RD33 - Report of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science

Executive Summary:
Created by the 1997 General Assembly through House Bill 2138, JCOTS is a permanent legislative commission charged to study all aspects of technology and science, to promote the development of technology and science in the Commonwealth of Virginia through sound public policies, and to report its findings annually to the Governor and the General Assembly (See Chapter 11 of Title 30 of the Code of Virginia, § 30-85 et seq.). JCOTS, which consists of twelve legislators (seven Delegates and five Senators), submits its sixth report today.

JCOTS’ 2002-2003 work plan identified four issues for study through the establishment and work of advisory committees, co-chaired by JCOTS members: Center for Innovative Technology; Integrated Government; Privacy; and Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurial Development. The work plan also identified new issues to be introduced at Commission meetings through testimony and presentations -- cybercrimes, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and homeland security -- as well as other issues to be monitored throughout the year -- privacy of personal information in court documents, broadband, and identity theft.

JCOTS adopted the findings and recommendations of its advisory committees and submits for consideration. Its complete report will be submitted after the 2003 Session.

Center for Innovative Technology Advisory Committee

The Center for Innovative Technology Advisory Committee was charged with exploring the past, present and future mission of Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), whether CIT is fulfilling its current mission and how it can better fulfill its mission in the future. The Committee held discussions and hearings in Herndon, Charlottesville and Richmond to meet its charge and worked closely with Secretary of Technology George Newstrom.

The General Assembly created CIT in 1984 as a nonprofit organization designed to enhance the research and development capability of the Commonwealth's major research universities. In its first decade, CIT implemented that original legislative intent by bringing Virginia businesses and institutions of higher education into relationships that promote a climate of cooperation and technological innovation. In 1994, CIT adopted a new mission, one that measured CIT's success in terms of jobs created/retained, companies created/retained/converted and competitiveness created for Virginia's businesses. Recently, CIT's ongoing value to the Commonwealth was questioned and the Commission agreed to review the performance and potential of CIT.

The Committee agreed that despite concern over its operations and mission, CIT should continue. Its regional operations and field force provide a valuable asset to the entire Commonwealth. It serves companies large and small, technology-based and non-technology based, urban and rural. The Committee agreed with the Secretary’s plan -- to increase federal research and development (R&D) dollars for the colleges and universities, to increase commercialization and transfer of intellectual property from the labs and institutions, and to promote technology-based economic development (improving government-industry programs that encourage economic growth through the application of science and technology) -- but included some explanations and additions as well and added the role of a technology extension service.

The Committee recommended consolidating the A. L. Philpott Manufacturing Extension Partnership (PMEP) into CIT so that together they could assist Virginia's businesses in the areas of quality control, lean manufacturing techniques, critical manufacturing processes, computer security, and business planning and preparation issues, to name a few, much like the agricultural extension service helps Virginia's farmers and other citizens with a host of agricultural issues. CIT should also assist localities in the deployment of high-speed connectivity and act as an intermediary between the public and private sectors. These extension services would link business, industry, and government with technological best practices from throughout the world and connect technological process improvements at university research centers to business, industry, and government.

Despite CIT’s somewhat tortured history (see Senate Document 16 (1993)), the Committee agreed that CIT still performs a valuable service to the Commonwealth. However, its mission needs to be more focused, its governance and administration more stable, and its accountability more defined. Furthermore, its efforts must be an integral part of an overall economic development plan for the Commonwealth.

Integrated Government Advisory Committee

The Integrated Government Advisory Committee was charged with exploring the issues raised by government's transformation from a paper-based system to the information age, a mission of the Commission that began in its early days and continues. The Committee focused on the present state of information technology (IT) procurement in the Commonwealth and the history and present state of the electronic communications pilot project.

The Committee received briefings on IT procurement from several vendors as well as the current administration. It conducted a detailed examination of the IT procurement process and discussed the current state of procurement, its future course and possible alternatives. The Committee also received briefings on the history and present state of the electronic communications pilot project (an exemption to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act that applies to meetings held via videoconference), the Virginia Community College System's videoconferencing capabilities and the role and future of the pilot project.

As the result of its discussions, a number of legislative and administrative recommendations arose. The Committee limited debate to a few of them and made a number of recommendations. The Committee recommended:

• A bill that amends the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002 to include IT projects.
• A bill that amends provisions related to information technology procurement to reflect the Department of Information Technology's role in IT procurement.
• Several administrative changes to existing procurement regulations.
• Establishing two regularly scheduled times every month to make videoconferencing available to public bodies in the legislative branch.

Privacy Advisory Committee

The Privacy Advisory Committee was charged with establishing privacy principles that should serve as a guideline for legislative proposals and balance the interests involved.

As part of its study of privacy issues, the Committee discussed bills referred to the Commission by the House Committee on Science and Technology during the 2002 Session and continued until the 2003 Session. The Committee discussed House Bill No. 1363 (Patron – Nutter) and Senate Bill No. 612 (Patron – Trumbo) on unsolicited electronic mail transmissions, House Bill No. 533 (Patron – Devolites) and Senate Bill No. 567 (Patron – Byrne) on unsolicited electronic mail transmissions and House Bill No. 28 (Patron – Callahan) on privacy expectations in higher education. All of the bills raised the question of unintended consequences. Concerned that these bills would treat the problems that they were trying to solve differently in cyberspace than physical space and would treat various groups differently for no apparent reason, the Committee decided not to recommend any of them. Committee members understood that issues exist but could not agree on a legislative solution or even on whether a legislative solution was needed.

The Committee turned its focus to an issue that it attempted last year, workplace privacy. It discussed model bills that required employers to give notice to their employees about their monitoring practices before they could engage in electronic monitoring. After much discussion trying to refine terms and balance the interests of the employer (e.g., protecting its legal rights and those of its employees) with those of the employee (e.g., an understanding of what expectation of privacy is reasonable), the Committee voted to recommend a bill that requires notice before electronic monitoring can take place and provides guidance to employers and employees regarding what they can expect.

Several members of the Commission were concerned that such a requirement might impose liability upon a third party who knew or could have known of wrongdoings through electronic monitoring, but did not or could not act upon that knowledge. The Commission voted unanimously to adopt the Privacy Advisory Committee's report, but voted four (May, Plum, Ticer and Christian) to three (Newman, Marshall and Nixon) with five not voting (Bolling, Howell, Purkey and Wampler were not present to vote and O'Brien resigned his seat upon election to the Senate) on the recommended bill.

Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurial Development Advisory Committee

The Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurial Development Advisory Committee was charged with examining the issues related to the intellectual property commercialization and capital funding of entrepreneurial development by the Commonwealth. It also was charged with monitoring the progress being made by --and where appropriate, work with-- other parties studying these issues, such as the Secretary of Technology, Center for Innovative Technology and Virginia Research and Technology Advisory Commission (VRTAC). The Committee received briefings in Richmond and Norfolk to complete its charge.

The Committee received briefings on the present state of intellectual property commercialization by Virginia colleges and universities, including an overview of the commercialization process, case studies by entrepreneurs who have commercialized intellectual property created by Virginia universities, and steps taken by a Virginia university to facilitate commercialization with greater ease. The Committee also received briefings on legislation from the 2002 Session addressing intellectual property and entrepreneurial development issues, including House Joint Resolution No. 88 (Patron - Devolites), requesting the Secretary of Technology to recommend incentives necessary to encourage the commercialization of university research and development; House Bill No. 530 (Patron – Devolites), requiring VRTAC to develop a statewide policy and uniform standard for commercialization of intellectual property developed through university research; and House Joint Resolution No. 206 (Patron- Nixon), establishing a technology-based business development task force.

In addition, the Committee received briefings highlighting the Hampton Roads region's science and technology successes, identifying the factors that brought the region to its present state and those that need to receive continued emphasis, and identifying obstacles to continued success that the Commission and the General Assembly can help remove and on Virginia's participation in the federal Small Business Innovation Research program.

The Committee reached no consensus except to continue to review, analyze and monitor these and related issues.