Capitol could soon be going wireless
Internet connections would streamline the legislative process, proponents say
The state Legislature is coming into the wireless age -- and just in time for the busiest part of the session.
Lawmakers are moving forward with plans to install wireless Internet access points at the state Capitol in all committee hearing rooms, the auditorium in the building's basement, the fourth-floor public-access room and along the corridors on the second, third and fourth floors.
Usage would be similar to the way laptop users can access the Internet at coffee shops, shopping centers or airports, and would be free of charge.
The House and Senate have agreed to split the installation cost, about $146,000, using available funds from their fiscal year 2005 operating budgets.
"We think it's a good thing that in the computer age, in the technology age, that at least the Capitol should be wired totally," said Senate President Robert Bunda (D, Kaena-Wahiawa-Pupukea). "Because of costs, we need to go one step at a time."
House Speaker Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise-Palolo Valley) has endorsed the project, his office said.
Bunda said he intends to support the proposal but has asked members of the Senate to submit any objections to him by Tuesday.
"We put it out there to at least get some feedback from those senators who may have some concerns," Bunda said.
Hawaiian Telcom, the proposed contractor for the project, has said work could be completed in six weeks.
That would be just in time for House-Senate conference committees, when lawmakers from each side work out differences in bills to come up with a single proposal to send to the governor.
Conference is typically the busiest time of the session, as lawmakers work late hours often going from hearing room to hearing room throughout the day to come up with the final language for hundreds of bills.
Having wireless access would allow them to reduce the number of files they carry around and allow instant access to hearing schedules, proposed amendments and other information available on the Legislature's Web site.
Instead of calling or chasing after them, aides would be able to send lawmakers e-mails or text messages to their cell phones to summon them to hearing rooms for decision making.
Others would benefit, too.
As someone who spends a lot of time attending legislative hearings, lobbyist Jennifer Diesman said wireless access would enable her to access information online without having to go back to her office to retrieve copies of bills or committee reports.
"You could bring up the Internet, and you'd have real-time access to amendments and hearing information," said Diesman, director of government relations for the Hawaii Medical Service Association. "It would be easier if you could just be in the hearing room with a laptop."