Briefing on Legal and Regulatory Considerations for States Related to Artificial Intelligence

On Tuesday, February 27, the National Governors Association hosted its monthly briefing for Governors’ legal counsel which discussed legal and regulatory considerations for states related to artificial intelligence (AI).

AI has the potential to inspire innovation and transform government. Concerns about potential misuse or unintended consequences of AI, however, have prompted state governments to research these tools and develop standards for responsible use.

Governors can play a major role in both regulating AI tools and encouraging the ethical use of AI in their states and territories. In recent months, at least a dozen Governors have issued executive orders pertaining to AI, particularly GenAI. These orders generally outline AI initiatives, establish state AI task forces, and/or encourage collaboration across state agencies and other partners.

AI executive orders typically focus on ensuring the responsible use of AI in state government operations, as well as other initiatives such as workforce development, economic growth, improving education systems, and evaluating potential impacts of the use of AI by state agencies. Orders may instruct task forces to inventory the current uses of AI in state government, develop trainings for state employees, issue AI guidance to state agencies, or require a report be submitted to the Governor with recommendations on responsible ways to integrate AI as a tool to improve government operations and ensure data privacy. Key components of gubernatorial AI executive orders include the following:

  • Establishment of AI Initiatives. AI executive orders promote the responsible use of AI by state government, and emphasize the importance of collaboration and coordination on this constantly evolving topic. These orders provide applicable definitions and scope of AI technologies discussed. Nearly all orders create a task force or other body related to the study of AI in state government. These bodies are usually tasked with studying AI and developing guidelines, trainings, or general recommendations for state agencies.  Other orders create formal partnerships between government bodies and external entities (e.g., universities, private partners), or may designate a specific state agency or state AI lead to develop policies and guidelines for state government’s use of these technologies.
  • Task Force Composition. Many AI executive orders establish task forces or other governing or research bodies. Although task force membership varies across the states, these bodies generally include chief technology, information, data, privacy, and/or innovation officers. Some orders also include the Governor’s Homeland Security Advisor and relevant gubernatorial staff/advisors. Depending on the focus of the order, other state agency officials may also be represented, including from departments of education (K-12 and higher education), workforce and economic development, commerce, and agencies focused on government operations, administration, or budget. Further, some task forces also include representation from state departments of diversity, equity, and inclusion. A few task forces also include representation from the state’s Attorney General’s Office or members of the state legislature.
  • Focus Areas. Most orders are focused on the responsible use of GenAI in state government operations, with some states outlining specific principles by which state agencies should abide. This focus on state operations also generally includes the development of trainings for state employees, workforce development/job creation, modernizing agency operations, and improving government efficiency with the use of AI. Some orders focus on opportunities for innovation and economic growth, as well as improving education systems. Orders also focus on the importance of ensuring data privacy. Other orders discuss the importance of ensuring historically vulnerable and marginalized communities are not negatively impacted by the use of AI by state government.
  • Objectives. General objectives of AI executive orders include understanding the current uses of AI and studying opportunities and potential impacts for its future use in state governments. Orders also aim for ways to identify how AI can make government more efficient and improve and modernize operations. Other objectives include leveraging AI for education and workforce development and identifying opportunities for innovation and economic growth. Orders also emphasize the responsible use of AI, ensuring it is used for the public good in transparent, secure, impartial, and equitable ways.
  • Deliverables. Although deliverables of AI executive orders vary, most orders involving task forces require the body to submit a report or action plan with specified recommendations to the Governor on the ethical and responsible use of AI technologies in state government. This report may include an inventory of the ways AI is currently being used in state government, current and potential impacts, and opportunities for future use. Some orders designate a phased approach (with certain deliverables mapped out over years) and others require a report with findings on a specific date. The task force may also be instructed to identify opportunities for public/private partnerships, potential amendments to procurement practices, or other prospective initiatives. Depending on specified focus areas, some orders may charge the task force with identifying areas for using AI to promote innovation and economic growth or improve workforce or education systems. If not already outlined in the order, some orders also require the task force to develop principles, uniform standards, or governance frameworks for the responsible use of AI in state government to be used by state agencies. At least one order also requires all state agencies to designate one person to become an AI expert. Many orders also require the development of AI trainings for state employees.

In addition to state AI leads and impacted agencies, Governors’ legal counsel may also become involved with AI on a broad range of issues, including ethical governance and use, privacy concerns, intellectual property, consumer protection, risk management, procurement, and other legal and regulatory issues.

Potential uses and issues involving AI will, by nature, continue to evolve. As such, with the use of existing AI tools and the release of GenAI, governmental bodies are exploring the benefits and challenges associated with the use of this technology—both in terms of using AI to improve government operations and regulating AI to ensure such tools are used responsibly by others.

NGA holds monthly briefings for Governors’ legal counsel. Please reach out to Lauren Dedon ( for additional information.