The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation delaying implementation of the Digital Ad Tax for one year and excluding broadcasters and news media entities from the tax.
While Governor Hogan has not publicly stated his intentions, most observers in Annapolis expect him to either sign the bill or let it become law without his signature, which will happen if he takes no action by the end of May. The Maryland Comptroller’s office has already issued a Bulletin confirming the delay and announcing the intention to publish guidance and promulgate regulations for collecting the tax.
The legal challenge to the Digital Ad Tax will continue whether this measure becomes law or not.
In an unexpected, but positive, development the Florida Legislature adjourned for the year without passing overly restrictive data privacy legislation. Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and legislative leaders in both the House and Senate had all identified enacting a new data privacy law as a top priority for the year. Both chambers passed versions of the bill (HB 969, SB 1734) but could not work out differences before the legislative session ended. The biggest point of disagreement was whether the new law should include a private-right-of-action, a provision strongly opposed by AAF and most industry players. Fortunately, the Senate held fast in not including the PRA. AAF, AAF-Orlando and AAF-Tampa Bay wrote to lawmakers expressing our opposition to the bills.
Privacy bills have been introduced in numerous other states. In Texas, AAF was joined by AAF-Amarillo, AAF-Austin, AAF Corpus Christi, AAF-Houston and Ad 2 Houston and others on a letter of opposition to legislative leaders. AAF has also filed recent comments on privacy legislation in Alaska and New Hampshire.
Previously reported on privacy bills in Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, and Washington have all died as the legislatures in those states adjourned without passing the measures.
Following on the heels of Maryland, other states have also seen tax bills targeting advertising and/or digital advertising. AAF wrote in opposition to a Connecticut bill targeting digital advertising. AAF alerted members in Louisiana to two tax bills of concern. One was a broad-based services tax that included advertising, the other targeted digital advertising and other digital goods. Neither bill ultimately received serious consideration.
The momentum may be growing for Congress to finally enact federal privacy legislation.
At a recent press briefing, Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said that the U.S. House of Representatives would convene bi-partisan roundtables to discuss federal privacy legislation. She said that the panel will invite stakeholders with different views to discuss privacy issues including “preemption and access to courts, data minimization and use limitations, anti-discrimination, and others.” Other participants set a goal of passing a federal bill by the end of 2022. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) said state-level privacy actions are making a federal standard even more necessary. The AAF-supported Privacy for America tweeted, “We applaud @RepSchakowsky announcement today that House lawmakers will hold a series of bipartisan roundtables on the need for comprehensive federal privacy legislation. Americans deserve rules that prohibit harmful data practices, regardless of the state in which they live.”
In a May 9 editorial on data privacy legislation, The Washington Post said “a commitment last week by key legislators to get comprehensive regulations on the books by the end of 2022, even if doing so requires some compromise, is promising,” and argued that a failure to do so would be “embarrassing.”
To this point at least seven bills have been introduced in Congress addressing data privacy generally, with more targeting narrower issues such as children’s privacy, contact tracing, financial, health or location privacy and multiple bills addressing Section 230 reform and social networks and platforms more generally.
The AAF will continue our work with Privacy for America to urge Congress to enact reasonable privacy legislation that establishes a nationwide standard giving consumers strong protections while still enabling companies to use data in a trustworthy way and preserving the benefits that come with the responsible use of data.