Press Release

Senator Padilla Introduces Artificial Intelligence Package – Protecting Californians While Fostering Innovation and Democratizing AI Resources

SACRAMENTO – Today, Senator Steve Padilla (D-San Diego) introduced Senate Bills 892 and 893, measures designed to leverage California’s economic power to both develop a public artificial intelligence (AI) resource and the creation of a safe and ethical framework for AI service providers contracting with the state, one of the nation’s largest purchasers of technology services.

“AI holds both enormous promise and challenges for our economy and society,” said Senator Padilla. “Trusting tech titans to act responsibly, we completely abdicated our responsibility to create safeguards for social media and are now paying the price. We cannot repeat that disaster by allowing a handful of tech billionaires to operate AI without oversight, accountability, or restraint.”

Artificial intelligence stands to have the largest influence on society since the dawn of the Digital Age. AI has the potential to provide incredible societal benefits if harnessed appropriately, but threatens to pose terrible consequences if safeguards are not put in place as it becomes integrated into everyday life. The research and guardrails around generative AI services will become the standard that guides the technology as it proliferates throughout every sector of the economy. Currently, the protections and standards governing AI are set by the private companies developing the technology.

“The public has been left vulnerable to the dangers AI poses because of congressional failure to act and the regulatory desert they’ve created,” said Senator Padilla. “We cannot wait for Congress to overcome their dysfunction, so California must step in and step up to lead.”

The bill package introduced by Senator Padilla seeks to take advantage of California’s economic influence as a contracting entity. Senate Bill 892 requires the Department of Technology to establish safety, privacy, and nondiscrimination standards relating to artificial intelligence services and then, starting August 1, 2025, prohibits the state from entering into any contract for AI services unless the provider of the services meets the established standards.

Legal and artificial intelligence scholars spoke out in support of Senator Padilla’s package of bills.

“AI is being developed in a regulatory vacuum, with insufficient oversight and guardrails,” said Karl Manheim, Professor Emeritus at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, and an expert in the application of Artificial Intelligence and the law. “Congress has been inexcusably silent when it comes to both promoting AI as an engine of innovation and protecting society from its risks. Just as California has lead the nation in protecting individual privacy, Senator Padilla’s bills will put California in the vanguard in AI development and safety.”

There is also a global push public investment in AI infrastructure, same as those made in roads and bridges. Public universities and other public institutions are conducting research into the benefits of AI, but are unable to make the same kinds of investments into the technology as private enterprise. This funding gap continues to widen and threatens to force public entities to cede research and development in this space entirely to the tech companies that can afford it. Former National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien is on record stating, “[China] has prioritized becoming the global leader in AI tech development through large public investments and incentives for its tech sector,” and is “expected to more than double their annual investment in AI to $27 billion by 2026. By some estimates, this project will add $600 billion to the Chinese economy.”

In addition to the contract prohibition, the bill package introduced by Senator Padilla seeks to utilize California’s economic muscle to reimagine artificial intelligence services as a public benefit, taking advantage of the premier research universities in the state and making critical public infrastructure investments to create the California AI Research Hub. SB 893 requires the Government Operations Agency (GovOps), the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (Go-Biz), and the Department of Technology, to collaborate with academic institutions across the state in establishing the California Artificial Intelligence Research Hub.  The Hub will further the research, development, deployment, and application of AI technology for public good by facilitating access to computing resources and data for academic institutions while safeguarding privacy, advancing security and addressing risks and potential risks to society.

“We are proud of California’s heritage as a center for technological vision and enforcing ethical, safe standards on this technology is in concert with those values, not in opposition. Companies will continue to expand on the capabilities of the science, while California will use its market power to create the norm for responsible and ethical AI development,” said Senator Padilla. “But we cannot allow a few monopolies control the future of AI. This is a public good that must benefit all in our society, and we must make public investments to prevent a few billionaires controlling our future.”

The measures will be heard in the Senate in the coming year.