AI Regulation in Texas: Legislative Findings From Recent Report

Artificial intelligence and emerging technologies are advancing at an extraordinary pace, evolving daily. Their impact on society has been and will continue to be profound, with both promising benefits and potential dangers. Texas state lawmakers now face the critical task of determining what regulations, if any, are necessary to ensure these technologies are applied in a fair, ethical, and safe manner for the benefit of society.

Committee Formation

On April 2, 2024, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) created the House Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence & Emerging Technologies. The committee, comprised of five state representatives, includes:

The committee was charged with conducting a comprehensive review of the advancements in artificial intelligence and emerging technologies (AI/ET) and the economic, ethical, and societal implications of those advancements.

The committee held a public hearing at the Texas Capitol on April 29, 2024 comprised of invited testimony from various governmental and private organizations.

Legislative Findings

The report (seen below), released Thursday, has several key legislative findings. The following is a summary of those findings:

  • AI in Homeland Security: AI both enhances decision-making and raises ethical concerns, particularly around autonomous weapons. AI’s ability to process vast amounts of personal data also brings privacy and security issues to the forefront.
  • AI in Elections: AI’s impact on elections is profound, with technologies like deepfakes and synthetic media capable of spreading misinformation and influencing voter behavior. The committee noted the need for robust measures to combat these threats.
  • AI in Law Enforcement: AI aids significantly in law enforcement processes, particularly in identifying child sexual abuse material. However, existing laws struggle to keep pace with technological advancements, complicating existing legal processes and prosecutions.
  • Cybersecurity: While AI enhances threat detection and response, it also introduces ethical challenges related to data privacy and algorithmic bias.

Legislative Recommendations

  • Regulatory Framework: Develop comprehensive regulations that address the ethical, legal, and social implications of AI. Ensure transparency in AI systems and the maintenance of high data quality as crucial steps to avoid biases.
  • Public Awareness & Education: Increase public education on AI technologies and their risks in order to foster a well-informed electorate. Educational programs should also prepare the workforce for the demands of an AI-driven economy.
  • Ethical AI Development: Maintain human oversight in AI applications, particularly in military and public safety contexts. Economic incentives and regulations should encourage responsible AI development.
  • Election Integrity: Ban deepfakes in political advertising and ensure AI-generated content is clearly labeled. Enhance security measures to defend against AI-enabled cyber threats.
  • Law Enforcement & Legal Adjustments: Update laws to comprehensively address AI-generated content and develop a legal framework to regulate AI’s use in lobbying and advocacy activities.
  • Cross-Sector Collaboration: Foster partnerships between academic institutions, industry, and government to ensure socially responsible AI innovations.

House Speaker’s Statement

Upon the release of the report, House Speaker Dade Phelan gave the following statement,

“The use of AI/ET continues to expand in new and increasingly sophisticated ways, and we must look closely at this technology to ensure appropriate measures are taken to protect our state and our institutions against possible dangers. The revolutionary opportunities presented by artificial intelligence need to be fully considered alongside the challenges it poses, including privacy concerns and the spread of disinformation. I thank Chairman Giovanni Capriglione and the members of this committee for convening an eye-opening discussion on these important topics and for their ongoing work outlining recommendations to consider next session. I look forward to the Texas House continuing to examine the role of AI across our modern society to create a thoughtful framework for its responsible use in the state.”

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) Statement, 5.16.2024

What This Means for the Coming Legislative Session

The 89th Legislative Session, set to begin in January 2025, will likely address many findings in this interim report, potentially including specific appropriations for many of the issues described.

AI/ET and its capabilities will only improve as we get closer to the legislative session. The committee’s report underscores the importance of vigilant oversight, proactive regulation, and continuous adaptation to AI/ET evolving capabilities and risks. The question is whether state lawmakers can harness the benefits of AI while safeguarding its citizens and democratic processes along the way.

Conclusion

While it appears the select committee has fulfilled its initial charge, it is almost certain that many issues identified in the report will translate to legislation in the upcoming 89th Legislative Session.

How each piece of legislation addresses these findings is something that Texas Policy Research will closely monitor to ensure they align with the five liberty principles that should be considered when formulating public policy.

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