U.S. Rep. Tom Latham (R) held a “tech town hall” at StartupCity Des Moines today with about 30 entrepreneurs from local startups. The one-hour discussion covered a wide range of topics, from healthcare and taxes to the FCC and SBA.
Latham started by briefly addressing how issues like the federal budget and various taxes (capital gains, estate, alternative minimum) will affect the availability of capital for investments in startups. He said his goal is to keep the government out of the way of business growth.
“Don’t look for the federal government to be innovative,” Latham said. “The last place in the world you go to find innovation is Washington, DC. What we can do is get the hell out of the way.”
Latham then opened the floor to questions and discussion. Several participants stated the need for open access to rural broadband to encourage innovation. That led into a lengthy discussion on how ever-changing regulations make it difficult for businesses to move forward. The audience also asked about barriers to entry into entrepreneurship, including taxes and health insurance.
“Health insurance is expensive now, wait until it’s free,” Latham said, referring to publicly funded healthcare. Alternative solutions he proposed include allowing entrepreneurs to join forces to buy insurance in bulk to create leverage, permitting insurance purchases across state lines, and letting individuals write off insurance costs on their taxes.
The event ended with Latham encouraging participants (and all entrepreneurs) to share their feedback with Congress on an ongoing basis.
“Please keep us informed,” he said. “For a representational form of democracy we need to know what’s going on with you. Don’t think just because you’ve contacted someone once, they know. You have to stay at it.”
The best way to reach Latham, he said, is the contact form on his website.