Utah Sentate Computer Problems


This article from the Deseret News reports a computer failure in the Utah Senate that kept Senators from conducting business. I guess even government needs reliable computers. While I certainly think the topic of the article is fair game, I think it takes a cheap shot at Greg Johnson, the IT manager for the Senate. The article talks about "the glitch-free House," which seems like a way of rubbing salt in the wound. I think its unfair to single Greg out when the problem probably has more to do with a lack of resources than any deficiency in his knowledge or efforts.

One of the biggest IT problems facing a legislature is that you can't buy off-the-shelf software that does legislation. Every legislature is different and even if they were procedurally the same, there's only 57 of them (counting territories). So, every body does their own. In Utah, I believe even the Senate and the House use different systems. Argh! You'd think that they'd be able to agree to build a single system that meets their needs.

If I were called on to do the task (fat chance), I'd probably try something using the XML standards developed by the US House. If it were a little further along, I'd be tempted to use Office 11 as the basis. I'd bet there's real slick system that could be based on those two things that could be easily customized for different legislative bodies.

One thing you can be sure of, however---there will not be a legislative audit of this matter. They save those precious experiences for the executive branch since legislative audits are more about politics than they are about good government.