Minnesota gives legislative publishing system a thumbs-up

Minnesota’s Office of the Revisor of Statutes has found that a standards-based publishing system has saved time and provided new functionality for users in its first year of deployment.

The revisor’s office tapped PTC’s Arbortext enterprise publishing software to replace a decades-old, mainframe-based solution for creating and printing legislative documents. The selection stemmed from an evaluation of XML editors in 2002.

The office uses Arbortext to create and publish bills, amendments, session laws and statutes, among other documents. The office had previously used a custom-designed bill-drafting system, which had been running on an IBM mainframe since the 1970s.

Michele Timmons, Minnesota’s revisor of statutes, said the legacy system featured robust and well-designed applications, but it “had limitations in interfacing with modern, standards-based systems. In addition, the 35-year-old hardware would simply not keep running forever, and had to be replaced.”

The revisor’s office has identified a number of benefits in moving to PTC’s XML-based editing and publishing system.

“In the new system, for example, we could more easily e-mail bill drafts to members, reducing a 30-minute process to a five-minute one,” Timmons said.

Another advantage was the ability to send documents directly to printers in the House and Senate publication offices. Timmons said the head of the Senate duplicating office noted that this year’s 278-page tax bill took 30 minutes to copy but would have taken 90 minutes to copy using the old system.

Timmons also cited Arbortext Editor’s copy/paste feature as providing “new functionality for our users.”

Walter Walker, PTC’s director of product marketing strategy for Arbortext products in the government and financial services sectors, estimated the annual spending on government publishing systems at about $500 million, a figure that includes licensing and services. He said the legislative branches of state governments account for approximately 20 percent to 30 percent of that figure.

“Within the past five years, approximately 40 percent of the 50 state governments have undertaken a technology upgrade of some description to better manage their legislative publishing and information systems,” Walker said.

In addition to Minnesota, PTC also counts Maryland, Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska as Arbortext customers.

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