While the partial government shutdown remained in full swing at press time in mid-January, legal experts and political watchers were prognosticating the big legislative and regulatory issues to watch this year. On the agenda: Likely legislation to repeal the 2017 tax law along with consumer privacy legislation and regulation.

“Privacy will be an extremely hot issue in 2019 and will be a major focus of regulators and legislators” this year, Kathleen Benway, a newly christened partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP in Washington, told IA at press-time in mid-January.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) “really crystalized for a lot of organizations, including industry, the need for Federal privacy legislation,” said Benway, the former chief of staff of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission.

The robust new California privacy law that requires transparency and disclosure on how insurance agencies and large broker-dealers collect and use personal data and how they delete that information is to go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

An alert from the law firm of Eversheds Sutherland warned that “companies doing business with Californians, even those located outside California, may need to start planning to comply with the new law, even if they are already compliant with other U.S. and European privacy laws.”

While agreeing on any privacy legislation “is a very complicated undertaking,” Benway said, “Congress, on both sides of the aisle, have recognized the importance of a federal privacy law.” The details must be ironed out “because it’s important to get the law right. Yes, consumers need to be protected, but the law must be flexible so businesses can not only innovate, but in the first instance, function.”

A lot of the focus in privacy “will also be on the CCPA, as the California Attorney General gears up to put rules in place in advance of January 2020, when the rules go into effect,” Benway added.

Cameron Kerry, visiting fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, noted in the think-tank’s 2019 priorities roundup that “key committee leaders have announced that privacy legislation will be on their agenda for this Congress, and a number of members are working on bills with an eye toward getting something passed by 2020.”

Noting the GDPR and California privacy rule, “a lot of forces are aligning to make legislation possible,” Kerry said.

Meanwhile, Isabell Sawhill, senior fellow in economic studies at Brookings, opined that “now that Democrats have taken over the House, there are likely to be discussions on repealing and replacing the 2017 tax law” in 2019.

Christen Linke Young, Fellow in USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, added that with the House back in democrats’ hands, “we can look ahead to the first Congress since 2011 where that body won’t be passing a bill to repeal” the Affordable Care Act.

Washington Bureau Chief Melanie Waddell can be reached at [email protected]