Sep 28, 2023 - Technology

States fill the AI legislation void left by Congress

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nearly 200 AI-related bills have been introduced nationwide in state legislatures so far in 2023 — a more than four-fold increase compared to 2022.

Legislators in 31 states have introduced at least 191 bills focused on artificial intelligence, per analysis from software industry alliance BSA — but only 14 became law.

Why it matters: The numbers indicate states are beating DC in the AI regulation race, with BSA expecting to see a wave of proposed legislation become law in 2024.

  • California state legislators are among the most prolific drafters, and their legislation often serves as a basis for legislation in other states.

The intrigue: Many state legislators take inspiration from Europe or California when it comes to proposing tech regulation — most famously on digital privacy — and the pattern appears to hold for AI.

  • There is a strong overlap between legislators focused on privacy and AI.

What's happening: Much of the action is concentrated in a few Democrat-controlled states.

  • Deepfakes bills are the most popular theme, and the most likely to be passed: Of 37 bills, 6 were passed.
  • Many of the bills focus on how state governments will use AI.
  • Municipal and county level administrations are also active — usually focused on workplace use of AI — including in Boston, Miami, New York City, San Jose, and Seattle.
  • Legislators in California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Washington, are now considering impact assessments to mitigate the risks of certain types of AI.

What's next: Draft legislation often spurs non-elected officials into action.

What they're saying: More draft AI legislation means more state-level AI lobbying.

  • Chandler Morse, Workday's public policy vice president, told Axios, "We're focused on helping legislators get it right, rather than worrying about a patchwork of legislation."
  • "There isn't a bill we don't red line," said Morse, who supports adoption of guardrails.
  • "States are not going to wait for D.C.," Craig Albright, BSA vice president for government relations told reporters.
  • "There's a real hunger to learn how AI works," among legislators Albright said, contrasting their enthusiasm with more lackluster to privacy debates.
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