Donohue: States Regulating National Policy Issues ‘Presents Challenges and Uncertainties for Business’

U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue warned today in his State of American Business speech that an emerging patchwork of state regulations on national economic issues presents challenges and uncertainties for business. 

“Some of the shift in action to the states is a result of the federal government failing to set clear guidelines on issues that are best defined through a nationwide standard or policy,” said Donohue, pointing to data privacy as a prime of example of where Congress has failed to set a national standard. 

“Washington’s inability to make progress on data privacy is resulting in a patchwork of state rules and regulations that will stifle the free flow of goods and services across state borders,” he added. “This would create conflict for businesses, confusion for consumers, and increase costs for everyone … Consumers do need better protections for data—and that’s why the Chamber continues to advocate for a nationwide data privacy policy.” 

Donohue warned that consequential laws and proposals are being pushed in the states on matters ranging from data privacy and internet regulations to independent contracting and arbitration. In California and New York, labor unions have compelled lawmakers to abandon long-standing definitions of independent contractors. 

“Under such proposals, Lyft and Uber drivers would be deemed employees and not independent contractors. The result? The business model that has revolutionized entire sectors of the economy will screech to a halt.” Donohue said. “The same is true for the innovation we are seeing in everything from home repair tasks to grocery delivery. At stake is the flexibility and independence that have made ‘side gigs’ or second jobs an important part of how millions of Americans support themselves and their families.” 

Following the flurry of bipartisan legislative activity in December, Donohue expressed optimism that Congress can advance national policies to preempt a patchwork of state rules and regulations—even in an election year.  

“It’s not going to be a year of inaction,” he said. “We don’t buy the excuse that nothing can get done in an election year… We have a full slate of challenges and opportunities before us in the states that beg our collective attention, leadership, and engagement this year and beyond.”

Today’s event marked the 21st delivery of the annual address by Donohue, who has led the U.S. Chamber since 1997. The State of American Business event is the premier annual event on the debates, decisions, and disruptions facing the American business community across the U.S. and around the world. 

The program includes the State of American Business address by CEO Thomas J. Donohue, and new this year, the speech will be followed by a Faces of Business fireside chat moderated by Chamber President Suzanne Clark and featuring Revolution Chairman and CEO Steve Case, and a panel of American entrepreneurs.  The State of American Business draws top Washington influencers, policymakers, national media, and digital audiences worldwide. Demonstrating the depth and breadth of the Chamber’s advocacy across the U.S. and world, this year the event will feature watch parties and live interactions with chambers of commerce in five countries and seven states. 
Donohue’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are available online here. To watch the 2020 State of American Business address, please visit our website.