On Wednesday November 14th, just after the midterm elections the Blockchain Advocacy Coalition co-hosted a policy panel with Blockchain for Social Justice. We sat down to chat with Fiona Ma- Treasurer Elect for the state of California and Brian Forde- former technology advisor in the Obama White House.
The audience of Bay Area blockchain and cryptocurrency entrepreneurs were lucky to be joined by SF Board of Supervisor's President Malia Cohen (who was also elected to statewide office last week and will be joining the Board of Equalization in January) and Assemblymember David Chiu. We kicked things off with a discussion of the state of blockchain regulation at a state and federal level. Fiona Ma emphasized how eager she is to learn more about the industry, specifically how blockchain can assist with property titles, tax collection and banking the cannabis industry. A recurring theme the discussion kept touching upon was the incredibly high stakes of using new technology in the public sphere.
Brian Forde highlighted that in addition to institutional resistance to learning new tech, when the government fails to use technology properly the human costs can be staggering. Forde suggested the government and industry look for pilot programs where technology can almost certainly do more good than harm- such as helping overseas service members vote.
Ensuring service member’s votes are counted is a logistical problem that dates back to the Civil War. In 2012 250,000 service members were unable to get their votes counted due to the complexity of the system. This is an ideal area for blockchain improvement- and West Virginia led the charge using the Voatz app to allow Peace Corps volunteers and deployed military members to vote in 2018’s primary and general elections. Denver is on pace to test this out their own system in 2019. All elected officials present expressed a desire to learn more about companies and initiatives that could improve upon inefficient and slow government systems. (If you think you are one, email me.)
We followed up the panel discussion with breakout groups that discussed the challenges blockchain companies face in the policy, tax, legal and data privacy arenas and how we can overcome those. Among the identified challenges were: lack of federal regulatory clarity and state leadership, simply too many bodies trying to fight for jurisdiction over cryptocurrency, confusion about taxes, the high cost of lawyers to navigate the confusion and lack of standardization across the industry. Our group generated some innovative ideas to work through the challenges- a common theme was not replicating work and consolidating the bureaucracy companies face. We’ll be transcribing all the recommendations and sharing them with the elected officials who joined us, but also making them public.
We will continue these conversations at the state and federal level to push for better blockchain policy, with your help. The Blockchain Advocacy Coalition is currently creating an advisory board that will contain a state and federal policy committee. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like more information.