Tech Industry Urges Congress To Pass Immigration, Other Reforms Before Adjournment - InformationWeek

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11/20/2006
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Tech Industry Urges Congress To Pass Immigration, Other Reforms Before Adjournment

The Information Technology Association of America says lawmakers in the 109th Congress need to act on a number of issues the group says are critical to the United States' global competitiveness.

A lobby group backed by IBM, Microsoft, Intel, and other tech industry giants is urging Congress to pass a new research and development tax credit and increase the supply of H1-B immigrant visas before the current session adjourns.

The Information Technology Association of America says lawmakers in the 109th Congress also need to act on a number of other issues the group says are critical to the country's global competitiveness. "Our leaders need to foster an environment that encourages new ideas and new technologies," said ITAA president Phil Bond, in a statement released Monday.

Patent laws and international trade are also on the group's reform agenda.

In its statement, the ITAA noted that the federal research and development tax credit expired almost a year ago and has not been renewed. "Until it's extended, companies cannot accurately plan to finance new or continued research and development initiatives within America's borders," according to the ITAA.

On immigration reform, the group wants Congress to increase the number of H-1B visas issued to skilled workers. "The best and the brightest are taking their skills elsewhere, often to global competitors of American-based companies," the ITAA said. Federal law currently caps the H-1B visa program at 65,000 workers annually. An additional 20,000 are set aside for foreign workers who hold graduate degrees from American universities. A bill currently in the Senate, known as the SKIL act, would raise the H-1B cap to 115,000 workers.

The tech industry also wants to see legislators take action to staunch what the ITAA says is a flood of "opportunistic lawsuits" by patent trolls. The ITAA wants Congress to pass the Hatch-Leahy patent reform proposal, which would grant patent protection to those inventors who are first to file their claims. Under the current system, patent holders can be sued by individuals who claim they invented a product before the patent was issued.

The ITAA said Congress needs to step up efforts to establish free trade agreements with what it has identified as hot new growth markets for the tech industry. Specifically, the group said lawmakers need to pass legislation that would support more open trade with Vietnam and Peru. "If our companies are to grow, they need to be able to compete in those and other markets unhindered," said the ITAA.

The ITAA has drawn criticism in the past from groups representing programmers and other tech industry workers who claim the organization puts the needs of its big corporate members ahead of the rights of American workers and small businesses, who in many cases are opposed to increased immigration and changes to the patent system.

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