States Rush to Regulate Artificial Intelligence

By FOCUS, A Leonine Business

With artificial intelligence (AI) rapidly evolving, states are taking decisive steps to address the technology’s challenges, especially in the absence of comprehensive federal action. There have been more than 600 AI-related bills introduced in almost every state this year, a substantial increase from just 67 bills a year ago. This surge in state-level legislative activity indicates a growing urgency to fill the regulatory gaps left by the federal government’s slower pace.

Almost all of the state legislatures currently in session are considering AI-related bills, with nearly half focusing on deepfakes – digital forgeries that manipulate visual and auditory media. This broad range of legislation reflects a variety of approaches, from addressing ethical concerns to promoting safety and accountability in AI development and deployment.

In California, SB 1047 would require AI developers to conduct self-assessments for certain risks associated with their AI model if it has a computing power over a certain limit. Requirements proposed upon developers include adopting cybersecurity precautions, implementing shutdown abilities, and following specific standardized guidance procedures. South Dakota’s SB 79, which was signed into law and goes into effect July 1, mandates prison sentences for those caught creating, distributing and possessing AI-generated child sexual abuse images, while Connecticut’s SB 2 would focus on requiring developers and deployers of a high-risk artificial intelligence system to use reasonable care to protect consumers from any known or reasonably foreseeable risks of algorithmic discrimination.

While U.S. states are racing to address AI issues, the rest of the world has already begun taking regulatory steps. The European Union (EU) has established regulatory rules for AI, approved by the region’s parliament, with implementation expected as soon as 2025. The EU’s approach is comprehensive, potentially banning some AI technologies in extreme cases and requiring approval before certain “high-risk” AI systems go to market. Similarly, China and India are considering their own frameworks for AI regulation, indicating a global momentum toward addressing AI’s societal impacts.

Given the number of AI-related bills introduced at the federal level – 50 in total – it’s clear that discussions are underway in Washington, but the complexity and rapidly evolving nature of AI are likely contributing to the slow progress. Meanwhile, states are stepping up to define the regulatory landscape, ensuring that AI’s rapid growth doesn’t outpace society’s ability to control and understand it. This state-level initiative not only addresses immediate concerns but could also influence federal policy by demonstrating effective regulatory models for AI governance. FOCUS will continue to monitor the legislative developments of AI in the coming year.