Utah lawmakers plan for water, growth and artificial intelligence

Utah lawmakers plan for water, growth and artificial intelligence

ST. GEORGE, Utah — State lawmakers are preparing for continued demands for water, grappling with growth and now dealing with rapid advancements in artificial intelligence.

Members of the Utah State Legislature continued their meetings in southern Utah with a day-long planning session at Utah Tech University. But they focused on these particular issues as topics that require more deliberation and planning.

“This allows us to take a breath and look at the issues from a little higher view,” said Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Pleasant Grove.

He pointed out Utah’s student population will either remain static or decline in the coming years.

“That’s a big change for our state which has been growing so rapidly. How do we deal with that from a budgetary standpoint?” Rep. Brammer said. “Looking at what our population is going to do? If we’re going to have an older population, how do we deal with the social services associated with that.”

Senate Minority Whip Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, said the issues resonate with all of them.

“We’ve seen things all of us are concerned about. Housing, water and health care and transit,” she said.

Water and growth are constant policy issues that the Utah State Legislature grapples with. But this year, lawmakers are also focusing on artificial intelligence.

“That’s something a lot of us don’t know about,” House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, told FOX 13 News. “I just started hearing about it months ago, it feels like. I don’t even know what it does, I’ve never used it.”

The Utah State Legislature has had a task force looking at AI and how it can be used to innovate in the state, but also the concerns with the technology.

“When you think about health care, when you think about education, there’s a lot of potential exciting opportunities there,” said House Majority Whip Jefferson Moss, R-Saratoga Springs, who is a member of that task force.

But as much as lawmakers are excited about it’s potential, they also have concerns about problems associated with AI. Rep. Moss pointed to disinformation and misinformation and “deepfake” video and audio (where a person’s face or voice is mimicked).

Nick Pelikan, the CEO of Piste.AI, met with lawmakers in St. George on Tuesday. He told FOX 13 News “AI has some of the most incredible promise out of any technology I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

But he also acknowledged concerns around it and said it should have some regulation.

“What we need to find is minimum possible regulation. What can protect,” he said. “What can protect consumers, what can make sure we’re not consolidating power into unaccountable companies while also creating room for innovation.”

Rep. Moss said to expect some regulation of artificial intelligence in the upcoming 2024 legislative session for more problematic aspects of AI.

“That’s something we’ve talked about considerably and I know there’s definitely an interest to do something around that,” he said.