State Policy Network
Top 10 Tech Policies States Can Advance in 2022

Technological innovations have helped Americans overcome the challenges of societal and economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to technology, Americans have been able to work from home, order groceries remotely, communicate with family members unable to travel, attend events virtually, and receive medical care through telehealth.

While pandemic conditions are not ideal, technology has also made it possible for businesses to adapt.  Restaurants, for example, have adopted the use of QR codes so that patrons can safely read menus on their phones. None of this would have been possible without the significant advancements in tech innovation over the past few years.

Technology—and tech policy in particular—is more important than ever. In fact, almost every policy issue now involves technology in some way. State policymakers realize this and want guidance on how they can protect constitutional rights while also creating an environment that doesn’t hinder innovation. State think tanks are in a unique position to help state lawmakers advance effective tech policies that improve the lives of the people of their state.

State Policy Network’s Todd Davidson surveyed technology policy experts within the Network to identify the top 10 policies state think tanks can advance in upcoming legislative sessions.

Meet the Experts

1. Enhance broadband deployment

Private providers should lead broadband access and investment, while states should focus on streamlining rules for deployment rather than the provision of government-funded services. States should cut red tape preventing 5G and broadband deployment, pass Over-the-Air-Reception Devices (OTARD) reform, reduce satellite placement fees, incentivize “dig once” streamlining, and utilize public-private partnerships that focus on conduits and other dumb network elements (a dumb network is one that performs minimal processing to support running activities).

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2. Prepare your state for cryptocurrency innovations

In one short decade, Bitcoin has grown to a $100 billion industry. Regulations meant for 20th century financial institutions will not work for this new decentralized technology. Fortunately, according to Andrea O’Sullivan, “Legislators hoping to encourage innovation and investment have ample low-hanging fruit to harvest.”

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3. Reduce the burden of incoming innovation tax

Current federal law allows businesses to deduct research and development costs in the year they are incurred, as the US has done since 1954. However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, contained some tax increases to raise revenues, and one such change is the upcoming amortization of research and development costs. Business research and development (R&D) costs are a key ingredient in an innovation economy, and current federal law schedules these costs to be amortized beginning in 2022. Most states automatically conform with this provision from IRC Section 174 and adopt the amortization of R&D expenses.

States should decouple from the federal law’s pending amortization of R&D expenditures and make R&D costs permanently deductible in the year they are incurred.

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4. Promote online free speech

Policies to regulate social media companies at the state level face severe free speech and interstate commerce challenges. Also, efforts meant to impose political neutrality or other content moderation standards would inherently result in government action and less speech, thus opening a Pandora’s box of government commissions or task forces reviewing content on the internet.

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5. Protect digital free speech through anti-SLAPP laws

Passing or improving existing anti-strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) laws will protect people from frivolous lawsuits that curtail speech. These laws increase public participation by allowing judges to dismiss meritless lawsuits designed to silence people for their speech early in litigation.

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6. Protect consumer privacy

Data and privacy regulation policies on the state level must protect consumers without making digital services less accessible. To achieve these dual aims, Logan Kolas of The Buckeye Institute recommends data privacy laws should take a “consumer-oriented approach to data privacy by allowing businesses to charge consumers different prices and rates based in part on whether the consumer agrees to share their data.”

Government surveillance without a warrant, particularly of personal data stored on corporate servers or personal cell phones, need to be curbed via changes in law. States need to update their warrant requirements to recognize the privacy interests that individuals now hold in their data.

Additionally, facial recognition technology deployed by the government should be treated differently than when it is deployed by private or commercial entities. There should be policies to ensure that local and state law enforcement have strict limitations on when they can use facial recognition along with policies and educational efforts to promote commercial adoption and deployment.

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7. Lower barriers to autonomous vehicle, drone, and agriculture technologies

States have an opportunity to lead and compete on transportation and agriculture technologies, without sacrificing safety, by crafting laws friendly to innovation. Autonomous vehicles and drone regulations should encompass both principles.

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8. Protect consumer-based antitrust

Preventing misguided antitrust regulations are essential to protecting the American consumer against policies that inhibit technological progress and could knee-cap the American economy. Legislators should be fighting to protect not dismantle the consumer welfare standard in antitrust law, a core component of free enterprise and economic freedom. 

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9. Promote the sharing economy

Sharing economy services like ridesharing, meal delivery, or other tailored services are often fought by incumbent industries or blocked by outdated laws, creating conditions for market capture. Policies should be technology neutral and allow innovative services like these to emerge and compete in the marketplace.

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10. Promote access of telehealth services

Telehealth services promote accessibility to healthcare for everyone, particularly underserved and rural populations, but are often stymied by outdated rules or rules crafted by incumbent healthcare providers. Also, regulatory barriers can limit the legitimate use of technologies (e.g. electronic health records, genetic testing) that empower consumers to make choices about their healthcare.

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Categories: Policy Solutions
Policy Issues: Technology
Organization: State Policy Network