RD92 - Annual Report of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (2008)
Created by the 1997 Session of the General Assembly by 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 through sound public policies, and to report its findings annually to the Governor and General Assembly.
During the 2008 Interim, JCOTS re-elected Delegate Joe T. May as chair, and elected Senator Mamie E. Locke as vice-chair.
JCOTS adopted a 2008 work plan at its planning meeting on April 17, 2008. This included the creation of a JCOTS Executive Committee to review legislation referred to JCOTS for study concerning text while driving (House Bill 39, House Bill 609 (2008)) and electronic insurance notifications (House Bill 636 (2008)). The Executive Committee was also tasked with reviewing other issues, as time permitted. JCOTS approved the creation of two Advisory Committees, consisting of members of JCOTS and representatives from state and local government, state institutions of higher education, the private sector, and interested citizens. The Transportation Technologies Advisory Committee was tasked with reviewing two pieces of legislation referred to JCOTS for study -- House Bill 844 (2008) concerning idling of vehicles, and Senate Bill 739 (2008) concerning minimum noise emission requirements for vehicles. The Advisory Committee was also tasked with identifying and reviewing current and emerging technologies relating to transportation safety and efficiency. The Electronics Recycling Advisory Committee would continue to review the need for electronics recycling programs in the Commonwealth, building on previous JCOTS work. An Open Education Subcommittee, consisting of members of JCOTS, was formed to continue to review opportunities for improving education through the use of open education resources. Finally, a Social Security Number Subcommittee, consisting of members of JCOTS and the FOIA Council, was created to continue the work begun in 2007 with the FOIA Council concerning access to Social Security Numbers.
The various committees, subcommittees, and advisory committees met throughout the 2008 Interim. Detailed summaries of the meetings and presentations are available on the JCOTS website at http://jcots.state.va.us. The following recommendations were made to JCOTS at its final meeting of the 2008 Interim, held on December 2, 2008:
• Electronic Insurance Notifications
JCOTS considered legislation that had been reviewed during the Interim by the Executive Committee concerning electronic insurance notifications. Some representatives of the insurance industry had concerns about cancellations of insurance policies via e-mail. A motion was made to amend the bill to require that the recipient of the email must provide positive acknowledgement of a notice of cancellation, such as through a secure website, but this motion was withdrawn. A motion was made and seconded to amend the bill to require that electronic notices of nonrenewal, cancellation, change in rates, or reduction in coverage must also be provided to any agent of record. This amendment was adopted 5-4. JCOTS recommended with a 9-1 vote that the bill, as amended, be recommended to the 2009 Session of the General Assembly.
• Texting While Driving
The JCOTS Executive Committee also studied and made recommendations concerning texting while driving. The proposed legislation would prohibit texting while driving, and would make the offense a secondary offense. Members in favor of the legislation noted that the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute had provided empirical data concerning the increased risk of accidents while texting and driving. Members of JCOTS and interested parties raised questions concerning potential exemptions to the bill for taxicab drivers and other "professional" drivers, and other issues. JCOTS voted 8-2 to recommend the bill to the 2009 Session of the General Assembly, with an additional recommendation that the bill be considered by a special transportation subcommittee in order to review the questions and concerns raised at the JCOTS' meeting.
• Government Data Collection & Dissemination Practices Act
A JCOTS Subcommittee continued to work with the Freedom of Information Advisory Council during the 2008 Interim concerning protection of social security numbers held by public bodies. The 2008 Session of the General Assembly adopted legislation requiring a comprehensive review of the collection of Social Security Numbers by state and local agencies. That legislation would have prohibited a state or local entity from requesting a person's social security number, beginning July 1, 2009, unless the request was authorized by state or federal law and essential to the performance of that agency's duties. Due to the voluminous nature of the staff review required by the 2008 legislation, and the desirability to avoid unintended consequences when the law becomes effective, it was recommended that the implementation date of the new law be extended to July 1, 2010. JCOTS recommended this change to the 2010 Session of the General Assembly.
• Rechargeable Batteries
The JCOTS Electronic Recycling Advisory Committee recommended legislation regarding the recycling of rechargeable batteries. The bill would authorize localities to ban the disposal of rechargeable batteries at waste disposal facilities if the locality implemented a recycling program for the batteries. JCOTS recommended the legislation to the 2009 Session of the General Assembly.
• Open Education Center Pilot Program
The Open Education Resources Subcommittee presented legislation recommended by the Virginia Open Education Foundation. The Section 1 legislation would establish a pilot program that would create an open education resource center in the Commonwealth. The center would be administered by the State Board for Community Colleges, in consultation with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and the Department of Education. Some members said they supported the concept, but were hesitant to make the recommendation to start a new program during tight budget times. A motion was made, and seconded, to amend the bill to allow for funding from sources other than the state, and the amendment was adopted. JCOTS recommended the bill, as amended, to the 2009 Session of the General Assembly.
• Copyright Updates
The Open Education Resources Subcommittee also recommended legislation that would amend existing provisions in the Code of Virginia relating to ownership of intellectual property developed by state employees in the course of their employment. These provisions would not apply to state institutions of higher education. Most notably, the legislation would require that the Secretary of Administration develop policies concerning use and ownership of such intellectual property. The bill was recommended to the 2009 Session of the General Assembly with a vote of 8-1.