CIOs aim at lawmakers

NASCIO

NEW ORLEANS — State chief information officers need to work more closely with legislatures in addition to working for a seat at their governors' public policy table, experts said this week.

The majority of CIOs at the National Association of State CIOs' annual conference here this week said they spend more time attempting to get agencies to cooperate or explaining the merits of technology to the governor's office than they do talking with the people who make or break their funding.

But unless the executive and legislative branches work together toward the same goal, the savings and performance results won't happen, said Sen. Ted Kanavas, a member of the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee.

That doesn't mean CIOs should meet with every member of their state legislature, and they shouldn't focus solely on members known for understanding technology matters, Kanavas said. Getting on the radar of legislative leaders so that they see the CIO has a serious agenda often goes a long way toward raising attention and good will, he said.

In Delaware, the primary job of the CIO is to be the contact and voice between the technology office and the officials who impact the state's technology — the governor and the legislature, said Thomas Jarrett, the state's CIO and Secretary of the Department of Technology and Information.

While working with the Delaware legislature, Jarrett said, he spends most of his time with the finance and budget committee leaders, but talking with the heads of mission-related committees can be just as important when it comes to shifting states toward a performance-based budget.

Early and continuing communication is also critical, because the time to convince members of the importance of technology or of the direction the CIO wants to take is not when the budget is at the debate stage, said Jim Gerringer, former member of the Wyoming legislature and former governor of the state. Despite his experience on both sides, he failed to get a performance-based budget through the state legislature in 1996 in part because he hadn't done the up-front work of explaining the process to members, he said.

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