I’m writing today to testify in favor of HB 449 as a state representative for Rockingham 5 and as the clerk of the “Legislative Oversight Committee to Monitor Compliance With the Requirements for Online Access to Budget Information and Reports Under RSA 9-F:1.” As you can see, the name of the committee I sit on is rather long, and probably not all that transparent due to its length and complexity.
HB 449 in its original form was essentially the same bill as HB 331, a bill that I co-sponsored with Rep. David Bates to put the state’s checkbook online, and that bill has now become law. With the guidance of the oversight committee, the requirements of HB 331 have now been implemented as part of a soft launch. When the oversight committee meets next, it will decide when the new Web site should be announced to the public and whether any additional features should be added to it within the next year.
Due to its similarity with HB 331, when HB 449 was presented in the House, Rep. Bates, who is the chairman of the oversight committee, and I approached Rep. Weyler with information about the state transparency oversight committee, and Rep. Weyler agreed that we should use HB 449 as a vehicle to change the name of the committee and make it permanent so that we could use the committee to make all future changes.
HB 449 as amended would change the name of the committee so that it will be known as the “State Transparency Website Oversight Committee,” a far simpler and transparent name. This bill as amended by the House would also make the committee permanent, so that there will always be a place for legislators with good ideas about what should be on the state transparency Web site to go with their ideas. To have this committee in place permanently to address these ideas will save time and effort, and it will make sure that only those ideas that are feasible will move forward.
The Assistant Commissioner of Administrative Services, Joseph Bouchard, has noted that his department is overrun with legislative mandates about what the state transparency Web site should include, and such legislation is not necessary. RSA 9-F says: “The committee shall work with the department of administrative services and the department of information technology to explore what components reasonably can be added to the state website to provide increased transparency and to establish reasonable timelines for implementation based on staffing, funding, hardware, and software capacity.” Thus, any legislator with an idea for the state transparency Web site can bring that idea to the State Transparency Website Oversight Committee and that committee can then work with Administrative Services to determine if the inclusion of such a feature is a good idea. If it is a good idea, the committee will have the authority to authorize the inclusion of the new feature.
Incidentally, the Senate now has HB 1687 before the Senate Finance Committee. Again, with the State Transparency Website Oversight Committee in place, HB 1687 or any bill like it is unnecessary. The oversight committee can handle the request and implementation of such a request, if the resources are available to make it happen. A new law is not necessary for every change.
Unfortunately, the committee is now set to expire near the end of this year. So in conclusion, HB 449 as amended proposes to make the committee permanent so there will always be a place for legislators to bring their good ideas about the Web site. Any legislator who introduces a bill to change the information on the transparency Web site can be redirected to the chairman of the state transparency oversight committee, and that will save everyone time and money. Good ideas will become part of the Web site if you pass this bill, and I’d respectfully ask you to pass this bill as amended by the House.
Please feel free to contact Rep. Bates or me if you have any further questions.