The Leading Edge: 3 Legislative Trends You Can Expect to See in 2017

States look to new proposals for technology guidance, bringing fresh ideas to the lawmaking conversation.

by / January 25, 2017
Eyragon Eidam/Government Technology

State lawmakers are poised to start new legislative cycles — cycles that will no doubt bring some new and exciting tech issues to the fore. From how the benefits and challenges around autonomous vehicles are negotiated to how agencies procure next-gen IT systems, the 2017 session could be the most tech-focused in the collective history of state government.

The key themes are a direct reflection of what’s happening in the public and private sectors. New technology is changing the way government interacts with massive companies to purchase mission-critical tools and protect citizens’ privacy when it comes to data — and the technology once limited to Hollywood blockbusters is making its way onto the streets of major cities across the country.

1. Coding to Meet the Language Requirement

One Florida senator plans to reintroduce legislation that would allow students to apply coding classes to school language requirements. In 2016, the legislation passed in the Senate by a large margin, only to be shot down in the House. Critics have said the proposal would detract from the cultural benefits associated with learning a foreign language. But Sen. Jeff Brandes, author of Senate Bill 104, said the option only makes sense given the prominence of coding as an international language.

“This is a bill that we have been kicking around in the Legislature for a couple of years, but I think this is the year to get it passed the finish line. Our new employers value coding as much as they value French or Latin,” Brandes told Government Technology. “It is a language, as foreign as Latin to some, and so we think that we should consider it a foreign language and give college credit for it, or give high school credit and have colleges accept that as a foreign language credit.”

Under the legislation, high schools would not be required to offer the option, but state universities would be required to recognize the credits. Parents and students would be obliged to sign a statement saying they understand the implications of taking the coding courses. If passed in both the Senate and the House, the legislation would take effect July 1, 2017, but high schools would not begin offering the optional courses until the 2019/2020 school year.

2. Driving AV Home — or Not

Autonomous vehicles (AV) have received a polarizing reaction in the regulatory space since they first drove onto the scene. On the one hand, public safety advocates have expressed concern about the technology’s readiness for public roadways; business and technology advocates, however, have lobbied for less restriction in order to advance the vehicles. 

In California, Assembly Bill 87 and Senate Bill 145 propose amending the California Vehicle Code, which moves for certain restrictions of autonomous vehicles. Under the bills, manufacturers would be required to submit applications to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The applications would be evaluated and approved or denied by the department based on clarifications within the bills’ language.

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a four-bill package (SB 995-998) in early December 2016 meant to bolster the state’s competitive draw for AV manufacturers and their customers. The set of new laws effectively greenlit the purchase of the cars for use on public roadways, as well as the ability for ride sharing companies to deploy the vehicles when they become available. The package was reportedly an update to a similar 2013 law, The Detroit News reported

3. Protecting Data and Privacy

In Washington state, lawmakers have proposed a bill that would place strict limitations on government surveillance and what lawmakers call “extraordinary sensing devices.” House Bill 1102 draws distinct lines in the sand around the types of data collection and the cases in which law enforcement can use certain devices. Among the finer points of the bill, lawmakers outline the need for the state CIO to construct a website where the public can access the written policies and procedures associated with this legislation.

California’s Senate has also broached the issue with Senate Bill 21, which would make the use of surveillance technology and the data collected a public conversation. Under the proposal, each law enforcement agency would be required to notify the public and hold hearings to disclose the technology being used and the types of data being collected. The bill would take effect July 1, 2018, if passed in both the Senate and House.

Washington state is not unfamiliar with the larger technology/privacy conversation: It created the Office of Privacy of Privacy and Data Protection by executive order in early 2016 to better digest data uses issues for citizens and state agencies.

In the data protection vein, House Bill 1421, a consumer safety bill authored by Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, places limitations on the retention of constituent payment credentials by government agencies. If enacted, the legislation would require the elimination of the information by July 1, 2020.

“It’s about constraining how agencies and how long they can keep payment credentials,” Smith told Government Technology. “One of the key issues we have as we become more dependent on data collection to do our business, the thing we have to be diligent about is protecting that data. We don’t want government storing any more data than they absolutely need to in order for those agencies to do their jobs and provide that customer service most effectively.”

Smith said the issues of privacy and customer protection have been and will remain bipartisan issues for Washington legislators.

Eyragon Eidam Web Editor

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as  assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at eeidam@erepublic.com.