Georgia Legislators Pull Plug on 'RepNet'

Mr. Technology had the best of intentions.

When Georgia's legislative session began Jan. 10, Republican state Rep. George Grindley was ready to beam the moment to his constituents in Cobb County with a miniature camera poised on his desk in the Statehouse.

Known among legislators as Mr. Technology, Grindley thought the live broadcasts — which he dubbed RepNet — via his World Wide Web site (www.friendsofgeorge.org) would be the perfect way to get people involved in government. But other representatives sitting near Grindley thought the camera was too much. They complained to the speaker of the house, who asked Grindley to remove it.

"My motto is: "Better government through technology,' " Grindley said. "I thought it would be a better way for people to access their government."

In the two days Grindley had the camera running, the feature received 1,000 hits on his Web site. Students at four high schools and one elementary school logged on during class and chatted live with Grindley during the session.

"It was great. They were asking to see the gallery, and I'd move the camera around and point it at whatever they wanted," Grindley said.

Grindley, whose day job involves an Internet start-up, earned his techie moniker early in his legislative career. His first successful bill made the state's database, Georgia Net, free for everyone. Previously it had cost 75 cents per minute. And he later sponsored moves to broadcast legislative sessions in audio form and to post each lawmaker's voting records online.

Although Grindley said RepNet is now "in hiatus," he plans to take his case to the speaker to arrange more live broadcasts for education's sake. He said he now realizes it would have been too much to keep up the live interaction daily through the 40-day session anyway.

"Quite honestly, I don't have the stamina," he said.

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