GILLETTE — Most new technologies are met with widespread skepticism, but that couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to blockchain technology and Wyoming legislators.
In the past two legislative sessions, Wyoming lawmakers have passed 13 new blockchain laws, with little to no opposition, in an effort to make the Cowboy State the place to be for blockchain technology.
“Wyoming’s becoming a state that’s known for its nimbleness in innovation,” said state Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower.
Brian Worthen, CEO of Visionary Broadband, said Wyoming is in a unique situation.
“Because of the (population) size of our state, it’s easy to roll out new innovation. There’s a certain level of accessibility to government that is unsurpassed,” Worthen said. Driskill said he and Lindholm proposed a cryptocurrency bill six years ago. Driskill said they saw potential in blockchain, the technology that makes cryptocurrency work.
“It became very apparent that blockchain had immense value in many, many areas,” he said.
During the 2018 legislative session, state lawmakers passed a number of bills regulating cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, and the Cowboy State has since become the model for other states to follow.
Seven other states have copied Wyoming’s blockchain legislation, Driskill said.
Blockchain was invented in 2008 as the public ledger for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
Blockchain is a system where a record of transactions is kept across computers that are linked in a peer-to-peer network.
Blocks of information are stored in a database, or chain. The blocks store transaction information, such as the date, dollar amount and name of the people or businesses participating in the transaction.
“It’s just a high-end accounting system that makes it where parties who don’t trust each other can do business with each other because they trust the data,” Driskill said.
Unlike traditional computer systems, blockchain is decentralized and encrypted. If one point in the chain goes down, the network can still continue.
“You’re literally storing a key within a publicly viewable space for future reference,” Worthen said. “Anything from a serial number to a description of land.”
“When the internet came out, nobody understood where it was going, what it was. I think a lot of blockchain is that way,” Driskill said.
Driskill co-chairs the Blockchain Task Force with Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance. It includes a couple of other lawmakers and members of the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition. The task force spent last year coming up with blockchain bills.
House Bill 57, called the “financial technology sandbox,” will let companies that have an innovative financial product or service request a waiver of state regulations if the current law does not allow the product to be available to customers.
This law has “great potential,” Driskill said, because a lot of Wyoming’s regulations are “inflexible,” and this would provide innovators relief from existing laws for up to three years.
House Bill 74 authorizes state-chartered banks to provide basic banking services to blockchain and other businesses. Senate File 125 authorizes qualified custodians for digital assets, including virtual currencies, digital securities and utility tokens, and recognizes the property rights of the owners of those assets.
All of the bills were signed into law with very little opposition. Driskill said there were a couple of reasons for this.
“We have a good relationship with the industry,” he said. “It’s much easier to write laws when the industry’s actually helping you out.”
By Jonathan Gallardo
Gillette News Record Via Wyoming News Exchange