Joint Commission on Technology and Science

June 6, 2000, Richmond

At its first meeting of the 2000 interim, the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) adopted its 2000-2001 workplan. JCOTS will study six areas through the use of advisory committees: Internet governance, economic development, electronic government, the digital divide, the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) and relevant criminal law. In addition, the advisory committees will review bills that the House Committee on Science and Technology continued during the 2000 Session. Each advisory committee will be comprised of citizen members and will be co-chaired by two JCOTS members.

Advisory Committee One will study the government's role in regulating activity conducted on the Internet. For example, the committee will discuss the issues surrounding employment in the digital age, from the use of company-owned computers for private activities to whether an employee manual posted on a company's intranet constitutes a contract. In addition, the committee will study HB 61, a bill to declare certain transactions that facilitate Internet gambling void, and HB 1491, a bill designed to recognize web sites as personal property and create new civil causes of action to redress certain conduct that injures web site owners.

Advisory Committee Two will continue to study the Commonwealth's economic development of its information technology, biotechnology and space industries. Among the issues that this committee will study are the protection of intellectual property rights and the issues surrounding transferring technology developed by, or in collaboration with, public institutions to the marketplace for commercialization. In addition, the committee will study HB 710 and HB 711, bills designed to protect domain names and include them in the definition for trademark infringement.

Advisory Committee Three will study the government's delivery of services and conduct of its business through the Internet. This committee will continue to identify barriers to delivering government services electronically, including monitoring the Auditor of Public Accounts' study on electronic contracting and procurement. In addition, this committee will study and develop guidelines for using electronic notary services. Furthermore, it will monitor Urofsky v. Gilmore, a case that challenged the constitutionality of Chapter 52 (§§ 2.1-804 et seq.) of Title 2.1, which restricts state employee access on information infrastructure (on June 23, 2000, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, en banc, decided in favor of the Commonwealth).

Advisory Committee Four will study ways to close the digital divide, the gap (social, economic, educational, political) between those with access to technology and those without, and the ramifications of failure to close this gap. For example, this committee will consider ways to solve the shortage of skilled workers and increase education in the areas of science and technology throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, this committee will review the methods of local government compliance with the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 pursuant to HJR 316.

Advisory Committee Five will study the impact of UCITA on Virginia's businesses, libraries and consumers as directed by SJR 239, SB 372 and HB 561. The General Assembly enacted UCITA during the 2000 Session but delayed its effective date until July 1, 2001, pending this study.

Advisory Committee Six will review Virginia's criminal law and whether it requires amendments to criminalize certain computer-related conduct, such as maliciously spreading a destructive computer virus. In addition, this committee will study the issues surrounding using technology to aid law enforcement. It will study the need for developing guidelines for using "photo-red enforcement" (using cameras to enforce traffic laws) and using portable environmental technology to enforce environmental regulations such as those dealing with automobile exhaust.

In addition to the six studies being conducted by the advisory committees, the full commission will meet to receive presentations from experts in the Commonwealth. The first series of presentations will focus on how technology affects the way people learn and teach. The second will focus on the Commonwealth's growing biotechnology and genetics industries.

The Honorable Joe T. May, Chairman
Staff contact: Mitchell P. Goldstein