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The Tale of Tallahassee and a Blockchain Task Force

Submitted by Sam Armes, Executive Director, Florida Blockchain Business Association

September 29, 2019

Back in 1824, when it was named the Florida state capital, Tallahassee was a halfway point between the state’s two largest cities; Pensacola and St. Augustine. Today, Tallahassee is at least a four hour drive from over 50% of Florida’s population, and a seven hour drive from the most heavily populated metro area in the state, Miami. This distance can also be symbolic of a disenfranchised electorate when it comes to those Florida citizens who are interested in being heard in the capitol. Regardless, passion drives some to make the journey to Tallahassee to ensure that voices are being heard, both individually and collectively.

On Monday, September 23, I, along with FBBA Vice President, Rosa Shores, cofounder of BlockSpaces in Tampa, made that passionate drive to attend the inaugural meeting of the newly created Florida Blockchain Task Force. The 13-member task force was created through Senate Bill 1024 and was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May. The bill 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, a master plan for how to implement it, and is made up of people from government and the private sector. The group is required to 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.” Among other things, the group is tasked  with studying how blockchain can improve recordkeeping, security, and delivery of services in government. The task force must present a report to the governor and top state officials in 6 months on how best to implement blockchain technology in the state.

The meeting began with introductions by the new appointees (see a list of appointees including bios here), and although all of them bring a tremendously impressive wealth of institutional understanding to the task force, there seems to be missing an appointee who breathes both the technology and ideology of blockchain technology. The saying that bitcoin, which began this entire blockchain transformation era, is a political movement disguised as a technology is more true than any politico in Tallahassee might know. The shift that is happening in the blockchain world is one to watch, as large corporations and governments attempt to apply a technology birthed out of ideologies counter to their entrenched business and government models. Here in lies a larger issue and or problem: can the government implement a technology that’s true potential lies within the ideas of transparency and returning rights to the average individual?

Ronald Brisé, who was very quickly appointed as the chair of the committee, was quoted by WFSU saying,  “I think our task is simply to learn as much as we can from the citizens of Florida, from the things that are working within Florida and in other parts of the nation, and how we can implement some of those things within our work product”.  Although we have to wait to see how Brise’s appointment effects the committee, we can conclude based on his previous experience that he will likely need outside help to truly understand what blockchain technology could do for the state. His plans to learn from our vibrant community is a very positive sign.

Ken Lawson, the now vice chair of the committee, seems to have seen only the negative sides of the blockchain industry, focusing on financial terrorism and money laundering. When appointed by the CFO to find a crypo Czar, Lawson was quoted as saying, “I’m excited about working with CFO Patronis to accomplish his goal of protecting Floridians from criminals who seek to use new technology to scam people and allowing innovation to flourish in our state.” Although all opinions and aspects of the industry are good to hear, one hopes Mr. Lawsons views on the industry are not just focused on criminals, but the large majority of the individuals in the  industry who simply want to make the rest of our lives better through innovation.

Florida’s newly created blockchain task force has an incredible amount of potential to bring about innovative ideas to the state legislature, and the FBBA stands ready to assist them.  So far, however, we have seen no one with real depth and experience in the field of blockchain and cryptocurrency be appointed. Although the five unfilled appointments by the governor could remedy that situation, no one knows for certain. Having traveled this state from end to end talking to business owners and thought leaders, I do know one thing for certain. The blockchain and cryptocurrency community in Florida is well educated and well informed. Regardless of representation, they will be present.

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