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Eye On Boise

Of lawmakers and technology…

As the Legislature’s IT division manager, Glenn Harris, opened his presentation to the Legislative Council on technology changes during the 2013 session, he referred to the “hand-holding” sometimes needed when new technologies are introduced. House Speaker Scott Bedke asked if most of that “hand-holding” was needed for older members of the Legislature. “It’s not necessarily the age of the member or the legislative service, it just depends on who the people are,” Harris responded. Amid laughter, Bedke said, “Well said.”

After improvements, the wireless network used by lawmakers worked very well this year, Harris said, and brought no complaints. The public Wi-Fi network, however, was a different story; upgrades are in the works.

A new venture this year was automated updates on House and Senate floor votes on Facebook and Twitter. “This was used by a fair amount of people,” Harris said. “We didn’t advertise this heavily; there was a link on our website.” When surveyed, 59 percent of legislators “actually said they didn’t even know it was happening, but they plan on using it next year.”

The Legislature has run into increasing problems with lawmakers’ mass emails to constituents being labeled as spam. “We’re proposing actually acquiring a mass email newsletter type service that you guys can use to email out,” Harris said.

Another issue for the Legislature in the tech arena: Lawmakers still are doing lots of printing, and the Legislature is going through $8,000 worth of toner each year. “We want to cut those costs,” Harris said. He encouraged lawmakers to print in color only sparingly, and when they need to make multiple color printouts, to take them to the state copy center and use copiers there, which cuts the cost in half.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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