Texas Emerges as Leader in Crafting Responsible AI Legislation

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The California Legislature is correct that the significant impacts of AI technology require a thoughtful public policy response. However, their approach has been a mix of heavy-handed regulations, woke ideology, and a basic misunderstanding of new technologies.

Take California’s Senate Bill 1047, which recently advanced from the Senate. It is full of the kind of restrictive regulations typical of California. For example, the bill mandates that AI model developers must prove there is no possibility that their model has a “hazardous capability” before beginning training. This is an incredibly high bar for major companies and potentially devastating for smaller competitors.

Additionally, the bill formalizes the state’s vision of a state-owned cloud platform, CalCompute, intended to promote “equitable innovation” and support the state’s $67 billion effort to integrate “DEIA [diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility] in state operations.” This effectively adopts the Google Gemini approach of creating AI-generated images portraying black and Native American Founding Fathers.

That California is spending billions on a woke operating system might be amusing if the AI legislation race in the U.S. were not being led by states.

Considering the most recent major national tech policy laws are from the 1990s (e.g., the Communications Decency Act of 1996 and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998), it is fair to say the tech policy battle is now at the state level. While President Biden signed a largely symbolic executive order on AI in late 2023, it lacks meaningful content and includes some questionable initiatives like partnering with the CCP on responsible AI development and further liberalizing immigration policy to supposedly increase the tech talent pool.

And if there is one thing the Biden administration’s approach to border security has shown, it is that the higher the stakes, the greater the failures. We cannot afford the same mistakes with AI regulation and cannot worsen an already fragile situation by letting California lead.

Through significant failures by California and the Biden administration, alongside the resources available in Texas, the Lone Star State is stepping up with a responsible, pro-innovation legislative framework for AI.

Texas boasts the infrastructure, talent, business environment, size, and, crucially, a public policy landscape conducive to responsible growth. For instance, the tech sector’s economic impact in Texas in 2022 was approximately $470 billion, which is 20 percent of the state’s GDP, compared to California’s 10 percent.

Moreover, AI’s immense energy needs are well-supported in Texas, which generates more than double the electricity California produces. For tech talent, in addition to top-tier software engineering programs, Texas leads the nation in job gains from business relocations, attracting some of the best tech talent across the country.

In terms of public policy, unlike California, Texas lawmakers (mostly Republicans) are adopting a thoughtful and collaborative approach. In 2023, Texas state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione and state Sen. Tan Parker passed House Bill 2060, creating an artificial intelligence advisory council. They are assessing state agency use of AI through a series of extensive hearings, after which lawmakers will finalize legislative recommendations in 2025 to ensure AI usage in state agencies respects Texans’ civil liberties.

Instead of the California model of digital equity and woke ideology, Texas is poised to create a national framework for AI that prioritizes saving taxpayers money and time, and advances transparency, privacy, and human dignity.

Furthermore, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan set up a select committee on AI and Emerging Technology, allowing for interim hearings on AI’s private sector use. This enables lawmakers to hear from experts to balance innovation with consumer protection, providing an opportunity to learn from actual experts on AI’s benefits and harms, rather than industry advocates.

Finally, the chair of the Texas Innovation and Technology Caucus, Rep. Capriglione (who has championed the nation’s strongest consumer data privacy law), has brought together a distinguished stakeholder group to draft a leading omnibus bill on responsible AI use in Texas. Importantly, Texas lawmakers like Rep. Capriglione and Sen. Parker have been working on AI legislation since 2022 (first introducing HB 2060 in February 2023), taking the time to study the issue thoroughly to do it right.

Rather than rushing legislation like California, Texas’ biennial legislature allows state lawmakers the time to learn about the technology, understand different legislative trade-offs, and avoid the pitfalls of hasty legislative efforts seen in other states.

Texas stands as the only state of its size and influence with a successful history of balancing constitutional and civil liberty protections with innovation and strong economic growth. These are just a few of the crucial elements responsible for the Texas miracle. And given the legislative failures seen nationwide, alongside the neglect for humanity seen in AI development by large tech companies, it will take another Texas miracle to develop gold-standard AI legislation.

But as we say in Texas, what starts here changes the world.

David Dunmoyer
David Dunmoyer
David Dunmoyer is campaign director for Better Tech for Tomorrow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He develops conservative technology policy solutions for the Texas Legislature and previously worked for the Republican leadership in D.C.

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