Governors Leading on Artificial Intelligence

As with any new technology, artificial intelligence (AI) offers a tremendous opportunity to improve society. But, as with any new technology, AI also has potential drawbacks. In the absence of federal regulation, Governors are doing their part to mitigate risks and maximize benefits.

“In this ever-evolving world, ensuring new technologies are both safe and effective is an important public safety measure. Today, that new technology is Artificial Intelligence, maybe better known as AI. And look y’all, I am not going to stand here and preach like I know a lick about AI. However, I do know that new technologies can have benefits, but if not used responsibly, they can be dangerous. We are going to ensure that AI is used properly.”

Governor Kay Ivey, 2024 State of the State

Since June of 2022 public interest in AI has skyrocketed, as evident by Google searches on the topic.

Governors have been leading to ensure responsible and productive use of the technology. Since August 2023, executive orders and other state executive branch activities have been rolled out in Alabama, California, Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

“Whoever dominates the AI industry will dominate the next era of human history. That’s what we can do here in New York…That’s why I’m proposing the Empire AI Consortium to purchase and share AI computing power right here in New York…with this new consortium, we will drive ethical AI development and do it in a way that protects our workers and make it a force for good in the world.”

Governor Kathy Hochul, 2024 State of the State

Just in the past few weeks, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced the state is partnering with GATC Health to initiate a groundbreaking program using GATC’s artificial intelligence platform to accelerate the discovery of safer and more effective drugs. Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee issued an executive order  to create a single state data governance structure, and  Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey issued an executive order establishing a Massachusetts AI strategic task force “to study AI and GenAI technology and its impact on the state, including with respect to its employees, constituents, private business, and higher education institutions.”

“Today, with AI, I believe we are at the dawn of a new era, much like we were thirty years ago, with the internet…And it is time to start thinking and acting big about generative AI. Here in New Jersey, we are announcing an AI Moonshot…With New Jersey’s AI Moonshot, our mission is for our state’s top minds to pioneer a series of AI-powered breakthroughs, over the next decade, that will change the lives of billions for the better. Our state government will be a catalyst for bringing together innovators and leaders to invest in research and development, and ultimately, establish New Jersey as the home-base for AI-powered game-changers.”

Governor Phil Murphy, 2024 State of the State

A common thread in all these efforts is ensuring that the use of AI is “responsible, ethical, beneficial, and trustworthy.” Taking an approach that “balances innovation with safety, security, and privacy” while guarding against “a new generation of risks, harms, and perpetuation of existing inequities.” In his 2024 State of the State Address, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee outlined legislation he proposed, and has now signed, offering protections for content creators:

“Part of expanding economic opportunity is protecting working Tennesseans. From the birthplace of country music in Bristol to Nashville’s Music Row and Beale Street in Memphis, music has been woven into the fabric of our state since the very beginning. It’s also a vital industry that employs tens of thousands of Tennesseans. Tennessee’s music industry workforce has grown by 21% over the past five years. Today, we’re the #1 state in the nation for music industry jobs. Unfortunately, Tennessee artists are facing new challenges with the rise of artificial intelligence. While this new AI technology can be used for good, it also allows users to impersonate and make fake works in the voice and likeness of others. So, this year, together with members of the General Assembly, I’m proposing legislation to protect Tennessee’s rich musical heritage and ensure that no one can steal the voice of Tennessee artists.”

Governor Bill Lee, 2024 State of the State

NGA is working to support Governors as they work to capture the benefits and mitigate the risks of AI. At the 2024 NGA Winter Meeting, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum led a discussion with tech pioneer Marc Andreessen on harnessing the advantages of AI to enhance U.S. competitiveness while protecting consumers from risk. During the session, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte, Utah Governor Spencer Cox, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and Wyoming Mark Gordon also shared insights on what their states are doing to implement effective AI policies. 

NGA has also held a series of briefings on AI, including: Using Data And Technology To Improve Criminal Justice Systems, Reflections on Artificial Intelligence in New York City Government and Legal And Regulatory Considerations For States Related To Artificial Intelligence.  NGA has also conducted two webinars offering an Introduction To Artificial Intelligence In State Government and Mitigating AI Risks In State Government.  To maintain America’s competitiveness the country needs policies and programs that promote innovation, while protecting against potential pitfalls, and once again Governors are leading the way.