Commentary: Rep. Clarkson on gun safety, tech security bills

By Sen. Alison Clarkson

Both bodies of the Vermont legislature have now passed three major measures to improve firearm safety in our state. These bills: S.221, H.422 and S.55 are designed to keep guns out of the hands of those who intend harm to themselves or others, domestic violence abusers, and those with a serious mental illness.

No one measure will or could completely eradicate gun violence in Vermont, but these additions to our laws are intended to further protect Vermont’s children, women and families. Now, we await the governor’s signature. The governor has indicated that he intends to sign each of these bills.

While I respect the 2nd Amendment and value Vermont’s hunting tradition, I think it is time for the Vermont legislature to act on common sense firearm safety. Constitutional interpretation of the 2nd Amendment has always permitted reasonable regulation of firearms. I believe what we have voted on is entirely consistent with that principle.

Thank you to everyone in our Windsor County District who has been in touch about this issue. I appreciate you taking time to share your concerns and/or support for these measures. While I have managed to read the hundreds of messages and emails, I have not yet been able to respond to all of them. I expect to do so – please have patience.

As a former House member now serving in the Senate, I am clear that one of the challenges in the Senate is that we serve on a morning and afternoon committee – which means that our committee time is more limited: 3 to 4 hours each day. So, I am grateful that the House – where each member serves on one committee – is often able to devote more time to bills. This year, in particular, I am happy the House Commerce Committee has prioritized the Senate’s Financial Technologies bill, S.269, as they will fully flesh out all the opportunities envisioned in the bill as introduced. Due to the Senate’s ‘cross-over’ deadline, we were only able to address a fraction of the ideas initially proposed.

Vermont has a history of innovative laws designed to enable economic development and new business opportunities for Vermonters. One of our most successful examples is Captive Insurance and in the last 10 years, we’ve created opportunities for digital corporations, studied the opportunities blockchain technology presents for Vermont, and created enabling legislation for blockchain through court recognition. Enacting enabling laws is a very real way we can support our burgeoning high tech companies and entrepreneurs. Legal innovation is low cost, high reward economic development.

The Financial Technology Report identified areas in blockchain technology that we might support – and resulted in S.269. Financial technology is the application of computing and communication technologies to financial aspects of banking and insurance – and with this bill it also covers related questions of personal data use and consumer protection.

This bill, S.269 creates a legal framework for Personal Information Trust companies; asks our Department of Financial Regulation to do further work/study on blockchain application to e-insurance and e-banking; and proposes that a financial technology summit be held in Vermont.

Our personal information is all over the place on the internet. The recent news about Cambridge Analytica and the alleged privacy violations by Facebook/another social media giant – are stark examples of the vulnerability of our personal information. So, instead of playing defense on identity theft, this bill creates an opportunity to proactively protect our personal information through a private sector solution. Creating Personal Information Trust companies offers Vermonters an alternative. Instead of just creating defensive barriers to protect our identities – you would deposit your personal information in a trust company that would have a fiduciary duty to manage your identity and release it only when you request it. Your personal information would be managed for your benefit and not someone else’s. These companies are overseen and regulated by our Department of Financial Regulation – providing a high level of trust. The plethora of data breaches suggests that a more secure, ‘trust’ intermediary, could be useful.

The Financial Technology Summit  would help bridge the gaps between various ‘silos’ – like business, entrepreneurs, academia and government – all of whom are working on these topics in Vermont. Our objective is to promote networking among students and employers, inventors and investors – and to promote Vermont as the place to establish these types of businesses with legal frameworks and financial regulation people can trust.

I can be reached by email: aclarkson@leg.state.vt.us or by phone at the Statehouse (Tuesday through Friday) 828-2228 or at home (Saturday through Monday) 457-4627. To get more information on the Vermont Legislature,   visit the legislative website: legislature.vermont.gov

Sen. Clarkson represents Windsor County in the Vermont legislature.

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