of our political discourse. We live in a media environment that favors anger over reason and feeling over fact. The loudest voices, not the wisest ones, now dictate the terms of public debate. For evidence, simply turn on the TV — but be sure to turn down the volume.  

The media deserves some culpability in creating this environment by adopting outrage as a business model. But we are complicit when we join the fracas, especially when we use language to unnecessarily belittle the other side. Whether it’s online or in person, all of us should be more responsible with our speech. Our better angels call on us to persuade through gentle reason. They call on us to inspire and unite rather than to provoke and incite. In short, they call on us to embrace civility.

I issued this call for civility during my farewell address on the Senate floor last December. There, I bemoaned the gradual loss of comity and respect among colleagues that I observed over my 42 years of public service. In the last decade alone, the culture of the Senate has shifted fundamentally — and not for the better. I know because I watched this transformation take place before my very eyes. 

There used to be a level of congeniality and kinship among senators that was hard to find anywhere else. In my early years in office, it wasn’t unusual for Republicans and Democrats to count each other among their very best friends. In fact, it was encouraged. There was a general understanding back then that you could spar on the Senate floor and then break bread together later that evening. Leaders fostered cross-party friendships in hopes of kindling compromise on difficult-to-pass legislation — and it worked almost every time. From this unique workplace culture was born my unlikely friendship with Teddy Kennedy. 

As a legislative duo, Teddy and I were often referred to as “The Odd Couple,” and indeed, we could not have been more different. He was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat; I was a resolute Republican. But in time, we came to embody the ethos of goodwill and camaraderie that defined the old Senate. And by choosing friendship over party loyalty, we were able to pass some of the most significant bipartisan achievements of modern times.

Now, years after Teddy’s passing, it’s worth asking: Could a relationship like ours even exist in today’s Senate? Could two people with polar-opposite beliefs from vastly different walks of life come together as often as Teddy and I did for the good of the country? Or are we too busy vilifying each other to even consider friendship with the other side?

I worry that the toxicity of today’s political environment precludes an odd couple relationship like Hatch-Kennedy from ever taking root. And I worry what this might mean for the future of our country. That’s why I have devoted my post-Senate service to restoring civility to its proper place in our society — to cultivating the pluralistic spirit and bipartisan solutions that should be at the heart of American democracy. 

To that end, I am pleased to host Justice Neil Gorsuch for a special conversation on civility at Brigham Young University on Sept. 20. In true odd couple fashion, Justice Gorsuch (a Trump appointee) will be sitting down with his longtime friend Judge Carolyn B. McHugh (an Obama appointee) to discuss the important role civility can play in revitalizing our institutions. The two of them represent the ideal we should strive for in their ability to stand on principle but also disagree with grace and dignity. 

My hope is that the odd couples of this world can inspire all of us to look beyond partisan differences to find common ground. We can begin by choosing compassion before enmity and patience before impulse. May we all work together toward this noble goal. Today, and every day, may we strive to heed to the better angels of our nature by embracing civility. 

Orrin G. Hatch served in the U.S. Senate for 42 years and is chairman emeritus of the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation.


Deseret News Op-ed: “A commonsense fix for our broken immigration system”

By: Orrin Hatch and Ben McAdams

America remains polarized on many issues, but both sides agree on one thing: Our high-skilled immigration system is broken. The good news? Congress is taking important steps to fix it.

Current law heavily restricts the number of high-skilled immigrants who can enter our country each year. These are immigrants with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer science — in other words, men and women who add tremendous value to our economy and who are highly sought after by U.S. employers. The law, as it is currently written, allows high-skilled immigrants to live and work permanently in the United States with a green card but severely limits how many of these green cards are available. In fact, only 7% of the total number of employment-based green cards available each year can be allotted to high-skilled applicants from any one country. As a result, immigrants from countries with large populations have significantly longer wait times than do immigrants from smaller countries.

These per-country quotas force high-skilled immigrants already living here to wait several years to receive their green cards. To make matters worse, the immigration status of their families is kept in limbo, resulting in months and even years of family separation. Immigrant parents who can only get temporary visas for their children are forced to choose between sending their children home while waiting or returning home themselves.

Not surprisingly, many give up in frustration and move to countries with more modern and more welcoming immigration systems, such as Canada. And therein lies the problem. Our outdated immigration laws give an upper edge to some of our closest economic competitors. We train and educate tens of thousands of exceptionally talented professionals just to force them to leave later. And who benefits from this backwards system? Foreign countries who will accept these American-educated immigrants with open arms.

The United States should accept talented individuals who want to work hard and contribute to our economy, no matter their country of origin. That’s why the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, in collaboration with — a bipartisan group of business and tech leaders — recently released a report on the long-overdue need for high-skilled immigration reform. The report demonstrates how immigrants invigorate the U.S. economy and strengthen our communities, improving innovation and global competitiveness along the way. It offers our elected officials a blueprint for bipartisan immigration that builds on Sen. Hatch’s leadership in Congress — leadership that has led to an important breakthrough.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019, which directly addresses the most significant problems in our high-skilled immigration system. Specifically, this bill eliminates the per-country cap on employment-based green cards. It also increases the cap on family-based green cards from 7 percent to 15 percent in a given year.

If this bill is enacted into law, changes would take effect beginning Oct. 1. Importantly, this legislation would expand opportunities for foreign workers with advanced degrees or exceptional ability and for investors creating jobs in the United States. With more than 300 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, we are confident that this legislation can also pass in the Senate.

We hope that Congress can now capitalize on this momentum by addressing other critical aspects of the immigration debate so that we can maintain a welcoming immigration system that continues to attract the best and brightest in the world.Despite the contentiousness of the immigration debate, we see passage of this bill as real progress. Utahns should be encouraged that a reasonable and humane approach to fixing our broken immigration system prevailed with overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle.

Orrin G. Hatch is a former Utah senator. U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams currently represents Utah’s 4th Congressional District.


Deseret News Op-ed: “This dangerous idea gaining traction in American politics could harm religious liberty”

By: Orrin Hatch

A dangerous idea is gaining traction in American politics, one that could have significant implications for religious liberty: court-packing.

Since 1869, we have had only nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. That number has been fixed, and for good reason; it constrains the administration in power — be it Republican or Democrat — from installing an unspecified number of judges to dramatically shift the ideological balance of our courts.

This time-honored norm has moderated our politics for well over a century. But a growing number of elected officials, including several presidential candidates, want to dispense with it altogether. Instead, they want to “pack the court” — that is, increase the number of justices serving from nine to whatever number they deem necessary to win political control over the judicial branch.

The consequences of such action would be catastrophic and irreversible: The court would no longer serve as a shield against oppression but as a political weapon in the hands of an angry majority. When this proposal was last en vogue in the 1930s, Democratic Sen. Burton Wheeler of Montana cautioned that it would effectively “extinguish (our) right of liberty, of speech, of thought, of action and of religion.”

It is the effect this practice would have on our right of religion that concerns me most. I have spent a lifetime defending religious liberty in the public square. And so, when I see extreme ideas like court-packing seeping into the mainstream — ideas that could undermine this most fundamental freedom — I feel compelled to raise a warning. That so few grasp the severity of this threat to religious liberty exposes a glaring hole in our civic education.

So perhaps a simple civics lesson is in order.

Of all the rights delineated in the Constitution, the framers chose to list religious freedom first. This priority of place suggests that religious exercise has particular significance and merits special protection. Why? Because it goes to the very heart of who we are as human beings and how we make sense of our world. It implicates duties that transcend mere personal choice and become obligatory in the life of the believer.

Religious liberty has served as the bedrock of our laws for centuries. And for most of our history, this right has been treated with the deference it deserved. But today, freedom of conscience is under unprecedented attack — and court-packing is but one threat among many. In recent years, we have seen a flood of litigation, not to mention several legislative proposals, that would limit religious expression in the public square and subordinate individual belief to the demands of government.

Increasing hostility to religious liberty requires us to be extra vigilant in protecting this freedom. I carried this vigilance with me every day as a United States Senator. It’s what inspired me to write the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, my greatest legislative achievement. This landmark legislation prohibits substantial government burdens on the free exercise of religion, allowing all Americans to live, work and worship in accordance with their deeply held personal beliefs.

Although I am retired from the Senate, my commitment to defending religious freedom is as strong as ever. That’s why Thursday the Hatch Center, the policy arm of the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, will host its very first religious liberty symposium — a bipartisan gathering of faith leaders, legal scholars and policy experts committed to defending the rights of conscience.

From threats of court-packing to activist lawsuits, dangers to religious liberty abound. But by uniting people of various faiths and political backgrounds, we can build a coalition of common interest to preserve this precious freedom for future generations. That’s exactly what this symposium aims to do. I hope you will join me in defending religious liberty for people of all faiths.Our program will feature an interfaith panel and a who’s who of religious liberty luminaries, including keynote speakers Leonard Leo, the Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society; Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, a member of the UK House of Lords; and BYU Law Professor Brett Scharffs, the Director of the International Center for Law and Religious Studies. The symposium will be open to the public and will be held in the Moot Courtroom of the S.J. Quinney College of Law from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

From threats of court-packing to activist lawsuits, dangers to religious liberty abound. But by uniting people of various faiths and political backgrounds, we can build a coalition of common interest to preserve this precious freedom for future generations. That’s exactly what this symposium aims to do. I hope you will join me in defending religious liberty for people of all faiths.