In a whirlwind three weeks, the District of Columbia City Council adopted and then rejected a 3% tax on all advertising in the city.
Late on the afternoon of Monday, July 6, DC City Council Chair Phil Mendelson released his proposed city budget for FY21 that included a 3% tax on all advertising. There had been no hearings or opportunity for public comment on the ad tax before the introduction of the budget. The budget was scheduled for it’s first reading and vote the next day.
AAF immediately issued the first of a series of alerts and urged members of AAF DC and Ad 2 DC to contact Councilmembers in opposition to the tax. While the overall budget passed unanimously, a number of Councilmembers did express reservations about the ad tax. A second and final vote was scheduled for two weeks later.
AAF, working together with AAF DC, Ad 2 DC, the DC Chamber of Commerce and many others immediately began meeting with Councilmembers via Zoom and coordinating a large-scale grassroots campaign against the ad tax.
When the Council next met on Tuesday, July 21 to consider the budget it was obvious that Councilmembers had heard from the advertising industry and were very leery about taxing advertising. In an unusual and controversial move the Council adjourned until Thursday the 23rd so that their budget staff could find a way to rework the budget without the tax.
Upon reconvening the Council approved the changes by an 11-2 vote and gave final unanimous approval to the budget on July 28.
The DC ad tax experience is an excellent example of the effectiveness of the engaged and active AAF grassroots network. Congratulations to the members of AAF DC, Ad 2 DC and all AAF members who weighed in with members of the City Council.
Senator Josh Hawley R-Mo., has announced he will introduce legislation to remove Section 230 immunity from companies that display behavioral advertising or provide data to be used for them. The Senator mistakenly alleges that the advertising is manipulative and provides no benefits to consumers. In reality, responsible interest-based advertising provides consumers with advertising they are more likely to find relevant and provides an economic underpinning for most of the content on the Internet.
The Senator’s bill is one of many introduced on the Hill to address data privacy and interest-based advertising. AAF continues to work with Privacy for America to advocate for federal privacy legislation that will clearly define accepted and prohibited data practices while preserving the benefits that come from responsible use of data.
Shortly after the law took effect July 1, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office began sending letters over potential violations of the California Consumer Privacy Act. The first letters looked at businesses that all operated online, and had “to come into compliance with respect to statements or mechanisms that they had to make available,” California Deputy Attorney General Stacey Schesser said at an International Association of Privacy Professionals event. She added that businesses that sell consumers' information, but don't have a “do not sell” link, “should make sure to cure that as quickly as possible.”
The California Privacy Rights Act was verified as a ballot initiative and will go before voters in the November election. The ACLU of California, Consumer Federation of California, Public Citizen, Color of Change, and other consumer groups have come out in opposition to the initiative. “Prop 24 doubles down on the harmful idea that people should carry the burden of protecting their own privacy by filling out a bunch of forms and hoping companies do as they ask….And Prop 24 is full of loopholes and exceptions that are—how to put this delicately—real bad for privacy. Exceptions for the credit reporting industry, loopholes for big tech, no protection for workers, and new ways for the police to put a freeze on your rights,” a spokesman tweeted. No matter it’s content, the possibility of another California privacy bill, in addition to the CCPA, is further evidence of the need for a strong national standard as proposed by the AAF supported Privacy for America.
The AAF protects and promotes advertising at all levels of government through grassroots activities. Our nation-wide network monitors advertising-related legislation on local, state and federal levels. We put our members face-to-face with influential lawmakers while encouraging self-regulation as a preemptor to government intervention, when appropriate of course. To learn more about our advocacy efforts, click here.