By Jamie Girard, SEMI
As Congress continued a busy spring session, SEMI hosted its annual Washington Forum event on April 28 & 29. The Washington Forum brings SEMI member company executives to Washington for meetings with policymakers to advocate on behalf of the industry regarding the most pressing public policy issues of the day. The event also gave the executives a chance to hear from speakers such as Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and to present the annual SEMI Government Leadership Award. Participants carried the messages from the companies on issues such as support for funding the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), awareness of intellectual property challenges, high-skilled immigration reform, and support for a permanent R&D tax credit.
As a part of the two day proceedings, the 2015 SEMI Americas Government Leadership Award, was presented to Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). The award is the SEMI North American Advisory Board’s annual recognition of a policymaker who has gone above and beyond in affecting positive change for the industry. Senator Blunt has long been a national leader on policies supporting innovation and growth. In 2014, he was the lead Republican sponsor of the “Revitalize American Manufacturing Innovation” (RAMI) Act which seeks to support advanced manufacturing public-private partnerships across the U.S. The bill, which was passed into law in December 2014, authorized the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation program at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST). The program has garnered interest from many industries, including many SEMI member companies looking at forming partnerships. Senator Blunt has also consistently supported policies to boost job creation and reform the tax code to promote economic growth since his days in the U.S. House of Representatives, and will continue to be a strong advocate for our industry in the years to come.
With the NNMI now being the law of the land, Washington Forum participants used this trip to Washington to support funding for the newly established program. With funding in the annual appropriations process, the program will work to position the United States as the global leader in advanced manufacturing. The program is designed to bring together industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies and all levels of government to accelerate manufacturing innovation in technologies with commercial applications. Seven such institutes are planned for fiscal year 2016. More information on the program can be found at www.manufacturing.gov.
Trade facilitation is a primary objective for U.S. industry leaders who export nearly 80% of their products and SEMI members found themselves in good company on Capitol Hill last week in this effort. As the first Japanese head-of-state to address a joint session of Congress, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered remarks in support of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), echoing the sentiments of Forum participants in meetings across the Capitol at the time. TPA is the legislative tool necessary for the conclusion of this free trade agreement connecting 12 Pacific-rim nations to unite 40% of the world’s GDP under a framework of global governance. SEMI members were able to drive home the importance of both TPA and TPP on a day when trade opponents were out in force.
As in previous years, the Washington Forum also incorporated a message about the need for more intellectual property protection and awareness. SEMI members are acutely aware that what distinguishes us from many others is the relatively high percent of revenue that is reinvested into R&D. With that, intellectual property and data security protection is becoming an increasingly important issue for the semiconductor equipment and materials industry. That’s why the Washington Forum also focused on two pieces of legislation to help address this issue. On such bill is HR 9, the Innovation Act, which would implement patent litigation reform by requiring greater proof, limits on discovery, increased transparency, & fee shifting into patent litigation cases. HR 9 is identical to bill from last Congress which passed the House 325-91, but wasn’t taken up by the Senate. The groups also stressed the importance of preventing cyber-attacks with legislation like the Protecting Cyber Networks Act which was passed by the House 307-116 on April 22. This bill is intended to help forestall cyberattacks like the one that crippled Sony Pictures last year by creating a voluntary framework for the private sector to share more computer data with the government and in return offering companies expanded legal liability protection if they choose to participate.
With the failure to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2014, dealing with high-skilled immigration in standalone legislation has returned. With the FY16 cap of 85,000 H-1B visas being reached in just five days, and over 233,000 applications being received, it’s clear that this part of our immigration desperately needs to be fixed. SEMI members pressed Members of Congress to pass the Immigration Innovation Act, which would raise the number of H-1B visas available, as well as making additional changes to the immigration system to free up the system to work as is intended.
In addition, with the research and development (R&D) tax credit having expired on December 31, 2014, for the 17th time, participants shared their concerns with policymakers that the uncertainty of an on-again, off-again credit is hard for companies to use. SEMI has been working in a coalition with others to urge Congress to renew, improve and permanently extend the federal R&D tax credit. That’s why the group worked to press for the passage of HR 880, the American Research and Competitiveness Act, which would expand and make permanent to credit. The bill passed out of the House Committee on Ways & Means on a vote of 23-12 earlier this year, and we are hopeful it will come to the House floor for a vote in short order.
The SEMI Washington Forum is an annual event hosted by the North American Advisory Board, and brings SEMI-members executives to Washington to give them a firsthand experience with addressing policymakers. It also gives our elected officials a chance to hear straight from their constituents, and learn more about our important industry. If you would like to learn more about the Washington Forum and how someone from your organization can participate in the future, please contact Jamie Girard, senior director, North America Public Policy, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 202.393.5552.