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NALIT News | Spring 2023

April 26, 2023

Letter from the Chair

Hello NALIT members. First, an overdue thank you for the continued opportunity to serve as your NALIT Chair these last several months. It is really humbling to lead the efforts of such a knowledgeable association, which happens to have the coolest acronym I can think of.

Our organization is built across two primary functions—our ability to share questions, experiences, and ideas every day (currently the NALIT listserv) and an annual event to network, share ideas and learn from each other—the NALIT Professional Development Seminar (PDS).

I’m pleased to share that the popular NALIT PDS is poised to occur in-person again this year, planned for Oct. 2-6 in Austin, Tex. You have a planning committee dedicated to bringing you quality topics relevant to your jobs and your legislatures, along with what’s sure to be some interesting and varied keynote speakers. Those of you who were fortunate enough to attend the 2022 PDS in Madison, Wis., will agree that it was a reinvigorating experience to get together again and there was value in attending this live event. Keep an eye out for more information in the coming weeks about how to register and make plans!

The NALIT listserv, while time-tested, is due for an update. There’s exciting news to share here in the months ahead, but for now please know that your NALIT Executive Committee and a select handful of NALIT members will soon be kicking the tires on some new technology to help us carry our everyday communications into current times. It’s hoped we will no longer be contending with spam firewalls and other hurdles. Again, more to come here!

Are you, the members of NALIT, interested in a virtual meeting sometime this early summer? We’d like to do something soon, and we’re interested in topics you’d like to learn or that you’d like to share knowledge about! I was thinking about AI and its potential impact on legislative information technology—but what are your thoughts?

Would you like to write an article for the NALIT News? Please send your ideas to Kae Warnock and she will help you craft an article.

Nate Rohan
NALIT Chair and
Deputy Director
Legislative Technology Services Bureau
Wisconsin State Legislature

2023 NALIT Awards

Awards season is here, and we are excited to share several opportunities to recognize your colleagues:

2023 NALIT Legislative Staff Achievement Award

The NALIT Awards Committee is seeking nominations for the 2023 NALIT Legislative Staff Achievement Awards (LSAA). Nominations for the 2023 Legislative Staff Achievement Award from the National Association of Legislative Information Technology are now being accepted. Honorees for the 2023 awards will receive their awards at the NALIT Business Meeting and recognized at the Salute to Legislative Staff event during NCSL’s Legislative Summit (Aug. 14-16, in Indianapolis). Make your nominations by May 5, via this nomination form. Thank you for considering the nomination of a deserving NALIT member.

Nomination Form

2023 Online Democracy Award

The Online Democracy Award is given each year by the LINCS and NALIT staff associations to a legislature, legislative chamber or caucus whose website helps make democracy user-friendly. You can view the award criteria, past recipients and the nomination form here. The deadline to submit a nomination for the Online Democracy Award is Friday, May 5.

Nomination Form

These awards recognize legislative excellence on a national level, and we hope you’ll consider nominating a colleague!

Award recipients will be recognized at NCSL’s “Salute to Legislative Staff” lunch at the 2023 Legislative Summit in Indianapolis, Aug. 14-16.

ADA Compliance: How Does Your Legislative Information System Measure Up?

By Dave Burhop, director, Division of Legislative Automated Systems, Commonwealth of Virginia

When was the last time you checked your website for ADA compliance? In a NALIT survey conducted in 2022, only four respondents classified their sites as WC3 ADA compliant. Another 12 legislatures responded that their sites were at least partially compliant. In a 2022 NCSL review of legislative websites, 41 sites had some type of page regarding ADA compliance, though many were geared toward in-person visits of constituents. Do you know the status of your legislative website? 

What is ADA Compliance?

ADA compliance refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects the civil rights of persons with disabilities using the internet. It is often confused with, but is not the same thing as 508 Compliance, which is shorthand for a law that requires federal government websites to be accessible for people with disabilities.

Being ADA compliant means your website meets the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which states all electronic information and technology should be accessible to those with disabilities. The ADA applies to all local, county, state and federal government organizations, private organizations that have more than 15 employees, and any business that relies on the public or is for the public’s benefit.

Regulations & Guidelines for ADA Compliance

Currently, no federal regulations define or govern ADA compliance for state or local government websites. However, individual states may have regulations establishing their own standards for ADA compliance. Be sure to check your state’s laws and regulations before embarking on any ADA accessibility updates to your website. For example, Minn. Statute 3.199 requires the Senate, House of Representatives, and joint legislative offices and commissions to comply with accessibility standards adopted for state agencies.

In the absence of widespread regulations, many governments and businesses look to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to make their websites accessible. These guidelines contain sets of success criteria to ensure websites are accessible through the use of assistive technologies or accessibility features in user agents, such as browsers, browser extensions, media players, and screen readers. The WCAG are developed through the W3C—an international community where member organizations, a full-time staff and the public work together to develop web standards. The ADA website recommends WCAG and Section 508 Standards as resources for state and local governments.

A few examples of improved website accessibility include using contrasting color combinations, adding alternative text to images, using a sequential heading structure for content, making sure buttons, links and controls are not too small or placed too close together, including labels for form fields, enabling closed captions on videos, and allowing keyboard-only navigation. The New Mexico legislative IT division has just installed ReciteMe on the legislature’s website. Visitors to the website will see the familiar web accessibility symbol of a person with outstretched arms inside a circle. Clicking on the symbol allows users to make choices about viewing or listening to content on the website.

WCAG Level A, AA and AAA

The WCAG are categorized into three levels of conformance: Level A (minimum), Level AA (midrange), and Level AAA (highest). These three levels accommodate different situations that may require or allow for greater levels of accessibility. Each level contains its own set of success criteria and the previous level’s standards must be met before moving into the next level. The WCAG notes that it does not recommend Level AAA conformance be required as a general policy for entire sites since it is not possible to satisfy all Level AAA success criteria for some content. Therefore, most websites follow the standards set in Level AA. 

Checking your website for ADA compliance

There are several free tools available online that will check your website’s accessibility. These tools will look at a webpage’s font size, color contrast, form fields, graphical elements and more to see if they meet ADA accessibility standards.

ADA compliance software is also available for purchase. With this software, typically a code snippet is placed on the website which allows the ADA compliance software to perform the necessary functions to check your website for ADA accessibility. The software will identify potential problems and suggest solutions.

Alternatively, you could reach out to a professional company to conduct an audit of your website. With a professional audit, a company is hired to evaluate your website for ADA compliance. They will deliver a detailed report and steps you can take to improve your website’s accessibility.

Next Steps

Once you have completed an audit of your website, you may make the updates in-house or hire an ADA compliant web design agency to make the updates for you. This decision should be based on the number of resources available in your agency and any budget constraints you may have.

Making your website ADA compliant may take some time and effort and is an ongoing commitment, but in the end you’ll have a Legislative Information System that is more accessible for everyone. Updates to your website may be needed as new technologies emerge and new guidance is released. It’s always a good idea to review your website when making changes or on an annual basis to ensure it remains in compliance with the latest ADA accessibility standards.

IT Staff Comings and Goings

NALIT hopes to keep track of the changes in legislative IT in this column. If you have heard about a significant change, please let us know.

Here is a synopsis of a few major changes in 2022 and the first quarter of 2023:

Kansas—Terri Clark, director of technical services at the Kansas Legislature, retired after serving more than 25 years. Not only did she manage the legislature’s document management system and state-wide archive, she also shepherded upgrades to capitol wiring and network switching and transitioned the systems to Microsoft Active Directory and Exchange. Terri also represented Kansas in the Library of Congress’ National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program in a multi-state effort to create a model for preservation of state government digital records.

Terri told us, “I'll miss everyone at NALIT and NCSL tremendously! At different times my NALIT colleagues have been a sounding board, mentor, and technical support. But most importantly, friends! Gaining insight from NALIT members from different professional domains, geographic regions, and experience levels has always helped me look at the KS IT projects from a broader perspective, resulting in balanced and more innovative solutions.”

Terri’s contribution to NALIT has been ongoing, both serving on the executive committee and as a key panelist at conferences and webinars. She served as NALIT secretary (2013-2014), vice chair (2014-2015), and chair (2015-2016), and served on the NCSL Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee while she was a NALIT officer.

Terri was awarded the Legislative Staff Achievement Award in 2010. She also served on the NCSL Task Force on Cybersecurity and Privacy Work Group (2016-2023)

Missouri—Rich Beckwith, director of information systems for the Missouri House of Representatives retired in late 2022 after serving almost 17 years. He told us that one of the highlights of his career was serving on the NALIT executive committee (2009-11) as chair (2011-12) and having the opportunity to work with NALIT members in that capacity. Rich said, “I have always felt that the staff section interface and associated professional development training (PDS) was one of the most valuable takeaways from the NCSL experience.”

Missouri—Joy Engelby is the new director of information systems for the Missouri House of Representatives. As director she oversees an 18-person staff who provide a full array of services to legislators ranging from helpdesk support to in-house application development. Prior to her tenure as director, which began in January of this year, Engelby served for 12 years as the application development supervisor for the House. In that role she led her team to successfully develop applications that modernized and streamlined the committee process, replaced the antiquated legislative drafting program with a specifically-tailored application that better meets the needs of bill drafters and members and made key contributions to the creation of a new House website that provides vastly improved access to vital information on House proceedings.

North Dakota—Kyle Forster, IT manager at the North Dakota Legislative Council retired early in 2022 after more than a decade serving the legislature. Though he came to the legislature after more than 27 years in the executive branch, there were many projects to tackle. The legislative IT office needed to accomplish several big projects including providing and supporting laptops on member desks, rewriting bill drafting software, migrating the North Dakota Century Code into open office and providing livestreaming from the chambers.

During the pandemic, they realized the next legislative session might need to be able to go completely online. But that meant working on audio visual systems to allow remote testimony and public participation via Zoom webinar. They applied for funds through the Cares Act to fund the video upgrades required. Kyle told us he was most proud of his department’s work when they added any products that made the systems better or easier for members, staff and the public. He said customer service and earning the trust of the legislators and staff was the most important thing about the job. Kyle served on the NALIT Executive Committee from 2015-2019 including a term as chair from 2017-18. In addition, he served on multiple panels and advised his peers in other states about budget issues and security awareness.

North Dakota—Cody Malloy became the new Information Technology Manager at North Dakota Legislative Council in January 2022. He has served the North Dakota legislature for over 11 years. Cody served on the 2022 NALIT Program Planning Committee and was instrumental in finding the keynote speakers for the professional development seminar.

Washington—Mike Norris, Cybersecurity Administrator for the Legislative Service Center, has moved into the private sector this year. Mike has served NALIT as a member of the executive committee and appeared on panels on topics related to cybersecurity.

NALIT 2023 Professional Development Seminar

Oct. 2-6 – Austin, Texas

The NALIT 2023 Professional Development Seminar brings together state legislative IT professionals who are interested in advancing the effectiveness and efficiency of state legislatures through technology. The 2023 seminar provides a combination of educational sessions, legislative application showcases, tours and briefings, best practices, a vendors’ reception and networking opportunities.

Learn More and Register

Pilot NALIT Legislative Exchange Program

The new pilot NALIT Legislative Exchange Program (NLEP) provides an excellent professional development opportunity for legislative IT staffers. Selected participants will spend a few days with another legislature’s information technology office to learn about IT operations in another state.

The goal of the exchange program is to familiarize participants with all aspects of their host legislature’s IT operations with an emphasis on their job specialization. In addition to offering hands-on training, the exchange facilitates sharing of ideas and innovations between state legislatures, with the host office and exchange participants learning from each other.

We are seeking to compile a list of legislative IT offices willing to host a participant in 2023. The NLEP application process will soon open for legislative IT professionals to participate in this unique program. We are on an accelerated timeline this year as NALIT was just awarded a grant to offer stipends to the 2023 participants.

Please watch for emails regarding the NLEP and help NALIT create a robust exchange program.

  • Contact NCSL

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