SALT LAKE CITY — Providing boosts to the state's tech ecosystem, and opening doors for the adoption of new technology, figured largely in the 2019 session.
A novel program aimed at encouraging, but not requiring, new computer science curriculum offerings in K-12 public schools is at the heart of HB227. An added incentive, perhaps, was a challenge by a group of Utah tech business leaders to match the state's investment in computer science education with up to $5 million out of their own pockets. While the original ask from Rep. John Knotwell, R-Herriman, rang the bell at $10 million, the trimmed down bill got $3 million to launch the effort.
New rules allowing self-driving vehicles on Utah roads, an issue that's been under discussion for a few years now, is finally headed for the books thanks to the work of Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy. HB101 even takes a shot at creating a resolution protocol for accidents involving vehicles without a driver.
Those driverless vehicles will likely need to be scanning for riders of e-scooters, who are now allowed to ply all the same roadways as bicyclists under new rules created by SB139. The proposal also drops the minimum age for unsupervised e-scooter operation on public property to 8-years-old. Parents may be happy to know that the companies renting e-scooters in Utah have a minimum age requirement of 18.
Warrantless retrieval of private data stored on remote digital servers, or "the cloud," by law enforcement will be curtailed under new guidelines established by HB57. The bill, championed by civil libertarians including the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, extends similar protections established by the U.S. Supreme Court in last year's Carpenter v. U.S. decision — which ruled the government must obtain a search warrant to collect location information collected by cellphone towers — to digital information stored by third parties.Comment on this story
The long-running Utah Science, Technology and Research initiative died a relatively quiet death as lawmakers closed the loop on work they began last interim with SB212. Critics questioned whether funding the program, which supported research-driven commercialization efforts, was the "highest and best use of taxpayer funds."
And the state took steps to embrace the latest tech advancements with bills to assess how blockchain technology may be used by the state (HJR19) and another (SB100) that directs the driver license division to begin work to add the option of an electronic license that could be carried on any smartphone. For now, however, the plastic card version is still a necessity as well, due in large part to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.