The Massachusetts IT funding proposal that Peter Quinn resigned in part to protect died on Monday when the State Senate failed to approve it before the 2005-2006 legislative session ended. However, Massachusetts Governor and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is seeking to recall the legislature for the purpose of pushing the funding through.
The funding bill calls for a total of $400 million in new borrowings, $250 million of which would be allocated to IT projects. The remainder of the bond would have funded a variety of other projects. Unfortunately, while the bill cleared the Massachusetts House late Monday night, it failed to achieve approval by Senate. Had the bond been approved, the State's IT department would have been eligible to receive additional Federal matching funds.
According to an article by Catherine Williams at MHT (formerly Mass High Tech):
The Massachusetts Information Technology Division reported earlier it was relying on the money to fund existing IT projects such as an integrated criminal justice system and plugging network security gaps....The money was also planned to fund upgrades to the state's child support enforcement system and the construction of a second data center for electronically storing state records, according to the department. New projects slotted for 2007 include replacing the state's aging tax collection and unemployment insurance systems. The bond would also fund systems to streamline payment collection for state fees....The last state information technology bond was passed in July 2002 for $197 million.
The failure of the bill to pass is not only a severe setback for the state's IT departments, but poignant as well, in light of the resignation of State CIO Peter Quinn in early June of this year. In his Christmas eve memo to his staff announcing his intention to resign, Quinn wrote as follows:
I have become a lightning rod with regard to any IT initiative. Even the smallest initiatives are being mitigated or stopped by some of the most unlikely and often uninformed parties. The last thing I can let happen is my presence be the major contributing factor in marginalizing the good work of ITD and the entire IT community.
Quinn frequently mentioned the prospects for the bond then before the legislature when explaining his concerns. Unfortunately, his resignation appears not to have been sufficient to speed the passage of a bill that was delayed by a number of slow-moving bills that were ahead of it in the legislative queue, including the landmark universal health bill passed by Massachusetts earlier this year.
The details of the expiration and the timing resurrecting the bond proposals are as follows, according to MHT:
The Massachusetts Legislature closed its 2005-2006 session yesterday. Bills that failed to reach the governor’s desk by the deadline are dead. In order to resurrect the measure lawmakers must restart the process of pushing the bill through the House and the Senate when they take up again in January 2007 for their first formal sessions. Between now and then, lawmakers meet informally. Lawmakers could take up the bond bill, but legislative procedure tightens voting requirements for bills passed during informal sessions.
However, MassLive.com posted an article this morning from the Republican stating that Governor Romney has announced that he will seek to recall the legislature in order to salvage the bill as well as to pass other bills relating to such matters as welfare reform and lengthening the statute of limitation for child abuse crimes:
Gov. W. Mitt Romney yesterday urged the state Legislature to return to a formal session, saying lawmakers failed to complete a bill that authorizes the administration to borrow money and numerous capital programs and projects will be halted. “We have projects under way that are going to have to be stopped,” Romney said during a Statehouse press conference….Romney said employees at the state Division of Capital Asset Management will need to be laid off, new projects will be halted, including those at the University of Massachusetts and state and community colleges, and emergency repairs on state properties won’t get done.
“Of course, the Legislature is going to have to come back,” Romney said. “They’re going to have to change their rules and come back in session and pass a bond bill.”
Whether recalling the legislature is feasible as a practicle matter, or whether the Governor’s words are intended more for public consumption, remains to be seen.
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