RD144 - Annual Report of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (2013)
The Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS), a permanent legislative study commission created in 1997, continued its work during the 2013 Interim to "study all aspects of technology and science and to endeavor to stimulate, encourage, promote, and assist in the development of technology and science in the Commonwealth and sound public policies related thereto." (§ 30-85 of the Code of Virginia)
JCOTS held its first organizational meeting of the 2013 Interim on April 2, 2013, at which time it adopted a work plan for 2013, which involved the creation of seven advisory committees: Broadband and Education, Computer Crimes, Cyber Security, Electronic Meetings, Energy, Identity Management, and Intellectual Property. These committees were created as a result of a recommendation at the end of the 2012 Interim to continue work on several issues, as well as to address the subject matter of bills referred to JCOTS for study by the 2013 Session of the General Assembly. Two of the advisory committees—Electronic Meetings and Energy—were unable to meet during the Interim and made no report to JCOTS at the end of the Interim.
The Broadband and Education Advisory Committee, chaired by Delegate Kathy Byron, was created to review and study three bills referred to JCOTS by the 2013 Session of the General Assembly: HB 1777 (Filler-Corn), concerning open source resources for higher education, and HB 1915 (Surovell) and HB 2286 (Kory), both concerning use of electronic textbooks and broadband availability for students in grades K through 12. This advisory committee, comprising legislators, representatives of the Department of Education, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the Virginia Community College System, local school boards, private sector technology, and publishing companies, parents, and other interested parties, made no recommendation to JCOTS concerning HB 1777. The advisory committee recommended to JCOTS an amended version of HB 1915 that would require local school boards to adopt a plan to ensure that all students have Internet access by July 1, 2017, before the local school can assign an electronic textbook. At its final meeting of the year, JCOTS recommended the amended version of HB 1915 to the 2014 Session of the General Assembly. The advisory committee recommended to JCOTS an amended version of HB 2286 that would require the Department of Education to report annually concerning each student's ability to access electronic textbooks, both at school and outside of school. However, no motion was made regarding HB 2286 at the final JCOTS meeting.
The Computer Crimes Advisory Committee, chaired by Delegate Ken Plum, was created to review three bills referred to JCOTS by the 2013 Session of the General Assembly: HB 2050 (Webert) and SB 1030 (Reeves), regarding search and seizure of computers, and SB 1173 (Obenshain), regarding computer trespass. This advisory committee comprised legislators, a representative of the State Police, local attorneys for the Commonwealth, defense attorneys, private sector technology companies, and other interested parties. The advisory committee recommended an amended version of the search and seizure bills that specified that any item seized during a lawful search (not just computers) can be examined and analyzed at any time and in any jurisdiction after the execution of the warrant, so long as probable cause continues to exist. JCOTS recommended the amended bill to the 2014 Session of the General Assembly. The advisory committee also recommended an amended version of SB 1173 to JCOTS that would change the legal standard for computer trespass from "malicious intent" to "intentionally deceptive means and without authority." JCOTS also voted to recommend this bill to the 2014 Session of the General Assembly.
The Cyber Security Advisory Committee was continued as recommended at the end of the 2012 Interim. The advisory committee studied SB 830 (Puller), which would allow members of the military and their family stationed overseas to submit absentee ballots electronically. The bill was referred to JCOTS for study because of concerns about the security of electronic ballots. This advisory committee comprised legislative members, state and local government cyber security and IT professionals, representatives of institutions of higher education, private sector security experts, and other interested parties. The advisory committee also received substantial public comment from other interested parties. Ultimately, the advisory committee recommended to JCOTS an amended version of the bill. The proposed amendments would limit the bill only to active duty military (but not their family), would allow the return of overseas ballots by electronic mail or fax, would require the State Board of Elections to provide the services necessary for localities to collect electronic ballots, and would require the board to develop, with the help of a work group, security standards that must be approved annually by the Chief Information Officer of the Commonwealth. JCOTS recommended the amended bill to the 2014 Session of the General Assembly.
The Identity Management Advisory Committee, chaired by Senator John Watkins, continued the work undertaken in the 2011 and 2012 Interims. As in past years, active involvement of private sector representatives from around the country was solicited to provide input and feedback concerning very complex issues related to the private sector issuance of identity credentials. One such participant presented draft legislation that would establish liability parameters for such providers. Proponents of the draft argued that liability issues are unknown in this sector and are serving as a barrier to market entry by the private sector. Opponents of the draft were concerned that liability is not a "one-size-fits-all" proposition and that the issues addressed in the draft might be better approached through contract. Because the advisory committee would like to receive more feedback on the issue, it did not present the draft to JCOTS for consideration, but instead recommended that it continue its work in 2014. JCOTS indicated that it would consider continuation when it set its 2014 work plan and agenda.
Finally, the Intellectual Property Advisory Committee, chaired by Delegate Joe T. May, met to study HB 1738 (Ferrell), related to invention development contracts, and HB 2064 (May), related to the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The advisory committee recommended an amended version of HB 1738 to JCOTS. The amended draft would raise the civil penalty for a violation of the chapter regulating contracts for invention development services from $3,000 per violation to $25,000 per violation, would require a contract to clearly state that it was a fee-for-service contract, and would require a contract to provide notice as to how to lodge a complaint regarding invention development contracts with the Office of the Attorney General. JCOTS recommended the amended bill to the 2014 Session of the General Assembly. The advisory committee also reviewed HB 2064, which would have amended the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The advisory committee recommended against amending the Act out of concern for becoming nonuniform with the 46 other states that have adopted the Act. However, the advisory committee did pursue the idea of creating a registry, through the State Corporation Commission, for trade secrets. The registry would serve as proof of existence of a trade secret in the event of litigation. The advisory committee recommended the bill to JCOTS. However, in light of questions and concerns about how the registry would actually function, JCOTS did not recommend a bill creating a registry, noting that the idea required additional study.
Additional, detailed information about the work of each advisory committee, along with copies of meeting materials and proposed legislation, is available on the JCOTS website at dls.virginia.gov/commission/jcots.htm. No further 2013 report is forthcoming.