Prominent former U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch in 2010 asked the question, “Do you think a business should engage in public policy?” He quickly responded, “If the company is not driving public policy, then someone else is driving public policy and they may not like the results.” The Idaho Technology Council Public Policy Committee is focused on being the voice of its members to drive public policy initiatives that help build the right environment to grow a knowledge-based economy in Idaho. The ITC is also part of Technology Councils of North America, CompTIA, and BIO to help stay engaged on national issues that impact innovation.
K-12 Education: The Idaho Legislature has passed several education initiatives to help Idaho students gain strong computing literacy skills. Idaho was the 13th state in the union to pass a law to make it so a computer science course could count towards a math or science course for high school graduation. The ITC has worked with key legislators to help pass legislation that would require all high schools in Idaho to offer an exploring computer science course. Several other steps have been taken to help position computing literacy as a focus to help Idaho K-12 students graduate with tangible skills that will help them compete in a knowledge economy.
Cloud Services: In 2012, the Idaho State Tax Commission identified statue from 1986 which was interpreted as anything downloaded on a computer is a taxable event. Fast forward to 2010 when Software as a Service and cloud computing software solutions were skyrocketing, the Idaho State Tax Commission audited several ITC members and concluded that many companies in Idaho owed thousands, and some hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes to the state of Idaho. Two main points: 1) Technology evolved and policy did not keep pace, 2) Services are not taxable in Idaho. The ITC and its members worked with the legislatures and the Governor’s office to pass key legislation to modernize tax policy. The legislation states cloud services be treated like other services, and not make them subject to state sales tax. This piece of legislation took two years to complete (2014) and sent a powerful message that Idaho is fully committed to growing a strong robust software industry. Idaho has been recognized as having the fastest growing software industry in the nation as a percent of the state’s GDP!
Higher Education: The ITC has also been focused on growing computer science graduates at Idaho colleges. To date, the state has provided additional funding through several sources with IGEM (Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission), Idaho Department of Labor Workforce Development Grants, and JFAC (Joint Finance-Appropriation Committee) who have helped appropriate approximately twenty-four new facility positions to help grow software/cyber positions at Idaho universities. For instance, the ITC has helped grow the Boise State University from nine faculty members and approximately twenty graduates in the computer science department in 2013 to twenty-six faculty members with one-hundred-fifteen graduates in 2018.