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State Lawmakers Consider New Agency for State Technology

William Hook via Flickr Creative Commons

The Florida House is advancing a bill to create a new state agency designed to oversee information technology.  Proponents say it could save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

The proposal to create an Agency for State Technology, or AST, is intended to provide a single entity that would oversee how other government departments and agencies collect, protect and store digital information.  The non-profit government watch-dog group Florida TaxWatch has long supported the effort.  

“TaxWatch has identified more than $400 million din projects that have been delayed or cancelled over the last 10 years and a lot of that was because of a lack of state government or enterprise-wide oversight,” said TaxWatch Chief Research Officer Robert Weissert. 

“So, those are state projects.  Those are state tax dollars.  Nearly half a billion dollars of state tax dollars that have been basically wasted because we didn’t have an integrated IT structure that was able to move projects forward, provide oversight and project management and keep all of the solution running toward the outcome.”   

Florida is the largest state in the nation without a chief information officer.  Weissert said having an AST in place last fall could have helped prevent technical problems with the Department of Economic Opportunity’s website that kept thousands of out of work Floridians from receiving unemployment benefits.

“This is exactly the kind of thing they would be able to help with,” said Weissert.  “They can provide project oversight.  They can learn from best practices from other states.  They’re information technology experts that really might be able to foresee some of the challenges before they become challenges and overcome those in advance of projects beginning.”

The House measure (HB 7073) sponsored by Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, was approved unanimously by the House Appropriations Committee.  The Senate bill (SB 222) introduced by Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate has yet to be taken up by any committee, but Weissert said he doesn’t anticipate much opposition.

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