PHOENIX – State Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, writes bills every session with one goal in mind: dragging the state’s public-facing technology infrastructure into the future.
Stevens proposed more than a dozen bills this legislative session that address the government’s information technology systems. One would provide a form for businesses to apply for trademarks online. Another would allow candidates for federal offices to collect signatures through an Internet portal.
Although he’s pushed related bills since joining the Legislature in 2009, only a handful have been signed into law. This session, his last as a member of the state House, Stevens introduced more technology-related bills than at any other point in his tenure, sponsoring most of them alone.
Stevens said he believes his colleagues don’t fully understand the benefits of modernizing the state’s technology infrastructure.
“There’s some people out here that don’t believe me, but it’s the way of the future,” Stevens said. “It is hopelessly me. I can tell you that I see eyes glaze over when I talk electronics, but it’s what I do.”
Prior to running for the state House, Stevens worked as an IT professional for private companies and defense contractors. He said the lack of modernization is frustrating for someone who spent his life learning and implementing new technology.
“It is frustrating to get people to understand,” Stevens said. “They’re basically saying, ‘Well, I don’t want to change.’”
Those attitudes are shifting as younger members join the Legislature, Stevens said. Roughly a third of the House’s members change every two years.
“We tend to have a younger clientele, and they want more responsive device handling, and I’m trying to bring them along,” Stevens said.
When changes to government technology infrastructure do happen, they go through a lengthy approval and implementation process. The state Information Technology Authorization Committee, which now has 13 members, works to ensure tech projects that cost more than $1 million meet certain standards and regulations before receiving funding.
J.R. Sloan, deputy state chief information officer and digital government program manager, said projects receive a large degree of vetting within their departments before they arrive before the committee. Departments that propose a project that costs more than $25,000 must submit a form that takes, on average, 22 days to process and approve, Sloan said.
That timeframe is actually much shorter now than it was about a year ago, when projects remained in that position for an average of 144 days, Sloan said.
“Is the process perfect and absolutely bulletproof?” Sloan said. “No, but no system is. But I feel that we’ve got the right checks and balances along the way so that we’re not dependent on just one checkpoint.”
Those checkpoints begin with a legislative or executive mandate to begin a project. Once a department conduct its internal review and submits the proper forms, the authorization committee evaluates the proposal if it crosses the $1 million threshold. If the committee approves it, the project passes to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, where it faces further scrutiny before receiving funding.
Outdated technology can affect the operation of entire departments.
The state Auditor General’s Office released a report in September concerning security vulnerabilities at the Arizona Department of Revenue. According to the report, 85 percent of the department’s IT systems contained a “critical, high or medium” security vulnerability. While the department is working toward improving its technology, such changes present a significant investment of time and money.
On that mark, Arizona is improving, according to a report by Government Technology
While a few of Stevens’ bills address the way the state manages its broader IT systems, the bulk of them focus on updating services to match consumer expectations when it comes to form submission and data entry.
“My goal is to make it to where you don’t ever have to come see me in my office,” Stevens said. “I want you to have the ability to do what you need to do at home.”
State Rep. David Stevens introduced more than a dozen bills this legislative session that deal with information technology. Here are a few:
- HB 2014: Requires agencies to provide data entry submission of applications, complaint or renewal forms or any other documentation (applications) beginning July 1, 2019.
- HB 2049 and HB 2050: Requires the Secretary of State to develop a system for submitting nomination petition signatures online for municipal (HB 2049) and federal (HB 2050) offices.
- HB 2550: Allows government departments to purchase software and share it with other departments at no cost.