As technology extends further into our everyday lives, lawmakers are scrambling to govern the impact of rapid industry advances. In California, Sen. Alex Padilla is at the forefront of those public policy issues.
Armed with a degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Padilla has been a driving force for technology legislation at the state level, as well as locally during a stint on the Los Angeles City Council. Padilla authored SB 1298 in 2012, for example, a bill that outlined safety standards and performance guidelines for driverless vehicles. He also chairs the California Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications.
Padilla’s educational background lets him view policy issues through an engineering and technological lens. He said California is just scratching the surface on new technologies for health care and genetic research, and legislative protections are needed in those and other areas to avoid legal pitfalls.
Genome sequencing is one area in particular that needs legislation to help guard citizens’ sensitive data, he said.
“We have laws on the books at the federal and state level that will help you protect your financial information or even your own identity, but those protections are not in place for genetic information,” Padilla said. “I want to make sure people who participate and try to advance their own health care … do so confidently that the information won’t be used against them or used nefariously or unintentionally in the future.”
Photo by Jessica Mulholland
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.