View Point

By Rep. Tom Okamura
and Sen. Rosalyn Baker

Friday, December 6, 1996

Legislature gaining speed
on information highway

ON Nov. 15, in a Star-Bulletin View Point, State Rep. Cynthia Thielen discussed the Legislature's computer system, implying that legislators are dragging their feet in embracing the efficiency and improved public access that new technology offers. Nothing could be farther from reality.

As co-chairpersons of the Joint Legislative Access Committee established by the House speaker and the Senate president on July 1, we'd like to set the record straight.

The Joint Legislative Access Committee is a bipartisan body whose other members were Reps. Robert Herkes, Kenneth Hiraki, Ken Ito, Ezra Kanoho and Barbara Marumoto, and Sens. Carol Fukunaga, David Ige, Les Ihara, Mike McCartney and Michael Liu. Committee discussions were public and notices of all committee meetings were posted.

On Sept. 10, following considerable research and deliberation, the committee unanimously agreed to recommend a course of action to replace the current computer system. The agreement emphasized the need for:

A joint House and Senate system;

A reliable, open and flexible information system to meet both legislative and public access needs; and

Improved public access to legislative information through new technologies including the Internet.

On Sept. 19, the House speaker and Senate president authorized the issuance of a joint "Request for Proposals" (RFP) to plan, design and install a new legislative information system. On Oct. 21, a joint RFP was released.

To date, 10 companies have obtained copies of the RFP.

All requirements of the State Procurement Code are being strictly adhered to during this process. Because of the complexity of the project and the need for detailed reviews, the earliest a contract can be finalized is immediately following the 1997 legislative session. This new system is scheduled to be operable prior to the 1998 session.

On Oct. 23, in a memoradum from Speaker Souki to all House members, the details and timeframe for replacing the legislative computer system, as well as information on new computer technology projects, including Internet access and enhanced public access, were disseminated to all House members.

Accordingly, Rep. Thielen should have known that:

The committee is also proposing that the ACCESS system, which the public relies on for information, be connected to the Internet to provide instantaneous access to legislative documents and information;

Rep. Marumoto and Sen. Fukunaga are developing the concept of "on-line" document subscriptions, including access to the Hawaii Revised Statutes; and

Rep. Hiraki and Sen. Ige are establishing guidelines and a process for the creation of web sites and home pages for use by individual legislators during the 1997 session.

These kinds of improvements in legislative efficiency and public access will continue to be implemented as the Legislature embraces the full promise and potential of technology. Like any organization entering the information highway, however, our process must be deliberate and well planned.

How do we best implement our plan to replace large mainframe computers with personal computers? How do we fund this plan within existing or shrinking budgets? How do we ensure that the decisions made today will continue to serve us well into the future?

As public servants, our decisions have been made for the benefit of the public and the productivity of the Legislature as a whole, not on the wants or needs of one individual.

Toward this end, we extend our appreciation to all the members of the Joint Legislative Access Committee and to the dedicated House and Senate staff members who have worked so hard to assure that the Legislature is on the Information Highway - and rapidly gaining speed.

State Rep. Tom Okamura and Sen. Rosalyn Baker
are co-chairpersons of the Joint Legislative Access Committee.

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