RD65 - Annual Report of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (2011)

    Executive Summary:
    The work plan for the Joint Commission on Technology & Science in 2011 created five advisory committees to address certain issues: Privacy, Transportation, UCITA, Medical Database Breach, and Energy. Each advisory committee consisted of members of the legislature, state and local government representatives, private sector representatives, and other interested citizens. The advisory committees submitted their recommendations to the full Commission at the December 2011 meeting.

    Privacy Advisory Committee

    Chairman Joe May, chair of the Privacy Advisory Committee, reported on the bill draft completed by the Advisory Committee during the 2011 interim. The bill draft stemmed from HB2032 (2011), concerning the use of electronic tracking devices, which was not reported from the Senate Courts Committee and was returned to JCOTS for further discussion.

    During the Advisory Committee’s three meetings, the discussion focused on the appropriate standard for the crime in the bill. Because the standard of “through intentionally deceptive means” is not a standard used otherwise in the Code of Virginia, the committee determined to change the standard to “intentionally deceptive means and without consent.”

    Additional discussion during the interim focused on the exceptions to be added to the bill. In particular, a lot of attention was paid to private investigators. In the end, private investigators were given an exemption, with the added requirement that the Department of Criminal Justice Services must produce regulations governing the use of electronic tracking devices by private investigators. Those regulations must be in concert with the currently pending case coming out of the Supreme Court of the United States on the issue of requiring warrants by police officers to use tracking devices in criminal investigations.

    A motion was made to recommend the bill to the General Assembly for passage, and was seconded. The motion passed with one “no” vote. A copy of the bill draft is available on the JCOTS website.


    Delegate Tom Rust, chair of the Transportation Technologies Advisory Committee, reported that the committee recommended a bill that would make texting while driving a primary offense. The crime is currently a secondary offense.

    During the course of the committee’s two meetings, the committee members considered other approaches adopted in other states, such as in Maine, which bans all forms of distractions while driving. However, because the data on Virginia’s law seems to be inconclusive as to the effectiveness of the current law, the committee determined to move forward with changing the current Virginia ban from a secondary to a primary offense.

    A motion was made and seconded to recommend the bill for passage by the General Assembly. The motion passed 4 to 3. The bill draft is available on the JCOTS website.

    The Advisory Committee also discussed the issue of Remote Emissions Testing over the course of the two meetings conducted during the interim. The committee heard presentations from stakeholders in favor of and opposed to the implementation of a remote emissions testing program on a wider scale in Virginia. Ultimately, the Advisory Committee did not come to a final conclusion either in favor of or opposed to the notion and made no recommendations to the full Commission. Delegate Rust noted, however, that legislation is likely to be introduced by those on both sides of the debate in the coming Session.

    UCITA Advisory Committee

    Senator John Watkins, chair of the UCITA Advisory Committee, discussed the issue of electronic security credentials and federated identity management as it was studied by the advisory committee over the course of the 2011 interim. The issue of proving a person’s identity for the purposes of allowing access to confidential databases or to conduct business transactions over the Internet is becoming and extremely important topic, and Virginia is at the forefront of the conversation. Many stakeholders around the Commonwealth, as well as throughout the country and even internationally, are interested in JCOTS’s work on the issue. Because the topic is so far-reaching and complex, the Advisory Committee determined that the subject could not be completely studied within the year and recommended that JCOTS conduct further studies on the issues regarding electronic security credentials.

    A motion was made and seconded to recommend to the General Assembly for adoption a study resolution that would call on JCOTS to bring together stakeholders in the issue for further discussion and study. The motion passed unanimously. A copy of the study resolution is available on the JCOTS website.

    Medical Database Breach

    Delegate Kathy Byron, chair of the Medical Database Breach Subcommittee, reported on database breaches involving the issue of confidential medical records in the Commonwealth, and the procedural protections that are currently in place. The subcommittee studied HB2315 from the 2011 Session of the General Assembly, which would place a notification requirement on any entity that maintained medical information in the event of a breach of security.

    The intent behind the bill was to ensure that no entity that maintains this kind of confidential information would “fall through the cracks” from other database breach regulations at both the state and federal level. Attorneys in Virginia were concerned that the language of the bill would place too high of a burden on them, however, considering that they are already under an obligation through legal ethics rules to notify their clients in the event that any confidential information is breached.

    At the close of the subcommittee’s one meeting during the interim, the subcommittee determined that there is no need for legislation at this time, but that should any legislation be introduced in the future, it should be sent to JCOTS for study.

    Energy Advisory Committee

    Delegate John Cosgrove, chair of the Energy Advisory Committee, was not able to be present during the Commission’s meeting to provide the final report. Staff provided a report on the two meetings that were held by the advisory committee during the interim.

    The committee used the meetings over the course of the year to be briefed on several energy programs and initiatives that are being developed throughout the Commonwealth. Several presentations, which are all available on the JCOTS website, were made to the advisory committee.