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Lawmakers Get iPads
November 20, 2011 - Joselyn King
Those visiting the West Virginia Senate chamber these days are going to see something that didn't see a year ago -- at each Senate desk is now an iPad.
Before this, members didn't even have computers at their desks in the chamber. They opted instead to have their computers in their Senate offices.
Over in the House, the reverse has always been the norm. Computers were available to delegates on the House floor, but many used their own laptop computers in their offices.
New Senate President Jeff Kessler , D-Marshall, said the iPads made their debut in the Senate this fall, and it is among the technological upgrades coming to the legislative body. Their computers in the offices are going to be getting upgrades, he noted.
Other technological changes will benefit constituents' access to government. Kessler said he has already given the order that all Senate votes be posted on line beginning with the upcoming regular session in January (the House already does this) . Plans also are being discussed to broadcast legislative sessions online.
Over in the House, Delegate Ryan Ferns, D-Ohio, said he and Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, are among a group of delegates "recognized as being familiar with iPads" who will initiate their use in the chamber beginning this month. The idea is that these delegates teach their colleagues who may not be as proficient with new communications tools.
Technology also made it possible this week for Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha -- presently serving in Afghanistan -- to cast his vote for Senate president. While it was possible for him to vote through iPad, Kessler said, Wells cast his vote through the use of the Skype internet video service.
Kessler acknowledged the iPads will make it possible for lawmakers to cast their votes from home, but he added that probably won't happen as legislators "need to be in the chamber." He termed the situation regarding Wells "an extraordinary situation with a member serving in our military overseas."
My own hope is that technology will lead to legislators more often staying in their home districts, cutting their need to be in Charleston, Columbus or Washington. It's where their constituents live, and shouldn't they be keeping company with them rather than political types seeking to influence their decisions. Just a thought.
It should be noted the West Virginia Legislature has an excellent website that allows public to easily track legislation. It can be accessed at www.legis.state.wv.us/
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