HD81 - Final Report of the Joint Subcommittee Studying Science and Technology

Executive Summary:

In 1993, House Joint Resolution No. 390 established a 23-member Science and Technology Task Force to report on the status of the recommendations of the 1983 Governor's Task Force on Science and Technology, to coordinate the development of a statewide strategic plan for science and technology, and to examine whether a permanent council on science and technology should be created. In 1995, House Joint Resolution No. 447 continued the Task Force for an additional year and expanded its initial mission to include consideration of recent and ongoing initiatives and recommendations of other organizations and task forces that were focusing on science and technology issues in the Commonwealth and to study opportunities and incentives for information and communications technology to meet public needs. The Task Force's final report was published as House Document No. 46 (1996).

House Joint Resolution No. 195 (1996) established a Joint Subcommittee to continue the work of the Task Force and enumerated nine study objectives for the Joint Subcommittee's consideration:

• Study Objective 1: "Consult with the Virginia Retirement System to develop ways to encourage VRS investments in venture and capital projects that will be fiscally sound and recognize VRS's fiduciary duty to handle the moneys entrusted to them with care and integrity."

• Study Objective 2: "Foster and encourage the evolution of a telecommunications infrastructure offering reasonable and affordable prices to the Commonwealth's public schools and to Virginia's public institutions of higher education."

• Study Objective 3: "Support and assist the Center for Innovative Technology in fulfilling its promise as a leader in science and technology for the citizens of Virginia."

• Study Objective 4: "Consider the feasibility of revising the standing legislative committees, creating science and technology committees for the House of Delegates and the Senate, and defining the structure of any such committees and their staffs."

• Study Objective 5: "Consider the need for and feasibility of establishing a Secretariat for Science, Information and Technology."

• Study Objective 6: "Consider the feasibility of establishing an authority, similar to the Rural Electrification Authority, to disseminate technology across the Commonwealth."

• Study Objective 7: "Examine the organization possibilities a technology secretariat or authority should have to promote conditions under which universal access to the information highway can be made available to all citizens of the Commonwealth."

• Study Objective 8: "Review the Commonwealth's statutes, regulations, and rules governing criminal and civil procedure to determine whether current law is sufficient to ensure enforcement of the Commonwealth's criminal and civil laws against both residents and nonresidents of the Commonwealth whose activities, including access to and the distribution of pornography, in Virginia are conducted principally by computer on the information superhighway or through other technological means."

• Study Objective 9: "Examine the digital signatures issue to determine whether Virginia should adopt legislation similar to that enacted in Utah or some other legislation that would facilitate the development of electronic commerce in Virginia."

To assist with its work, HJR No. 195 permitted the Joint Subcommittee to establish technical advisory committees (TACs) composed of persons with expertise in the matters under consideration by the Joint Subcommittee to serve without compensation. At the Joint Subcommittee's initial meeting on August 21, 1996, seven TACs were established, each of which was assigned one or more of the nine enumerated study objectives. Legislative members of the Joint Subcommittee served as liaisons to each TAC, and staff assistance was provided by agencies, departments, and institutions of the Commonwealth that were most closely associated with particular issues. Over 100 persons participated in the Joint Subcommittee's study through the TACs.

TACs met during the fall of 1996 upon the call of the legislative liaisons. Each TAC reported back to the Joint Subcommittee at its meeting on December 2, 1996. With slight modifications, the Joint Subcommittee adopted each TAC's report. Based on the reports, the Joint Subcommittee formulated its findings and recommendations and developed legislative proposals for the 1997 Session of the General Assembly.