New bill establishes group to recommend policies for blockchain tech in Washington state

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation to establish a working group to evaluate blockchain technology in the state.

The group will recommend policies to “make Washington a favorable place to do business” and that “facilitate the development of blockchain applications and the sector overall in Washington.”

The group will also assess impacts on existing industries, evaluate racial equity in the sector, and assess electricity demand and environmental considerations of the technology, which supports the energy-intensive process of cryptocurrency “mining.”

Blockchain technology is commonly used as a ledger for transactions and has a variety of other uses. “Mining” of cryptocurrencies has become increasingly popular in Washington state.

Seattle startups in the sector include crypto cashback app company StormX, carbon removal marketplace Nori, and ArcBlock, which offers a blockchain system for building decentralized apps.

Techstars, a global network that supports entrepreneurs, this summer launched a new accelerator program out of Seattle to support blockchain startups. Amazon Web Services offers blockchain services, and Starbucks leverages the tech for uses like helping customers trace the supply chain of their coffee.

“This new law is a vital first-step in creating an environment that is welcoming of new business prospects, eager to seek out new applications, and willing to identify potential supply chain management and STEM education opportunities,” said Sen. Sharon Brown, a republican who serves Kennewick and neighboring cities, in a statement issued by the Washington Technology Industry Association.

“We are sending a clear message that Washington is ready to start working with the private sector to advance this technology for the benefit of all Washington residents, employers and workers,” added Brown.

Brown sponsored the bill, which passed the state House and Senate close to unanimously and was championed by the Cascadia Blockchain Council, an industry group within the WTIA.

Inslee signed the bill last week, and the group’s recommendations are due by end of next year.

“Cascadia Blockchain Council has been dedicated to making the region a global hub for blockchain development. Today represents a major step forward in achieving our goal,” said Arry Yu, chair of the council, in a statement.

The new group will consist of Washington lawmakers, representatives from state agencies including the Department of Commerce, and individuals appointed by the governor from organizations including the Cascadia Blockchain Council, a large and small company, and a federally-recognized tribe.

Last year Washington state launched a new Center for FinTech Information to gather licensing guidelines and regulations in one place.