HJR 498

Joint Subcommittee on Science and Technology

April 30, 1997, Richmond

On April 30, Robert M. O'Neil, former president of the University of Virginia and current director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression in Charlottesville, discussed first amendment issues raised in ACLU v. Reno. The case, which challenges the Communications Decency Act passed by Congress in 1996, was argued before the United States Supreme Court on March 19. The decision, among the high court's most significant in the latter third of the twentieth century, will help set the limits of free speech on the Internet well into the twenty-first century. The court's opinion is expected in a few weeks.

The subcommittee also took testimony from representatives of:

  • The Library of Virginia regarding HJR 444, requesting the library to develop a strategic information technology plan for the Commonwealth's public library system.
  • The State Corporation Commission regarding HJR 635, requesting the SCC to continue its efforts to open up competition in the local exchange market between telephone, cable, and other communications companies.
  • The State Council of Higher Education regarding SJR 218, requesting SCHEV to examine the demand for computer scientists, engineers, and other technologically skilled workers in Virginia industry.
  • The Center for Innovative Technology regarding SJR 226, expressing the sense of the General Assembly in connection with certain emerging scientific and technological assets located in the Commonwealth and requesting the CIT to report on the status of such assets.

These resolutions were recommended by the joint subcommittee in 1996 and passed by the 1997 General Assembly. Staff presentations were made regarding additional legislation recommended by the subcommittee and passed by the 1997 General Assembly:

  • SB 923 (Chapter 917), which provides legal recognition for digital signatures; allows digital signatures to serve in place of notarized or acknowledged signatures when filing documents with executive agencies of the Commonwealth; and requires the Council on Information Management to promulgate regulations on or before September 1, 1998, on the use of digital signatures.
  • HB 2138 (Chapter 847), which creates the Joint Commission on Technology and Science as a permanent legislative agency. The commission will consist of nine legislators, five from the House of Delegates and four from the Senate. The commission will generally study all aspects of technology and science and stimulate, encourage, promote, and assist in the development of technology and science in the Commonwealth through sound public policies.

The subcommittee discussed and approved a law and technology survey developed for lawyers and legal assistants to help identify those areas of civil and criminal law that have failed to keep pace with advances in technology. The survey is being distributed by various legal associations and organizations and will be available later this summer on the joint commission's website.

May 21, 1997, Richmond

On May 21, the subcommittee met in conjunction with the Virginia Technology Summit, sponsored by the CIT, the Virginia Technology Council, and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission made a presentation regarding JLARC's studies of the Commonwealth's data processing services and the potential problems created when computer programs, software, and databases are unable to properly read and process the Year 2000; i.e., a 2-digit date of "00." The budget requires JLARC's studies, being conducted by the Gartner Group, to be completed by January 1, 1998.

Effective July 1, 1997, the Joint Commission on Technology and Science will replace the HJR 498 subcommittee. The joint commission will hold its first meeting on July 1, 1997, at 1:30 p.m. in House Room D to establish its work plan for the 1997 interim, expected to be drawn largely from the subcommittee's final report, published as House Document No. 81 (1997).

The Honorable Kenneth R. Plum, Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Diane E. Horvath