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AeA: More high-tech lobbying needed at state level

Group plans to expand its influence from federal to state level on pressing state issues like e-waste, online safety, privacy, and taxation.

SAN FRANCISCO--The AeA (American Electronics Association) plans to expand its focus on government technology policy to include many more individual states, the trade group said Thursday.

After spending much of its history lobbying for governmental policy favorable to the industry at the federal level and in a few key states with high-tech centers--California, Texas, Florida, New York, Massachusetts--the group says the current legislative environment requires more.

At a meeting of member companies here, new CEO Christopher Hansen said that it's necessary the AeA expand beyond those traditional tech meccas. "Legislation affects this industry in a lot of places you wouldn't expect," he told a small gathering of reporters.

That's because states are finding themselves confronted with not only tech companies manufacturing products within their confines, but voters who want policy on spam, spyware, child Internet safety, electronic recycling, and more.

There's a lot going on locally, and each state may take a different tack on the same issue. For example, there are 12 different states with e-waste management laws on the books as of last summer, according to the Congressional Research Service. While one may focus on landfill policy, others may determine how specific hazardous materials are disposed of, and who pays for e-waste removal and recycling.

Even though Hansen said he'd prefer to have a uniform federal policy on issues like electronic waste laws so companies don't have to have a different product or program for each of the 50 states, the states demand his group's attention. "The fact of the matter is, that's where things move," he said.

Though most state lawmakers are just getting back to business, there are some key issues coming up this year that will likely be highly debated in most states. According to Jim Wall, the chair of the AeA's State Government Affairs program and regional government affairs director for Microsoft, that includes environmental policy, RFID tags, privacy, taxation on digital goods, workforce, and education.