As week five began, the feeling was that the number of bills coming to the floor would increase since so many were introduced, but, such was not the case. The movement of bills has been so slow that Approps didn’t even meet on Friday. Usually we are quite busy by this time. Why? Probably for several reasons but the main reason is because several bills have been tabled in committee or haven’t had executive action yet.
To me, the biggest bill we heard in Approps this week was HB 10-long range IT. I carried the bill and had more than sufficient back up from the departments to address the bill in detail. The crux of the bill is requests from six departments to fund long range IT projects in their areas. Most of the money was from state specials and federal funds which means the funding was from monies set aside for just such an expense. A little came from General Fund-i.e. your tax dollars- but nothing that wasn’t budget for in the plans.
HB 10, as proposed, had a problem. It contained a request that really wasn’t a project but an ongoing expense, so it didn’t fit the bill title. I pulled it out of HB 10 but the question then was what to do with it. After several meetings with the budget director and State IT people an agreement was reached to put it into HB 2-the big funding bill for the state. This would require a looksee in two years to be sure it was doing what was proposed.
During the meetings on the above mentioned expense we included a discussion on how we can, as a legislature, have better transparency with what was happening with IT projects as they progressed toward completion. Several agreements were reached and now we will see if they actually are implemented. The biggest issue for IT people is the release of information that might allow the bad guys to more easily attack our grid. To counter that the agreement is to allow a small group, about 3 or 4 legislators from the Legislative Finance Committee, to be allowed to see the sensitive information and make suggestions based on the information without disclosing too much. I believe this is a good plan.
HB 3 that I spoke about last week passed the House after much discussion. If you remember, HB 3 was the supplemental bill that allows the requesting department to have sufficient funds to make it through the remainder of the biennium. Not my favorite bill but I carried it because I was asked to do so. The typical big hitters in HB 3 are Office of Public Defender and Corrections.