Potential tech czars should start polishing up their resumes, as Florida may soon be looking for its next state CIO.
Two bills are making their way through the Florida Legislature that would re-establish the state’s embattled technology agency and authorize the hiring of a chief information officer. House Bill 7073 was passed unanimously by the Florida House of Representatives, 116-0, while Senate Bill 928 is on the Senate’s calendar for Thursday, March 20.
Assuming SB 928 passes a Senate floor vote, both bills will be discussed in a joint conference committee where the differences will be ironed out. One bill will emerge from the process, be voted on by both sides of the Florida Legislature and, if approved, be sent to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk for his signature.
Florida has historically had difficulty keeping its state IT agency online. Political strife about the control the agency should have over state IT projects caused the office to be defunded in June 2012. That was the second time in seven years the agency was shut down.
Former Florida CIO David Taylor told Government Technology last month that he believes the new legislation is "a good first step" toward establishing a permanent technology office in the state. Under the bills, the Agency for State Technologies (AST) will receive an appropriation of approximately $4.8 million.
In an email to Government Technology on Monday, March 17, Taylor reiterated his stance on the legislation, noting that the AST would have funding for contracted services, which can be used for staff augmentation, commission studies, research and other types of consultation.
“My agency never had those resources, and I found it hamstrung my ability to move IT policy forward,” Taylor said. “The salary amount is also very generous compared to what my agency was appropriated, so I expect if the staffing plan is configured correctly, the new agency should be able to attract a good candidate pool.”
Carol Henton, vice president, state, local and education, public sector for the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), a tech advocacy group, agreed that legislative proposal will reproduce and enhance Florida’s former technology department. She explained that the new agency is slated to have 25 staff members and responsibility for the state’s two data centers will fall into the hands of the new state CIO.
If the legislation becomes law and Florida has its technology agency again, Taylor had a few thoughts on the type of CIO the state should look for. He explained that historically, the position has been limited to a salary of $120,000 or less, which wasn’t very competitive. He said if the salary level is made comparable to CIOs of other large states, it would eliminate a “major challenge” in recruiting.
Taylor was complimentary of the state’s existing IT staff, noting that many are still hard at work despite no pay increases, little investment in training and uncertainty due to consolidation and agency reorganization. He felt whoever succeeds him as Florida’s CIO needs to be a leader that enjoys working closely with IT staff and has a good blend of public and private sector experience to help push Florida forward.
“The new CIO needs to be more than simply a technologist … they also need the political skills to successfully maneuver through the intrigue that is part of enterprise IT in Florida, Taylor said. “This will be challenging for anyone without experience in large state or federal government.”
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.