The 117th Congress had 33,000 bills introduced between the House and the Senate, with only 228 being signed into law. While most of those pieces of legislation will never have a chance of moving through the legislative process, there is clearly some unfinished business that will carry over to the 118th Congress.
Consumer Data Privacy: Privacy legislation has had bipartisan momentum for several years without the ability to get a bill across the finish line. Republicans and Democrats have come together in the House and Senate with a strong interest in finalizing a federal privacy standard. While a small handful of issues have hamstrung legislation from being finalized, industry and consumer groups remain united in moving privacy legislation next year and building off of what has been developed already. Obviously, a new Republican Chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and a new Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee will change the dynamic of negotiations. That being said, the issue is not going away, and Congress will seek to move this issue once again.
Wildfire Prevention and Response: 2022 was an unusually big year for wildfires and an unusually big year for wildfire legislation, despite not getting across the finish line. The House passed dozens of wildfire bills packaged together (developed by a range of committees) and the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee held a legislative hearing on many others. Wildfire policy is a priority for both parties and both sides of the Capitol, although the population of policymakers that are focused on these issues is small in number but well-positioned on committees of jurisdiction. This will be an issue area where the policies drafted and socialized in the 117th Congress get a serious look for passage in the 118th Congress.
Hunger and Food Insecurity: Policy solutions around hunger and food insecurity have long been on the agenda for federal policymakers, but the impacts of the pandemic certainly brought more attention and focus to these issues. Industries within and adjacent to the food industry are actively engaged in their own efforts as well as public-private partnerships to identify and advance meaningful solutions. The White House Hunger Summit (the first of its kind) also helped to bring stronger attention to these issues and the need for both policy and private sector leadership. With the Farm Bill on the horizon in 2023, there are likely opportunities to advance many of the hunger-related bills that have been lingering in Congress for years.
Cryptocurrency Regulation: Even before the downfall of FTX, Congress and regulatory bodies were considering what steps needed to be taken to regulate cryptocurrency. Once FTX filed for bankruptcy (and a criminal case was announced), the focus across several congressional committees and federal agencies was significant. Without enough time for meaningful policy in the remainder of the 117th Congress (and given the many questions that remain unanswered), this will be an issue that will be a focus of policymakers next year and a legislative/regulatory solution is more than likely.
Outdoor Recreation and Conservation: A package of outdoor recreation bills – the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act – was removed from being attached to the omnibus in the final days of negotiation. The bill is bipartisan and is a priority for an outdoor industry that has both overwhelmingly impressive economic impact data and happens to be the beneficiary of historic legislation in each of the last three congresses. This bill is very likely to cross the finish line given how much work has gone into it on Capitol Hill and among a long list of stakeholders. The outdoor industry and conservation groups will remain focused on this legislation in the 118th Congress and could very well be successful.
Cannabis Banking Protection: For several years, a growing group of bipartisan policymakers have been inching closer to advancing legislation that would allow banks to service cannabis companies in states where those businesses operate legally. The legislation – the SAFE Banking Act – has been included in various versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but has always been removed prior to final passage. The bill was included in this year’s House version of the NDAA, for example, but was removed as negotiations were finalized between the House and Senate. With 180 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and 42 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate, action next year is a real possibility given growing support and the fact that the cannabis and the financial services industries urgently need this legislation.
Cybersecurity: There are a number of outstanding cyber-related issues that were not completed during the 117th Congress, and these priorities will be top of mind in the 118th Congress. These cybersecurity initiatives will be especially ripe for action in a divided Congress, since cyber issues have historically been a policy area that can find bipartisan compromise. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI) has already indicated that one of his first priorities will be to modernize and improve the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA), which carries the statutory responsibility for managing federal network security and protecting these networks from cyber threats. There will also be a focus on open-source software, zero-trust architectures, ransomware response, and critical infrastructure protections.