A recent article in the Political Fix (link via Combest) discusses the use of laptops on the Senate floor. Now, I may be speaking out of school on this subject, but I can’t imagine a better idea to allow legislators to have actual debates. Giving legislators ready access to the world of information represented on the Internet only serves to help the Missouri people.
A good Internet-enabled machine is relatively cheap, and gives legislators access to a plethora of information. I’m not talking about visiting Wikipedia to figure out the annual cost for dolphin studies during 2008; I’m talking about being able to figure out how much the Missouri government spends on particular projects, and how those figures compare to other states. Also, wouldn’t it be great if someone could easily pull out an article from the Show-Me Institute, the Cato Institute, or the Institute for Justice, and actually start talking about policy in-depth?
Having worked in the legislature, I am all for the efficiency of government — and there was more than one occasion in which I received a phone call or text message asking me to look up certain facts or find a rebuttal to a policy argument. I was happy to do my job, but by the time I actually found something, printed it out, went to the floor, had an usher get my legislator, wait for him read it, and then watch him wait to be called on by whomever was at the dais that day/hour, the point was moot — by that point, the bill or amendment was no longer up for discussion. So, allowing each legislator a laptop would hopefully solve at least this issue, while allowing them to particiapate in actual debate.
I know that there may be some issues with security and whatnot but I have to downplay those as minimal. Good firewalls, antivirus programs, and a great tech staff already exist, and this would not present any significant additional burden on the system. I have a very hard time understanding why legislators would protest the proposal so much. Someone care to explain it to me?