Association lauds Idaho for backing disruptive innovation

Apr 18th, 2017 | By | Category: Featured
Sarah Glenn/For the Journal A sampling of Airbnb listings for Pocatello. Idaho was recently lauded by the Consumer Technology Association for its friendly stance toward the sharing economy.

Sarah Glenn/For the Journal
A sampling of Airbnb listings for Pocatello. Idaho was recently lauded by the Consumer Technology Association for its friendly stance toward the sharing economy.

By Sarah Glenn

POCATELLO — Idaho recently relaxed it regulations on the sharing economy and business innovation watchdogs took notice.

In early April, the Consumer Technology Association labeled the Gem State as one of three leading the nation in disruptive innovation. Rhode Island and Arizona were the other states recognized for championing the sharing economy.

“Idaho is great for the sharing economy,” said Gary Shapiro, the CTA’s president and CEO. “They make it easy for people to take their property and make money off of it.”

Shapiro added that Idaho was among the first to adopt laws that pave the way for innovation in the sharing economy.

As the CTA’s rankings were released, Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter signed a bill aimed at curbing local governments’ efforts to regulate homeowners who rent their homes through Airbnb or similar services.

The first week of April, Otter signed the Short-term Rental and Vacation Rental Act, which ensures homeowners’ rights to rent their properties, but still allows local regulation when “the public health, safety and welfare” are at stake. The bill passed the House 63-5 with two abstentions and passed the Senate 35-0.

The bill prohibits cities and counties from levying sales taxes on short-term or vacation rentals, requires that they retain residential zoning and bars any ordinances that have the “express or practical effect of prohibiting” the rentals.

“This bill is a major win for the 2,000 Idahoans, the vast majority of whom are women and seniors, welcoming visitors to their state,” said Jasmine Mora, a spokeswoman for Airbnb, in a statement. “This legislation takes a balanced approach to ensuring families continue to have a variety of travel options while enabling cities to adopt reasonable regulations.”

The CTA report also pointed to Idaho’s friendly laws regarding ridesharing services. After months of tensions with ridesharing companies, in March 2015 the Idaho House passed a law legalizing Lyft and Uber for statewide operation. The CTA report pointed to Idaho lifting burdensome rules on these companies, resolving disputes over background checks and driver insurance.

Idaho was also lauded by the CTA for its business-friendly tax policies. Idaho was also recognized for increasing entrepreneurial activity — leading the pack at 19th in the nation. According to the CTA, Idaho achieved $10 per capita in venture capital investment in 2016 and over $789 per capita in R&D.

Although the Gem State’s stance on the sharing economy was attractive, the report added that the state has a long way to go before really competing with other states ranked in the top tier of the CTA’s list.

For the third year in a row, the state was labeled an “Innovation Adopter” — the third of the ranking’s four tiers. The CTA has been releasing the list for three years.

The 2017 Innovation Scorecard rankings are based on 10 indicators comparing economic and educational data and the regulatory frameworks for workplace flexibility, ridesharing, homesharing, self-driving cars, drones and sustainable policies.

The state’s dismal average internet speeds were the biggest factor keeping it low on the list. The average internet speed in Idaho, according to data gleaned from the CTA report, is 10,407 kbps. That’s barely enough for basic web browsing.

“Part of that though is geography,” Shapiro explained. “The lower your population density, the harder that is to accomplish.”

Other factors that kept Idaho from climbing in the innovation ranks are onerous regulations on drones. The report says that the state “excessively criminaliz(es) drone technology with duplicative privacy laws.”

And while Idaho was lauded by the CTA for being a Right to Work state, it received lesser acclaim for its lack of laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Prohibiting discrimination is really important to tech companies,” Shapiro said. “You look at what’s going on and a lot of companies want to make sure that the North Carolina situation is not repeated.”

According to a Forbes analysis, North Carolina’s “Bathroom Bill” (a law that requires citizens to use the public facility that corresponds with their ‘biological’ gender) has cost the state at least $630 million in lost business.

“Companies want to attract the best possible talent no matter what gender,” Shapiro said.

And although Idaho had more than 41,600 tech workers in 2016, that is not enough to lure new companies to the state.

“The biggest thing companies need right now is talent,” Shapiro said.

And while the CTA research found that Idaho has 20.1 college degrees granted in STEM for every 1,000 young people, they also discovered that these highly-trained workers are leaving the state to find jobs.

“Part of the pitch that Idaho can make is that we have the workers, we have the lifestyle we have the education; now tech company, you just need to relocate here,” Shapiro said.

The CTA is a trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies, including Airbnb. The full report can be found at https://www.cta.tech/Policy/Innovation-Scorecard.aspx

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