US States working on blockchain legislation in 2017

At least eight US States have worked on bills accepting or promoting the use of Bitcoin and Blockchain technology this year, and a couple of them have already passed them into law. The bills cover a wide range of purposes, from increasing transparency in State operations to protecting consumers from added taxation. Some have been very specific, defining blockchains and smart contracts, while describing the technology as “immutable” and providing “uncensored truth.”

The most recent State in the union to pass legislation concerning blockchain technology was Vermont, which passed Senate Bill 135 in both the Vermont House and Senate on Friday. The part that pertains to Blockchain technology calls for any "fact or record" verified through the use of a blockchain to be "authentic." This gives Blockchain-notarized documents, including those on the Bitcoin blockchain, added legal bearing in a court of law. The bill is currently waiting on the Governor’s signature before officially becoming law.

The State of Arizona also recently passed a bill, one that explicitly defines and supports blockchain technology for public use. On March 29th, the State Governor signed House Bill 2417 into law, enacted immediately. The legislation defines both blockchains and smart contracts, while declaring that all data tied to a blockchain is "considered to be in an electronic format and to be an electronic record," which is acceptable for use by the state.

- Arizona House Bill 2417

The bill received nearly unanimous support from legislators, with only one vote against the legislation in the Senate, and none against in the House. Despite the bipartisan support, previous Arizona blockchain-related legislation, House Bill 2216, blocked the use of Blockchain technology. HB 2216 has not yet passed, but has very little opposition, and makes it a felony to subject citizens to having their guns tracked on a blockchain.

In Maine, Senate Bill 950 instigates a 90-day field study to learn the effects of, “Using Blockchain Technology in Conjunction with Paper Ballots in Maine Elections.” The House and Senate have both forwarded the bill, so it does not need to be voted on to be passed. Results from the study must be presented to the Senate in December.

Nevada’s Senate Bill 398 recognizes and authorizes “the use of blockchain technology” and smart contracts by Nevada residents. While reserving the right to use Blockchains and smart contracts, the legislation mainly serves as a way to ensure that State government will not prevent residents from doing so.

No governmental entity, Bill 398 declares, can impose taxes or fees on blockchains or on smart contracts. Nor can any government department License or issue permits for using them. The young bill is still in committee after a first reading to the Senate on March 20,.

Despite the State of Hawaii recently re-classifying cryptocurrency-using businesses as Money Transmitters, forcing Coinbase to stop doing business within the state, the Hawaiian state legislature is close to passing House Bill 1481. The tourism focused bill considers several ways in which Bitcoin and blockchain technology can help the State develop economically. “Digital currencies such as bitcoin have broad benefits for Hawaii,” the bill reads. While awaiting a vote by both branches, the bill has passed several committees.

- Hawaii House Bill 1481

Illinois House Resolution 120, known as the “Blockchain Task Force Resolution,” was simultaneously created in both the House and Senate as a joint resolution calling for a deep investigation into the technology. The official statement calls for the creation of “the Illinois Legislative Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Task Force,” to study how and if the State of Illinois, county governments, and municipal governments can benefit from a transition to a blockchain based system for recordkeeping and service delivery. The legislation has passed a House vote and is now waiting on a Senate vote.

January’s North Dakota Senate Bill 2100 is one of the few bills to mention Bitcoin, calling for a specific study to consider “the feasibility and desirability of regulating virtual currency, such as bitcoin.” While it was passed unanimously in the Senate, a nearly-unanimous House vote against it has followed soon after.

A bill from California, Senate Bill 741, only mentions Bitcoin momentarily, as it authorizes organizations to hold charitable raffles. “A raffle ticket shall not be sold in exchange for Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency,” the bill stated, in what may be the first time Bitcoins have been specifically outlawed by a State congress from being used in a specific way. The bill is still in committee.

On the federal level, no bills have been submitted. However, in September 2016 the US House of Representatives proposed the non-binding Resolution 835, promoting economic growth nationally. While the document is not a bill and cannot become law, it calls on Congress to create a national policy for specific technology, including digital currencies and blockchain.

- US House of Representatives House Resolution 835