Legislation to reform Florida’s state information technology took important steps this week, as companion bills in the state’s Senate and House of Representatives each moved forward.
The Florida House of Representatives passed Wednesday its version of state IT reform, the latest step by state lawmakers to create a state agency to oversee the state’s technology management.
The house bill mirrors one moving through the state’s senate that would create the Agency for State Technology and allow the governor to appoint a chief information officer, something Florida has not had for more than two years.
The Senate bill today passed through the chamber’s appropriations committee and will now go to the Senate floor for vote.
“The Florida House is committed to improving the efficiency of our state government and saving taxpayer dollars,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford, a Republican from Wesley Chapel, Fla. “This bill will help modernize the state’s IT infrastructure and ensure Florida is no longer the only state in the nation without a chief information officer.”
This is the third consecutive year IT reform has tried to make its way into law. Two years ago, a bill reached the desk of Gov. Rick Scott, but he vetoed it citing it did not give those in charge enough authority to institute the type of change that was needed.
Last year, a bill passed through the state’s Senate, but failed to do so in the House.
This year, though, hopes to be different for those involved thanks to a new emphasis on the project fueled in part by some large technology mistakes within the agencies, most notably a the rollout of Florida’s new $63 million jobless website that has struggled to work, along with more public events such as the cyber-attack on Target in December.
“As the only large state without a centralized information technology organization, Florida’s failure to properly implement and manage essential technology projects and systems comes at a great cost to the taxpayer,” said Senate President Don Gaetz. “This legislation will help our state better coordinate the structure and delivery of information technology systems and provide for better protection of these systems and the data they contain.”
Developing an information technology strategy for the state government was a component of the joint House and Senate Work Plan for this year’s legislature.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Florida is the only state in the nation without CIO and is currently spending more $733 million per year on IT with no coordinating oversight. The bills aim to provide broad strategic and operational direction, creates a mechanism to ensure appropriate coordination with state agencies, and properly funds the new structure.
Both the House and Senate bills create similar structures with only slight differences in the amount of funding and full-time employees the office will operate with.
The Senate proposal sets aside $2.9 million in recurring funds and would employ 25 full-time positions, while the House plan allocates $3.2 million in recurring funds for 27 full time workers.
Under both measures, the new technology agency would be housed within the Department of Management Services under the direction of the governor’s office and oversee projects worth $10 million or more. The new IT agency wouldn’t oversee cabinet agencies, but would perform oversight of technology projects and contracts worth $25 million or more within those agencies.
But Rep. Dwight Dudley, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, said the threshold should be lowered.
“My only concern with this bill is that it’s not going to go far enough,” he said.
The new agency would replace the Florida Agency for Enterprise Information Technology, which lost funding more than two years ago after the legislature felt it did not have the right authority to properly govern the state’s technology needs.