Archives for December 2020

Connected Commerce Council President Calls New Google Lawsuit “Nuts”

Several State AGs filed a lawsuit against Google this week. The plaintiffs hope a judge will enjoin this suit with the one previously submitted by the Department of Justice in October.

The announcement of the lawsuit and its scope weren’t unexpected to the tech community but many are questioning its timing, saying that the potential harm to small businesses and consumers is too great, and it’s legal premise is flawed.

Connected Commerce Council (3C) President Jake Ward issued the statement below highlighting some of those concerns. The Connected Commerce Council is a small business advocacy group which is worried about the impacts of the litigation on small businesses.

“Small businesses are hurting, and instead of helping them, these Attorneys General are trying to force middlemen between small businesses and their customers. In every market, middlemen drive up costs, drive down value and drive small businesses further from their customers. Intervening on behalf of billion-dollar publicly-traded intermediaries insults small businesses and harms consumers. To do so now is nuts.

“Small businesses have asked policymakers for help during the pandemic, and have made it clear that they need stability, access to capital, and access to digital tools. No one has asked policymakers to prioritize the interests of intermediaries. Not consumers, not small businesses, and not their employees. It won’t go unnoticed that when small businesses needed help, their attention was elsewhere.”

And, Adam Cohen, director of economic policy at Google said the claims, “have been closely examined and rejected by regulators and courts around the world, including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, competition authorities in Brazil, Canada and Taiwan, and courts in the United Kingdom and Germany, who all agreed that our changes are designed to improve your search results. It’s also well established that the most important driver for our search results is the specific query—not your personal data.”

The lawsuit against Google is expected to be one of the most expensive antitrust lawsuits in history.

Pushing Pharmaceutical Innovation Forward

By: Jen Hilderbrand

As a mother,  this year has been really difficult for my family as I’m sure it has been for millions of others. School closures, cancelled youth sports, and countless other kid friendly activities being called off or indefinitely delayed due to COVID-19 has put a real strain on both my husband and I and our children. 

These challenges are why I have been so encouraged to see positive vaccine news coming from America’s pharmaceutical industry. With three promising vaccine candidates on the way and 2020 coming to an end, I have hope that we will be able to get back to some semblance of normal in 2021. 

However, the pandemic has also put a spotlight on our health care industry once again, specifically highlighting the critical nature of continued scientific innovation. Most of us did not realize the billions of dollars, years of trial and error, and the immense intellectual resources  required to develop a new medication. 

But, thanks to 2020, we all know what it takes, and my hope is that this new knowledge will cause consumers and legislators alike to prioritize future research and development. 

It is clear, in order to build the most sustainable and healthy America possible we need to invest in new treatments and cures. This means passing new policies that cut regulatory red tape at the FDA and avoiding government price setting policies that stand to undercut funding for research. 

I hope others, especially our legislators, will remember the importance of pushing pharmaceutical innovation forward once we move past COVID-19.

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Holding Big Insurance Accountable

By Steve Schooley

As a 71-year-old retired firefighter, access to affordable and effective medication is a big priority for me. As such, this past election season, I voted for candidates who I believe are capable of making some commonsense reforms to our health care system, and I expect them to deliver.

As the 2021 legislative session quickly approaches and we start to see a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, I want to see Arizona’s legislators lead on holding health insurance companies accountable. As a senior, I am sick and tired of paying more for coverage year over year and getting less and less coverage from my provider. It seems as if every time there is a new Congress we hear a lot of talk out of Washington about “holding big pharma accountable” but where is that same vigor when it comes to insurance companies?

At the end of the day, I don’t care whose fault high it is my costs are too high, all I care about is that my costs go down and I continue to have access to the best available medications. To me, it seems like the easiest fix is to make sure insurance actually works for patients like me when we need it most.

Senators Sinema and Kelly Should Support Liability Protections for Businesses

By. Dr. Ed Ackerley

While the presidential transition is taking up most news headlines, everyday Arizonans are struggling to make ends meet and keep their businesses afloat. While the positions being filled by the next administration are important, elected officials have a duty to their constituents to continue working to address the problems we are currently experiencing. 

One of the biggest issues we are facing in the state is the economic devastation resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Arizona’s current unemployment rate is hovering at around 8%, above the national average. And as temporary business closures are declining, we are seeing a tragic rise in permanent closures. According to the latest Yelp survey data, Arizona ranks 4th in the nation for permanent business closures.

While these statistics are obviously alarming, statistics cannot truly encompass the tragedy of small business owners who have spent years, or decades, building a successful business only to have it ripped out from underneath them in six months because of something totally outside of their control. 

This is why it is critical for our elected officials to do everything in their power to protect and support small businesses. One way Congress can help small businesses is by passing reasonable liability protections from unfounded COVID-related lawsuits in the upcoming coronavirus relief package. This policy is of particular importance for essential businesses that have remained open throughout the pandemic to continue providing critical goods and services to our communities.

Right now, businesses, particularly those that have stayed open, are at increased risk of being sued by patrons claiming they contracted the virus at a particular establishment. While the virus is so widespread that it would be difficult for a defendant to prove their case in court, the legal fees required to fight back against unwarranted lawsuits could put a small business out of business for good. Lawyers have already increased their advertising encouraging people to file coronavirus-related lawsuits, so we can expect to see even more than the 6,500 claims already filed.

And it’s not just small businesses that are in need of reasonable protections from unfair lawsuits. Without COVID Liability Protection, Arizona schools could also face possible COVID Lawsuits.

This important discussion happened on the state level earlier this year. A COVID-19 business-liability protection bill passed the Arizona House in April, but unfortunately did not pass the Senate before the legislative session ended. While it would be helpful to pass this bill on the state level, it would be much more effective to pass liability protections on the federal level, since many businesses operate in multiple states, and a patchwork of regulations increases the financial burden on already struggling businesses. 

Thankfully, there is still time for Congress to provide businesses with commonsense, liability protection from unfounded coronavirus-related lawsuits, while ensuring we can still hold bad actors accountable. Hopefully, our home state Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly will stand behind Arizona businesses by supporting reasonable liability protections in any coronavirus relief package that comes before the Senate.

Dr. Ed Ackerley is the President of the Tucson Business Owners group.

Despite the Economy, Google Customers are still breaking through

These days, Google has been an easy target for politicians. However, according to google’s customers, the company is providing them a great help in overcoming difficulties and keeping employees on the job. With a focus on working together, supporting growth and driving innovation, Google is committing additional resources to helping its partners adjust, and it is paying off. Google has invested heavily in its small business programs which help owners improve their ROI, expand their reach and become more competitive. As a result, companies around the country have been singing their praises. 

Below are just a few of the testimonials from Google customers…

“We were a pre-digital company when we began, but transitioned into a digital-first business. We use YouTube and Google Ads to speak directly with our customers and share our message – and Google Ads generates 11% of our web traffic and roughly 15% of our sales revenue. It’s an $11 return for every dollar spent, which is huge for a small business, and it has helped us to serve more than 55,000 customers. Our investment in technology, in particular Google tools, has been hugely helpful, and we also view it as a means to get people more active and involved in their communities.”

Jason McCarthy, CEO, GORUCK, Jacksonville Beach, FL

“At Slickdeals, our mission is to help shoppers win everywhere. Google has been instrumental in helping us generate strong revenue with high quality ads, allowing us to reinvest more earnings into our technology which has saved consumers over $6 billion. Google’s ability to offer different advertising products has allowed us to optimize and balance user-experience with revenue. Google has helped provide our business with diversified revenue streams which have been critical to our growth over the past several years.”

Eugene Faynberg, VP, Ad Operations, Slickdeals

“Google isn’t just our top monetization partner, they also help provide tools and information to help Mediavine and its 8000 independent publishers build a faster and better web experiences for users. We’re confident that in working with Google, Mediavine will be able to help content creators build sustainable businesses for years to come.”

Eric Hochberger, CEO, Mediavine

“We’ve been a Google Ads customer for 8+ years, and I am so grateful for the support that Google has given me in helping me with innovative strategies for my business. Given COVID, we pivoted our operations to focus more on e-commerce, and digital tools; specifically Google Ads, have played a massive role in that. With the help of a new ad strategy, we successfully brought in more customers. I am beyond thankful for how helpful Google has been in keeping my business alive and thriving, with business up 60% steadily in the last few months. With so many marketing options and tools at my disposal, it’s important to me that my dollars yield the greatest ROI which is why I continue to invest in Google tools.”

Chris Lewis, Founder & CEO, Evergreen Applied Technologies , Evergreen, CO

Speaker Rusty Bowers Addresses Calls for the Legislature to Overturn 2020 Certified Election Results

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers today issued the following statement:

This week, Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, and others representing President Donald Trump came to Arizona with a breathtaking request:  that the Arizona Legislature overturn the certified results of last month’s election and deliver the state’s electoral college votes to President Trump.  The rule of law forbids us to do that.

Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Ellis made their case here at least twice—on Monday, at an unofficial public gathering hosted by a small group of legislators; and again on Tuesday, during a closed-door meeting at the State Capitol with Republican leaders from both chambers of the Legislature.  Both times, the Trump team made claims that the election was tainted by fraud but presented only theories, not proof.  U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr said on Tuesday that he, too, has “not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome of the election.”

Even if such evidence existed, the Arizona Legislature simply couldn’t do what is being asked.  Under our state’s constitution, the Legislature can act only when it is in session, and the Legislature could call itself into a special session only with the support of a bipartisan supermajority of its members.

That won’t materialize, but even if did, the Legislature couldn’t provide the recourse the President’s team seeks.  The U.S. Constitution authorizes each state to appoint presidential electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.”  For decades, Arizona law has required that the voters elect the state’s electors on Election Day—this year, on November 3rd.  And under a law the Republican-led Legislature passed just three years ago, the state’s electors are required to cast their votes for the candidates who received the most votes in the official statewide election canvass.  Enacted after the 2016 presidential election, in which President Trump won the electoral college but not the popular vote, the law was aimed at ensuring that Arizona’s electors would remain faithful to the vote of the people.

So under current Arizona law, the presidential electors who were elected on November 3 must, after the canvass is completed, vote for the winners of the popular vote.  Nothing in the U.S. Constitution or the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court even suggests that the Arizona Legislature could retroactively appoint different electors who would cast their ballots for different candidates.  The Trump legal team has cited McPherson v. Blacker (1892), to claim that the legislature can “resume the power [to appoint electors] at any time.”  And it is true that the Arizona Legislature could alter the method of appointing electors prospectively.  But it cannot undo the election of electors whom the voters already voted for.  As the Supreme Court made clear in Bush v. Gore (2000), “[w]hen the state legislature vests the right to vote for President in its people, the right to vote as the legislature has prescribed is fundamental.”

No election is perfect, and if there were evidence of illegal votes or an improper count, then Arizona law provides a process to contest the election: a lawsuit under state law.  But the law does not authorize the Legislature to reverse the results of an election.

As a conservative Republican, I don’t like the results of the presidential election.  I voted for President Trump and worked hard to reelect him.  But I cannot and will not entertain a suggestion that we violate current law to change the outcome of a certified election.

I and my fellow legislators swore an oath to support the U.S. Constitution and the constitution and laws of the state of Arizona.  It would violate that oath, the basic principles of republican government, and the rule of law if we attempted to nullify the people’s vote based on unsupported theories of fraud.  Under the laws that we wrote and voted upon, Arizona voters choose who wins, and our system requires that their choice be respected.

Forty years ago next month, President Ronald Reagan reminded us that while the “orderly transfer of authority” is a “commonplace occurrence” for Americans, “[i]n the eyes of many in the world, this every-4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.”  Now, Americans are being reminded once again never to take for granted what President Reagan correctly described as “the continuity which is the bulwark of our Republic.”

It’s Time to Modernize the Workforce While Protecting Independent Workers

By: Nathan Brown

Throughout the past 10 years, the different ways in which Americans work have fundamentally changed. Thanks to technology, there are more innovative and flexible job opportunities for people to pursue outside of a traditional nine-to-five office job. 

A prime example of this transformation in how we work can be seen by the millions of people who operate in the on-demand economy, like those who choose to work in online or app-based platforms. Today, over 57 million Americans, including me, work on their own schedule, and that number will surely increase as more people realize the benefits that come with working in this sector – especially the flexibility it offers.

As a driver for Amazon myself, I value the flexibility that my work gives me. For many drivers like me, working independently allows us to balance our personal and professional life, particularly during these unprecedented times where many have to juggle multiple things like work, childcare, and virtual schooling. 

This is precisely why lawmakers, like Arizona’s U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, as well as my Congressman Greg Stanton, must work to address the needs of this growing sector of the workforce. It is long overdue for policymakers to recognize that today’s labor laws and social safety nets are outdated. 

First and foremost, implementing a portable benefits program would be one meaningful way to address this issue. Establishing a portable benefits program will protect millions of independent workers and give them peace of mind in addition to expanding opportunities for people across all demographics, ethnicities, and backgrounds. In the long run, this would help brick and mortar small businesses, restaurants, and retail establishments compete in what has become an increasingly online economy that shows no sign of slowing down.

Independent workers in this space would also benefit tremendously from a portable benefits program. Having access to key items like health insurance, paid family and medical leave, and disability insurance that they can take with them no matter where they work would be a huge improvement that could attract even more people to work in this industry. 

Remaining independent while receiving these types of benefits is an overwhelming popular opinion among current workers as well, according to one poll, by a 4-to-1 margin. Given this large majority, it’s no surprise that recently in California, Proposition 22 passed with over 58% support. This proves even further that allowing independent contractors to stay independent while receiving benefits is wildly popular and is not a partisan issue – it is a pro-worker issue.

The reason that Proposition 22 was so effective and successful can be summed up simply: workers – and those who support workers – in California wanted these crucial independent contractors and app-based earners to be able to keep their flexibility and independence. This is great news for Californians, and now it’s time to focus attention and effort on this issue nationally.

Utilizing the success of Proposition 22 and federalizing the issue would be a huge step forward for workers across the country. Private companies are doing their part to elevate worker standards, and policymakers in Washington must match that enthusiasm.

Nathan Brown is gig economy worker and voter in Congressional District 9