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A Seat in the House

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Electronic commerce

In the last publication I reported on the purpose and actions of the Interim Electric Industry Restructuring Committee. This time I would like to provide some information on the Legislative Council’s Interim Committee on Electronic Commerce. Electronic commerce is becoming as important as electric service in Idaho, especially rural Idaho, in terms of economic benefit. 

Over half the states in the country have established legislative committees to address the complex issues created by the increasing use of computers and the Internet. Thousands of electronic information technology-related bills are introduced in state legislatures every year and Idaho is no exception. During the 2002 Legislative session, 47 different electronic technology bills were addressed, some of these by more then one committee.

Some segments of society are at a disadvantage in social and economic development because of a lack of reasonable access to the latest telecommunications technology, specifically broadband access, otherwise identified as high-speed access. The Internet is becoming a major source of commercial activity for existing businesses, large or small, as well as new businesses.  The Internet also allows these companies to be more flexible in locations; this can be a major economic benefit to our rural communities.

Because of the importance of electronic technology and access to that technology by Idaho citizens, the 2001 legislature authorized the Legislative Interim Committee on Electronic Commerce. This Committee was “charged with completing a study of electronic commerce and technology, and includes the intent ‘to provide the communities of this state with a process to assist them in meeting the economic and societal challenges that have arisen…..as new electronic technologies….are developed, enhanced, and marketed.”

I was appointed to that committee along with nine other representatives and senators. There were also nine “ex-officio” members appointed representing various state agencies and the association of Idaho Cities and the Idaho Association of Counties.

The legislature recognized that rapid technology changes have significantly changed the way we do business and the manner in which we communicate. Government is affected in the same way as businesses and must keep abreast of the changes. As businesses and households increase their utilization of online services, a resultant increase occurs in electronic commerce between businesses, between businesses and the consumer, between business and government, and just as important, between government and the citizens and consumers it serves.

In its charge to present a final study and recommendations to the 2003 legislature, we on the committee have been attempting to gain as much knowledge as possible of current Idaho statutes, policies and practices dealing with electronic government. In the process we have increased our awareness of the effect electronic government has on education and other governmental entities. We have also solicited the perspective of private associations and private industry representatives on how electronic-government and electronic commerce affect their activities and livelihoods. 

We have received testimony from a number of presenters, both public and private, over the past year and continue to do so.

The Idaho Department of Commerce states, “as a digital economy, Idaho ranks a respectable overall 20th in the latest 2002 Progressive Policy Institute rankings. However, within our geographic area, Idaho significantly trails: Washington 2nd, Colorado 4th, Oregon 11th, Utah 12th and Arizona 16th. Idaho is ranked first in agriculture and 13th in education, ahead of these other states in both areas. The key indicators in this study include: percentage population online, commercial Internet domain names, technology in schools, digital government, online agriculture, online manufacturing and broadband availability and use. There were other indicators included in the rankings such as venture capital and new businesses.”

Although the above is a favorable report, we can become better. We want to be able to increase the availability of electronic commerce technology to rural areas. At the same time companies providing the service need to be able to realize an adequate rate of return for their shareholders as they attempt to offer the latest in new technology at reasonable costs. There is also, however, a danger in taking advantage of new technologies at the wrong time. Even though we may want to “jump on the bandwagon” of a new technology immediately, we need to recognize that if we act too soon, we may find that an even newer technology has diminished our investment.

The Interim Committee is and will be dealing with these and other issues the remainder of this year and then will present a final report detailing our findings, recommendations and proposed legislation (if any) to the First Regular Session of the Fifty-seventh Idaho Legislature in 2003. 

I'll look forward to sharing the Committee’s report and recommendations with you when it's completed later this year.

As always, thanks for reading and feel free to contact me anytime. My home phone is (208) 265-0123 and my mailing address is P.O. Box 112, Dover, Idaho, 83825. You can always reach me on “E” mail at infocntr(at)lso.state.id.us.

Thanks for reading! George 

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Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

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technology, Idaho Legislature, Idaho, Interim Committee on Electronic Commerce

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