Florida is one of eight states where lawmakers adopted 2019 bills creating task forces to study the potential benefits of blockchain in modernizing methods of record-keeping that could save money and enhance the security of online transactions.
Senate Bill 1024, sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and signed into law in May by Gov. Ron DeSantis, authorizes the establishment of the Florida Blockchain Task Force within the state’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) to develop the state’s cryptocurrency policy and a master plan for how to implement it.
The 13-member task force will include three agency heads or executive directors of cabinet agencies, one certified public accountant with experience in blockchain technology and nine private sector members “with knowledge and experience in blockchain technology.”
DeSantis will appoint eight members, the CPA and four general public members. Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker Jose Oliva will appoint one general public member each and state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, three. The deadline for task force applicants was Tuesday.
Blockchain is, essentially, a block of linked digital recordings of transactions. Once each block is completed, it’s added to the chain, creating a chain of blocks: a blockchain.
It is a digital ledger that is already in widespread use in cryptocurrency – such as Bitcoin – as well as in finance, voting validation, authenticating academic credentials and more.
Blockchain technologies and crypto-currencies first emerged as potentially viable financial systems with the advent of Bitcoin, invented by an anonymous individual or group under the name Satoshi Nakamoto and released as open-source software in 2009.
“Blockchain has come a long way from Bitcoin,” writes Fingent Corp. Open Source Team Leader Sreejith Omanakuttan in opensource.com. “The fact that it’s not controlled by any single authority and has no single point of failure makes it very robust, transparent, and incorruptible. It also solves the threat of a middleman manipulating the data. Such inherent strengths account for blockchain’s soaring popularity and explain why it is likely to emerge as a mainstream technology in the immediate future.”
Blockchain has since mushroomed in market utility, as noted in SB 1024, and is now used to facilitate billions of dollars of transactions.
It is already being integrated by local governments throughout the nation, including in Florida’s Seminole County where Tax Collector Joel M. Greenberg announced in May that the county will begin accepting cryptocurrency for payment, including Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, to pay for services such as property taxes, driver license and ID card fees, as well as tags and titles.
The county planned to employ the blockchain payments company, BitPay, to allow it to receive settlement the next business day directly to its bank account in dollars.
“We live in a world where technology has made access to services on demand, with same-day delivery and the expectation of highly efficient customer service and we should expect the same from our government.,” Greenberg said. “The aim of my tenure in office is to make our customer experience faster, smarter and more efficient, and to bring government services from the 18th century into the 21st century and one way is the addition of cryptocurrency to our payment options.”
The city of Berkeley, Calif., this year approved a pilot project to apply blockchain technology to public financing for public works projects, estimating it would decrease the minimum price of a municipal bond from $5,000 to $10-25, allowing more people to invest in those they support.
Berkeley’s pilot program, as well as others in the U.S. and around the world, will be closely watched by state’s fledging task force and Florida lawmakers, which will also rely on the Florida Technology Council’s six-page primer on blockchain implementation.
According to an Aug. 27 DFS directive, the task force “will study if and how” state, county, and municipal governments can benefit from a transition to a blockchain-based system for record-keeping, data security, financial transactions, and service delivery and identify ways to improve government interaction with businesses and the public.
“The main focus of the task force is to identify the economic growth and development opportunities presented by blockchain technology,” it states. “Appointees will assess the existing blockchain industry in the state and identify innovative and successful blockchain applications currently used by industry and other governments to determine viability for state level, as well as review workforce needs, and academic programs required to build blockchain technology expertise across all relevant industries.”
“We will work to explore and develop a master plan for fostering the expansion of blockchain in our state and innovation will keep us at the forefront of this growing technological industry,” Patronis added.