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Butler County lawmaker takes aim at reforming state's technology: What he's saying

Bill would allow Ohio department to contract a study to identify what improvements need to be made.
Published By Journal News on June 24, 2021
Thomas Hall In The News

The Ohio Department of Commerce’s computer system is just more than a year younger than one of the state lawmakers wanting to reform and update all of the state agency’s technology.

Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., said House Bill 230 would allow the Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to contract a study “for some desperately needed improvements to our current information technology (IT) systems.”

 “This study will allow the legislature and the Department of Administrative Services to understand the viability of Ohio’s current IT infrastructure and practices to identify what improvements need to be made,” said the 25-year-old Hall, who’s a joint sponsor with Rep. Sharon Ray, R-Wadsworth. “The information provided by this study will be used as a strategic roadmap to improve Ohio’s IT Infrastructure.”

Part of the study requirements would include reviewing the state’s best practices and standards regarding the state’s use of cloud services. It would also look at software as a service methodology to improve results or specific services for the state.

In addition to a study, the bill would create two boards: the Biannual Advisory Committee on State Information and Technology (BACSIT) and the Cybersecurity and Fraud Advisory Board (CFAB).

The BACSIT would be required to examine and develop recommendations regarding the state’s IT systems and services, including state spending, possible enhancements, initiatives, and feedback from state and county users of the state’s IT systems and services.

The CFAB would examine and develop recommendations regarding best practices, shared experiences, and future efforts to improve cybersecurity and fraud prevention.

 Additionally, the CFAB will require the DAS director to request the board’s approval to expend a maximum of $500,000 under the contract before entering into an IT study contract. It also prohibits the DAS director from entering into the contract if the board denies the request.

HB 230 is a direct result of an issue experienced by one of Ray’s constituents, who was attempting to get a liquor license from the Ohio Department of Commerce. In attempting to assist her constituent, she discovered the Department of Commerce’s liquor-permitting process is paper-based, and its system is from the 1960s. They were months behind in opening mail.

She also found out the Department of Commerce’s computer system is from 1997.

“I grew up in a time where you did not replace major appliances until they broke ― but technological advances have come so quickly, we must replace our technology infrastructure on a reasonable schedule,” Ray said in April to the House Technology and Innovation Committee.

In a statement, Ray said, “We can and should do better for our constituents. The businesses trying to invest in our economy during this very difficult time need us to be responsive to their needs and modernizing outdated computer systems is a way we can help.”

The Department of Commerce responded to Ray’s testimony and the proposed legislation:

“The Division of Liquor Control (DOLC) has taken aggressive steps in recent years and months to update its licensing process. In March, the DOLC created an online portal where liquor permit holders could renew and pay for their permits without having to mail a physical application or checks to the Division. The renewal portal, in addition to our temporary liquor permit portal, which is also active for those charities applying for summer festivals/events, are the first steps in building a new online liquor-permitting solution that will meet the needs from start to finish of the Division’s approximately 25k permit holders. With these enhancements, there are some elements of the system that remain paper-based, including applying for new liquor permits.

“Currently, there is not a significant delay in mail processing.”

Hall believes the bill, which had its fourth committee hearing last week, will pass out of the House Technology and Innovation Committee after the General Assembly’s summer recess.

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