Seven Government Tech Bills that Died in Congress

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Next session, lawmakers must decide whether to reintroduce legislation to strengthen the chief information officer, lock down network-connected devices, protect elections and more.

As the 115th Congress comes to an end, hundreds of bills that lawmakers failed to approve over the last two years will be put to rest. While legislation is frequently reintroduced once the new session kicks off, it’s likely many of these bills will never again see the light of day.

Here’s a handful of federal tech- and cyber-focused proposals that for one reason or another never made it to the president’s desk.

Federal CIO Authorization Act

The federal chief information officer’s stature in government will go unchanged after a legislation to elevate the position never got its day on the Senate floor.

The Federal CIO Authorization Act, sponsored by Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Robin Kelly, D-Ill., passed the House by voice vote in late November, but lawmakers in the upper chamber never introduced their own version of the bill. The act would have moved the government’s top technologist up the White House chain of command and designated both the federal CIO and chief information security officer as presidentially appointed jobs.

The bill’s death also means the Office of E-Government will keep its outmoded name. The legislation would’ve rebranded the group as the Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer.

Federal Agency Customer Experience Act

Legislation that would make it easier for agencies to collect feedback from customers and citizens will also be put to pasture this session. Both chambers passed their own versions of the Federal Agency Customer Experience Act, but they were never reconciled amid the end of the year tumult.

The legislation would’ve rolled back measures regulating the way agencies gather voluntary feedback from the people they serve and given Congress and the Office of Management and Budget more oversight on how that information is used to improve services.

Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act

Tech experts have long warned about the security vulnerabilities of the internet of things, but lawmakers were unable to pass legislation to lock down internet-connected devices purchased by the government.

The Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act would have required all the government’s network-connected devices to accept software patches and allowed users to change default passwords. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who sponsored the bill, saw it as a way to leverage the government’s sizable purchasing power to incentivize the tech industry to invest in devices security.

Neither Warner’s bill nor its House counterpart were even put up to a vote.

Artificial Intelligence in Government Act

Senate lawmakers also wanted to increase support for agencies exploring ways to adopt artificial intelligence, but they’ll have to carry over the effort to the 116th Congress.

The Artificial Intelligence in Government Act, sponsored by Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, would’ve required the General Services Administration to hire on more AI experts to conduct research and help agencies implement the tech. Under the bill, the White House would’ve also had to assimilate AI into its federal data strategy and examine the workforce skills needed to stand up tools across government. The bill would’ve also given officials the authority to update existing occupational series to accommodate those skills.

The legislation never moved beyond the the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Honest Ads Act

One of Capitol Hill’s most earnest attempts to curb the flow of online misinformation will kick the bucket on Jan. 3.

The Honest Ads Act would’ve forced online platforms to disclose who paid for political ads on their sites, mirroring regulations that already exist for broadcast, radio and print political advertising. Lawmakers introduced the bill in the aftermath of the 2016 election when investigations revealed Russian groups exploited social media platforms in their efforts to sway election results.

While the House version received modest support from both parties, the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., remains the only Republican signed onto the Senate bill.

Secure Elections Act

A bipartisan bill aimed at expanding the Homeland Security Department’s role in protecting nationwide elections will also soon be laid to rest.

Many initially saw the Secure Elections Act as a rare moment of unity in a deeply divided Congress, but the legislation was mired this summer by legal hair-splitting and funding concerns from state election officials. The bill would’ve made Homeland Security responsible for sharing information about election cyber threats and vulnerabilities and charged a federal commission with guiding states on protecting election infrastructure.

It would have also forced states to replace outdated voting equipment and audit contested federal races, and subsidized those efforts with federal funds.

Data Care Act

In the final weeks of the 115th Congress, Senate Democrats introduced a bill that would hold private companies financially liable for the consumer data they collect and use.

While few expected the Data Care Act to advance on Capitol Hill—especially amid a heated government funding debate—the legislation could foretell Democrats approach to privacy once they take control of the House in January.

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