Between Thanks and Hope
By Nate Rohan, NALIT Secretary and Newsletter Editor
In what might be the understatement of the decade, it’s fair to say the NALIT community has had its hands full in 2020.
We’ve seen the COVID-19 pandemic be a catalyst for unprecedented change in how information technology is used in the nation’s state legislatures. Our service desks rose mightily to the challenge and helped thousands of legislative employees work remotely, often for the first time. Our technicians hardened the security of our organizations with tireless and quick action. They secured our endpoints, quickly developed technical workflows to replace physically dependent ones, and solved problems that didn’t exist until that moment. Leadership in our organizations communicated with stakeholders, organized efforts of our organizations, and kept the focus on the possible and the present.
With Thanksgiving just behind us, we can look back and identify the many things to be thankful for. We’re thankful for the people of NALIT—the community that allows us to share our expertise, our experiences, and our expectations with a narrowly-focused set of peers. Where else can we find IT professionals who know how virtual public testimony provides unexpected challenges? Or the ability to vote remotely vote on legislation? Many legislatures’ processes have their origins dating as far back as the legislatures themselves and were just skyrocketed into 2020 with a need to be virtual, distant, and safe.
We’re thankful for collaboration among the NALIT community. We’re thankful for fond memories of members past who are no longer with us. We’re thankful for new members anxious to learn and share. We’re thankful for the work of our NCSL team, who’ve guided us through webinars, online meetings, and good counsel as we navigate NALIT during the pandemic.
Of course, looking ahead to the holidays remains a source for hope. Hope for a new year, for better health, for a time where we can all safely congregate again and collaborate with split-second efficiency. We can look forward to incorporating lessons learned from operating remotely. We look forward to new work paradigms, where the workplace could now encompass many locations, and where videoconferencing isn’t just a fringe scenario – it’s often expected.
As you think about what you’re thankful for right now, consider sharing that with your NALIT peers. We appreciate these things more than others in the IT community. Send us a NALIT News piece – doesn’t have to be long or short, complex or simple – it just has to be from you.
And as you look forward toward the hope of a new year, go ahead and ask the questions you need answered -- see if our community can help! Because that’s really the whole point, right? -- to share, network, and grow.
Thank you, and hope to see you all again soon!
2020 NALIT Legislative Staff Achievement Award Winners
NALIT is Proud to Announce the 2020 Recipients of the Legislative Staff Achievement Award.
Janet Roberson, Director and Angel Burack, Deputy Director, Delaware Legislative Information Systems
Janet Roberson and Angel Burack have shown a level of commitment that is unparalleled, Janet and Angel support the legislative process and the mission of the General Assembly by keeping the centralized drafting and chamber function programs operational and they work to adapt it to meet the General Assembly’s changing needs. An exemplary example of this is that Janet and Angel worked to develop a continuity of government plan for IT several years ago. As the COVID-19 pandemic started to unfold in the beginning of March, Janet and Angel set in motion the continuity of government plan and began discussions with staff leaders across the General Assembly and at DTI to move the General Assembly to a work from home environment. Their advance work included pre-planning for hardware and systems that resulted in the legislature’s ability to transition quickly to remote work due to COVID-19.
Now, they are working with legislative leadership and staff to ensure the General Assembly can meet virtually while ensuring that the technology used permits the legislative process to remain secure and open to the public.
Over the years, Janet and Angel have been active participants in the work of NALIT. They have shared their knowledge and the work they do for the General Assembly with other NALIT members and attended and presented on their work at NALIT conferences. NALIT is pleased to present the award to this deserving team.
Kevin G. Moore, Jr., Director of Information Technology, Vermont Office of Legislative Information Technology
Kevin Moore has exhibited the highest standards of professionalism, competence and leadership during his service as the director of the legislative information technology division. He brought a vision for the future of IT at the Vermont Legislature and undertook new initiatives in planning, oversight, and outreach. He developed strong relationships with legislative leaders and heads of staff departments and secured support and funding for significant expansion of the legislative IT systems and operations.
During the current COVID-19 pandemic, Kevin has been singularly responsible for enabling the continued operations of the Vermont Legislature through videoconferencing. His vision and leadership allowed the legislature to first conduct full meetings of committees, and then full sessions of both the 30-member Senate and the 150-member House of Representatives. These meetings were livestreamed on the web to provide public access to the legislative process. Kevin worked with members of the IT team to develop procedures and instructional materials, train legislative staff to act as meeting hosts and oversaw the meetings to ensure the highest quality. He worked with the chief of Capitol Police to adapt their emergency notification system into a tool for conducting remote voting in a secure and timely manner.
Kevin has been a strong supporter of NALIT and NCSL during his tenure with the legislature and has provided opportunities for Vermont legislative IT staff to participate in meetings and webinars. NALIT is pleased to present the award to this deserving legislative staffer.
State Legislature’s Powerful Hidden Tool: GIS
By Grace White, GIS team, Legislative Technology Services Bureau, Wisconsin
Geography is central to the state legislature. A legislator represents a geographic district and the population that resides within that district. Candidates must live in the districts they seek to represent. Furthermore, where constituents live determines which races they vote in and where they are authorized to vote. Geographic information systems (GIS) can help explain the impact of legislation through analysis and visual representation of the people or places impacted by a policy.
At its core, GIS are powerful tools for making and using spatial information. More specifically, GIS are frameworks of computerized systems and applications developed to capture, analyze, edit and display attribute data with real-world spatial and geographic data. An example of this is legislative districts. A district’s geographic boundaries constitute the spatial data, and additional data such as the legislative district number, population, and other demographic and political fields make up the attribute data.
GIS in Action
The Wisconsin Legislature uses GIS in both problem-solving and decision-making processes, as well as in publications and the communication of legislation. The Legislative Technology Services Bureau (LTSB) GIS team is the single point of responsibility for providing mapping and geographic data services to the legislature and its service agencies. This includes:
- Designing district maps and custom legislative maps.
- Developing interactive web mapping applications.
- Performing demographic and geographic data analysis.
- Providing geocoding and constituent tracking.
- Assisting legislative offices with mass mailing solutions.
Every decade, the LTSB GIS team provides nonpartisan redistricting expertise and training to the legislature, as well as municipalities and counties. Wisconsin is unique in that the LTSB GIS team develops all redistricting applications entirely in-house. Local governments are provided a web platform to guide them through the redistricting process in accordance with Wisconsin state statutes. Legislators are provided with professional GIS tools and databases created by LTSB GIS staff for the drafting of legislative and congressional districts. A major advantage of custom-built redistricting software solutions is that the GIS team can provide immediate support, bug corrections and feature customizations.
Additionally, the GIS team coordinates the statewide collection of Wisconsin municipal GIS datasets, participates in all geographic boundary improvement programs offered by the U.S. Census Bureau, and maintains and publishes district boundary information for both the legislature and the public. Value is added to the collected data by providing current and historical statewide election results programmatically estimated to modern voting districts. Through these programs, LTSB maintains a library of spatial databases that can be integrated with other sources of information to produce maps and reports for legislative committees and members.
- The first step in contacting your legislator is knowing who your legislator is. The easiest way to do this is to use the “Who Are My Legislators?” tool found on the Wisconsin Legislature’s homepage (https://legis.wisconsin.gov) and the LTSB homepage (https://legis.wisconsin.gov/ltsb). Click the “Find by Map” button, and you’ll be redirected to an interactive map where you can type in your address.
- This 2019-21 Increased Funding for Wisconsin Public Schools interactive map shows the increased funding for each Wisconsin public school district for the 2019-21 school years. Increases in funding are a result of increases to revenue limits, the low-revenue ceiling, per pupil categorical aid, and special education funding. The “district budget” number is inclusive of state funds, property tax revenues and federal funds. Data is from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
- LTSB’s map library: https://legis.wisconsin.gov/ltsb/gis/maps/