Paper Jam

Can technology save NC’s political gridlock?

Back in our May issue we highlighted seven of the more than 1,500 bills introduced in the 2017 legislative session. Of those we spotlighted none were voted into law; the so-called Brunch Bill law passed the Senate but missed the crossover deadline, and in the ABC Omnibus Legislation two key provisions were removed due to mounting pressure from distributors. Indeed, according to the Asheville Citizen Times, fewer bills have become laws at this time in the legislative session than in the past 17 years. So why is there such a bottleneck in the NC Legislature?

“We operate in too many silos that makes it an excruciatingly wasteful process,” says Senator Jeff Tarte (R) of Mecklenburg County, though he doesn’t believe the stalemate is particularly unique to this session.

He cites several factors that are leading to an inability to get things done, including a lack of coordination, additional administrative layers, and being bound to paper, which is massively inefficient, he says. The majority of the legislature’s time is spent either dealing with urgent matters quickly or walking down the halls and discussing issues that might not be on the current agenda, he adds.

What needs to happen, he suggests, is focusing on matters that are critically important but not urgent so the legislative process can work efficiently. It would allow for a more thoughtful and diligent approach instead of a “throw stuff against the wall, and if it works great.”

“It’s ingrained in the institution, and organizational change is hard for Republicans or Democrats,” the Senator notes. “We manage by urban legend; institutionally, that’s not efficient…the sooner we go home the less damage we can do.”

The Senator has made automating the whole bill drafting process a personal mission, as one of his focus areas is information systems technology.

“If you look at how many times we printed the budget, we’ve killed forests not just trees. It’s a brain dead, stupid archaic system—we’ve wasted millions. We can reduce our water bill, our electric bill, maximize space, coordinate and leverage better IT contracts and eliminate paper…$100 million I can take out of the state budget.”

However, he notes, IT is not glamorous, and it doesn’t make headlines but nevertheless North Carolina needs to join the 21st century. In fact, he hopes to turn our state into one of the most technologically forward-thinking states in America.

Alexandra Drosu
Alexandra Drosu

Latest posts by Alexandra Drosu (see all)