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Pennsylvania legislators have a new Emerging Technologies Caucus to boost tech innovation

State Rep. Napoleon Nelson said he aims for the caucus to keep legislators updated on the latest policy and regulatory developments in the tech sector, and to support entrepreneurs in the state.

PA State Rep. Napoleon Nelson.

(Courtesy photo)

As the federal legislature approves $250 billion for R&D, Pennsylvania’s elected officials are also thinking about local tech entrepreneurs.

State Rep. Napoleon Nelson, a Democrat from the 154th District in Montgomery County near Philadelphia, introduced earlier this month the bipartisan Emerging Technologies Caucus intended to understand and support the burgeoning technology sector in Pennsylvania.

The goal is for members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to stay updated on the latest policy and regulatory developments in the tech sector, educate members and committees, and develop legislation that advances technological innovation, he said.

Nelson, who holds degrees in computer science from MIT and finance from the Wharton School, called out recent advancements in blockchain technology, cryptocurrency and AI as examples of growth in the region that needs universal understanding in order to garner more business support. He also understands that these technologies often need some nuance, like addressing how biased algorithms play into policing, he said.

“We need to make sure as we have to have a common body of knowledge for these industries to become mainstream for us,” Nelson told Technical.ly.

The duties of the Emerging Technologies Caucus would include providing reasonable regulations and transparency that protect Pennsylvanians while attracting and retaining entrepreneurs to the state, he said. Nelson announced the caucus on June 3, and has since been inviting representatives to join, engaging with local stakeholders in the sector, and planning seminars.

One of his biggest goals is to be able to “place PA at that apex of innovation and thinking about the jobs of tomorrow,” Nelson said.

“We have a tremendous amount of university capital and institutions that are up there with some of the greatest throughout the country and world. [For] our ability to create and innovate the jobs of the future, for sustainable communities, our work is figuring out, ‘how do we as legislators support that work?'” he added.

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House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton, a Democrat from the 191st District representing parts of Delaware County and Philadelphia, noted in a statement that the caucus is an example of the mindset the legislature will need to stay informed on and support the evolving tech sector.

Some of the caucus’ first steps will include defining which emerging technologies the caucus should focus on. Nelson said he’s also currently working on a few bills that address some of the issues surrounding new technology and planning a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing next month to further discuss them. A particular sector of interest that he sees potential growth in over the next few years is tech in the environmental space, as one example.

“We want to make sure everyone knows we’re here, ready and listening to make sure they can reach out to us as a caucus,” Nelson said.

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