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How State Policymakers and Governors Are Shaping AI

October 05, 2023
By: Laura Lacy Graham

In the absence of cohesive federal policies or regulations involving the growing development and use of artificial intelligence (AI), states’ governors and lawmakers are undertaking studies and crafting legislation that seeks to balance governance and implementation of this evolving technology. The studies and legislation are intended to protect constituents from AI’s possible harms without hindering potential uses or contributions of AI to government services or medical, science, business, and educational advancements.

A recent report by the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) detailed how some states are currently regulating AI, but it also illustrated that for state policymakers nationwide, AI is (or continues to be) a growing area of concern.

In the outgrowth of that concern, state policymakers have introduced more AI-related measures this year (191) than the past two states’ legislative sessions combined: nearly 200 bills were introduced in 31 states, with 14 bills becoming law in nine states (Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Texas, Virginia, and Washington). Much of the newly proposed or passed legislation focused on how state governments will use AI, with lawmakers in California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Washington also considering impact assessments to mitigate the risks of AI. Last year, Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, and Vermont all passed AI-related legislation that either created commissions, task forces, or oversight in evaluating the use of AI in their states or made recommendations regarding its use. Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, and Mississippi also passed legislation that included substantive limitations on the use of AI in their respective states.

While California state legislators have been the most prolific drafters of AI-related legislation and often have served as a model for such, other states have also crafted significant AI policies. Recently approved legislation in Connecticut established the Office of Artificial Intelligence; requires the state Department of Administrative Services to conduct an inventory of all systems that employ AI and are in use by any state agency; and requires the state’s Office of Policy and Management to develop and establish policies and procedures concerning the state agencies’ development, procurement, implementation, use, and ongoing assessment of systems that employ AI. Louisiana has formed a new technology and cyber security committee to study AI’s impact on state operations, procurement, and policy. Texas created an AI advisory council to study and monitor AI systems developed, employed, or procured by state agencies. North Dakota and West Virginia are creating advisory bodies to study or monitor their state agencies’ AI systems.

Meanwhile, executive orders have also directed the guidance of AI in states. Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom (Calif.) signed an executive order (N-12-23) to study the development, use, and risks of generative AI—representing a significant step by a state to potentially regulate the rapidly growing technology. The order included directives to state agencies and departments to perform a joint analysis on the risk AI poses to California’s energy infrastructure, provide AI training for state government workers, and develop a framework to analyze generative AI’s impact on the state’s vulnerable communities. This order aims to develop a deliberate and responsible process for evaluation and deployment of AI within state government. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro signed Executive Order 2023-19 to develop a generative AI usage framework for state agencies and their employees. The order lays the groundwork for state agencies to use generative AI models in certain job functions and launch pilot programs. Gov. Kevin Stitt (Okla.) issued an executive order creating a task force to study and research potential uses, benefits, and security vulnerabilities brought on by AI. As part of Executive Order 2023-24, the task force will work to determine ways AI can be used to make government, schools, and businesses more efficient. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued Executive Directive Number Five, which acknowledges the critical role state government must play in ensuring effective oversight of AI. In August, Gov. Tony Evers (Wis.) launched a task force to study the effects of artificial intelligence on the workforce. Evers signed Executive Order #211, creating the study group under the state Department of Workforce Development, and is to include state government leaders, representatives from the University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Technical College Systems. Other study group members will include those from state and local governments, the business community, educational institutions, organized labor, the technology sector, and more.

Additionally, a bipartisan group of more than 60 state legislators from nearly 30 states met last month to gain a deeper understanding of AI and to begin to forge interstate agreements, formulate homogenous legislation and uniformity across states in the implementation of effective regulations that guide the roles and impacts of AI in decision-making, government services, and constituents’ protections and privacy.

The surge of these executive orders and state-based legislation, along with the convening of state legislators into an AI working group, reflect a greater state-level global effort to establish initial rules for AI systems. And, seemingly, this surge will lead to even more state-level legislation in 2024. It also positions the continuation of states and their policymakers in cohesively developing and shaping comprehensive rules and future policies for AI in the United States.

artificial intelligence, governors, policy recommendations, legislation, states