Michelle Nunn (D)

Q1. Name:
Michelle Nunn
Q2: Currently in Georgia, and around the Nation, there is a shortage of talent to fill open technology positions. TAG feels part of this issue is due to current H1B Visa policies that hinder highly educated foreign students from staying within the United States to work. What is your position on H1B Visas as well as border protection and illegal immigration? Would you be willing to address the H1B visa issue as a standalone issue in congress?
I believe that we need to reform our visa policies in the context of comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders and provides an accountable pathway to citizenship that requires those currently living here go to the back of the line, pass a background check, learn English and pay back taxes.
Whether as multiple separate bills, or one omnibus bill, we must pass comprehensive reform that achieves all of these goals.
I am committed to working with the high-tech industry and other stakeholders to ensure that comprehensive reform balances the needs of businesses as they grow with the need to preserve American jobs.
Q3: Ensuring students have a 21st century digital infrastructure with access to broadband internet, and fourth generation (4G) wireless networks has become a critical issue nationally. How do you feel congress can address this access issue? Do you feel the federal and state government can work together to bring access to Georgia’s students?
Addressing the growing national debt is one of my highest priorities.  However, we cannot abandon the investments in infrastructure that are necessary to help American businesses compete in a global economy – and that means not just roads and bridges, but broadband and a modern electrical grid that is ready to meet the demands of a 21st century workforce.
We should do this because our businesses depend on reliable infrastructure.  If we cannot provide reliable, broadband Internet to our students – our future workforce – then we cannot compete in a global economy.  China spends three times more on infrastructure than we do; Europe spends twice as much.  Our economy is capital intensive, and yet we are making spending decisions that undervalue our infrastructure.  This not only inhibits our growth but costs Georgia jobs.
Georgia has made progress in using funds provided by Congress to expand broadband access and grow our digital economy – but there is still more work to be done.  I am committed to ensuring that our state and our nation have the infrastructure necessary to complete with companies anywhere in the world.
Q4: Cybersecurity has become an issue not only for consumers (i.e. Target’s recent data breach) but also for small and medium sized companies. Do you feel there should be a blanket approach to setting regulations regarding cybersecurity? Should companies be held accountable for the information they lose? How can our government assist in protecting consumers and business owners from these types of security breaches?
Cybersecurity is one of the preeminent security issues of the 21st century. Cyber-attacks from individuals, criminal networks, foreign governments and terrorist organizations will only grow more prevalent.  
Our approach to cybersecurity must be appropriate to the scale of the threat and the risk involved – an individual selling homemade products online should not be regulated in the same fashion as a multinational conglomerate. In addition, our response must be proportional to the threat involved – organized attacks from states or criminal networks must dealt with aggressively by both the government and private sectors.
But Americans must be confident that businesses and other entities storing our data are behaving responsibly. It is critical that we continue to build faith and trust in the digital marketplace and the broader information economy that is driving U.S. economic growth.  
The federal government and the private sector need to work together to ensure that Americans’ private data is protected and that criminals are caught and prosecuted. Both local and federal police agencies have dramatically increased the resources dedicated to cybersecurity, and we must ensure that these efforts have our full support.  And businesses must be transparent with their customers and law enforcement about any data loss or cyber-attacks that put consumers’ personal information at risk.
Georgia must be a leader in this effort.  With an active and vibrant community of companies and technology industry professionals, our state should be at the forefront of the growing cybersecurity industry.
Q5: STEM education has become an important part of Georgia schools and is crucial in filling US jobs. As a nation, the United States has dropped in the STEM rankings among other nations. How can we better prepare STEM students for the 21st century work force? How can congress assist schools in the implementation of STEM? What ideas do you have to make STEM a priority nationally?
High quality education is one of the smartest investments our country can make.  Smart investments to train tomorrow’s innovators in science, technology, engineering, and math will help our nation develop innovative products and services. However our political leaders are failing the next generation.
In 2012, only 4.4% of our undergraduates were majoring in STEM. In Europe, that figure is 11% and in China, 20%. STEM jobs are projected to grow by 26% between 2010 and 2020. From preschool to graduate school, we have to continue to promote STEM courses and encourage all students with high standards and engaging pathways toward careers in STEM fields. A strong education system with smart investments in STEM will ensure our students and businesses remain competitive in a 21st century economy.
The Corporation for National and Community Service's new STEM AmeriCorps initiative to spur student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math education is just one example of the kind of public/private partnerships underway across the country to bring STEM professionals into the classroom to inspire young people to excel in STEM education.
Also, we need to encourage and facilitate leadership and engagement from Georgia’s business community. Dozens of companies, from IBM and Lockheed Martin to LEGO and Intel, are working with Georgia’s schools to improve STEM education.  And programs like GE’s robotics competition helps students experience and learn to love engineering.
Last, we need to ensure that children’s education meets the demands of the innovation economy. That’s why I support Common Core, a set of research-based benchmarks that we can use them to make sure that our children are being taught what they need to achieve and be competitive in a 21st century economy compared to other states and other countries.
Q6: The House of Representatives passed a bill addressing patent reform (The Innovation Act HB3309, which was overwhelmingly bipartisan with a 325 yea-vote and 91 no-vote count), and the issue of patent trolling. Currently, the bill resides in the Senate. If this legislation is not passed during 2014, what steps will you take to insure this legislation continues to move through the process?
We need to ensure that our patent system protects intellectual property holders, but is protected from abuse by those who seek to exploit the system. We must encourage entrepreneurs and innovators; but fly-by-night companies cannot be permitted to tie up our court system with thousands of frivolous lawsuits.
If Congress does not effectively address this issue in 2014, I will work with businesses and the legal community in a deliberate process to create a policy that works for both start-ups and mature industries.  Our goal must be an effective, efficient patent system that is protected from abusive practices.
Q7: What ways do you feel our government and, you specifically, can encourage entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial spirit in America? President Obama stated “We should be making it easier and faster to turn new ideas into new jobs and new businesses. And we should knock down any barriers that stand in the way. Because if we’re going to create jobs now and in the future, we’re going to have to out-build and out-educate and out-innovate every other country on Earth.” After reading this statement, what reactions do you have to his ideas on assisting entrepreneurs?
Earlier this year, I visited businesses around the state as part of my Georgia Entrepreneurship Tour.  I shared my own start-up story and talked to entrepreneurs around the state about the importance of creating a climate in which businesses can take risks and grow.
Beginning shortly after I left college, I joined with a small team of dedicated individuals and grew our organization into the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service – employing more than one hundred workers, overseeing a $30 million budget and mobilizing millions of volunteers each year.
So I know first-hand the challenges start-ups face, and I know there is a lot Washington can do to help businesses grow and create jobs.  Some of the measures I would support include:
•    End the uncertainty caused by Washington’s failure to agree on a budget that is hurting our economy and preventing businesses from planning ahead. We need to pass yearly budgets and stop budgeting from crisis to crisis;
•    Lower the tax burden businesses face by lowering the corporate tax rate, currently the highest in the world, and simplifying our tax code;
•    Support advances in new technology that will create new jobs and industries in Georgia by extending the Research & Development tax credit;
•    Prepare tomorrow’s workforce by building on the successful example of technical colleges across Georgia that partner with local businesses to train new workers and leverage federal aid to encourage colleges to do more to keep tuition costs down for families;
•    Increase access to capital for small businesses by exploring innovative sources of funding and supporting small business incubators.     
•    Passing comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders and provides an accountable pathway to citizenship that requires those currently living here go to the back of the line, pass a background check, learn English and pay back taxes.
Q8: If elected, how will you work to balance our nation’s budget? Will you support innovation and technology within the budget?
It’s time to have an honest discussion about commonsense approaches to addressing the budget and our debt.  Unfortunately, our political leaders are more interested in fighting each other than making the hard choices necessary to get our country back on a responsible fiscal path.  But the fact remains that if we do nothing, a decade from now our children could be making interest payments of $1 trillion dollars on the debt. Its past time for folks in Washington to make the tough decisions to get our debt under control. At the same time, we cannot abandon the necessary investments in infrastructure, innovation and R&D that create the conditions for economic growth.
As CEO of Points of Light, I cut our debt and increased assets by millions of dollars – all while expanding the organization to help more people across America.
Getting our budget under control starts with eliminating the waste, fraud, and abuse in our government.  GAO identified hundreds of government programs costing tens of billions of dollars that are wasteful or duplicative – 15 agencies run 76 programs to combat drug abuse; 47 programs train workers for new jobs; and 3 separate agencies inspect catfish.
And for years, members of Congress spent billions on “earmarks” – spending taxpayer dollars on unnecessary projects. That is not the way taxpayers money should be spent.
And while I refuse to privatize Social Security or Medicare, we must act to control spending in our entitlement programs – the former head of the Medicare program said that 20% of our health care spending is wasteful or unnecessary.
But the best way to balance the budget is to grow our economy.  And that means enacting comprehensive tax reform that lowers our corporate tax rate and closes loopholes as well as creating the conditions to foster growth and competitiveness, including far-sighted infrastructure and technology investments.
We need to send people to Washington who are willing to sit around a table and work together, across party lines to make hard and disciplined choices.  Political bickering has only caused government shutdowns and uncertainty for businesses resulting in job loss and economic slowdowns.  No individual can solve this, but leaders, working in concert can.

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