In early 2017, Florida’s House Government Operations and Technology Appropriations subcommittee launched a legislative assault on the autonomy of the state’s centralized IT shop, the Agency for State Technology (AST). That affront, better known as House Bill 5301, did not survive Gov. Rick Scott’s veto June 26.
When the bill was originally introduced in March, the chief sponsor of the bill, Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-District 35, raised issue with the 3-year-old agency’s authority over the state’s data center oversight, and targeted what he perceived as unnecessary costs and ballooning IT expenses.
He called for agencies to conduct their own cost-benefit analyses around data center use, which would have allowed them to unilaterally move to individual cloud services at will. Experts worried the plan would have driven up costs for agencies remaining under the data center’s cost recovery model.
Officials within the agency and experts in the state’s tech community voiced concern about the plan to essentially decentralize the agency, but the bill proceeded, eventually being tied to the state’s budgeting and appropriations process. In May, word filtered down that through budget conference negotiations, the agency had secured its at-risk funding and would remain intact.
As a result of the budget conference, AST was able to increase some measure of authority in the form of a new chief data officer position and the creation of the geographic information office, though 20 positions would be cut — eight of which were staffed as of May 4.
The negotiations also netted some additional reporting requirements for AST, but those leading the agency said they were happy to oblige.
Though officials within the agency are pleased their charge will remain, they are not dwelling on the events of the past several months. Rather, Erin Choy, spokesperson for the agency, told Government Technology that they are focused on the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January, and the many initiatives they would like to see come to fruition.
“Because of the way, in even-numbered years, the legislative session begins the second week in January, AST folks are working on proposed legislative budget requests and policy proposals,” she said. “So, yes, we were waiting for the governor’s action on the bill, but we are very focused on improving the current environment.”
As Government Technology has reported, Florida's IT agencies have faced considerable challenges at the hands of the state’s Legislature to this point. In 2005, the Florida State Technology Office was shuttered after losing its funding. And in 2012, the Agency for Enterprise Information Technology was pulled by Scott rather than allowing it to stand in title and function without funding.