Legislative Research tech workers earn national honor for COVID response

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Technology experts from the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) have won national recognition for a series of innovative tech upgrades that helped support Kentucky’s legislative branch, especially through the challenges of COVID-19.

The National Association of Legislative Information Technology announced that LRC’s Office of Computing and Information Technology (OCIT) has won the 2021 Legislative Staff Achievement Award. The honor recognizes professionals who excel in supporting a state legislature or strengthening the legislative institution overall.

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LRC Director Jay D. Hartz said he is proud that a team – which typically serves behind the scenes – is receiving praise on a national scale.

“We headed into last year with big plans for technical upgrades,” Hartz said. “But we never anticipated the urgent and simultaneous challenges of COVID-19. On both matters, OCIT succeeded spectacularly. The team’s agility and ingenuity allowed the legislature to continue functioning during one of the worst crises in Kentucky history.”

Much of OCIT’s work last year focused on technology improvements that help Kentuckians stay connected with the legislature.

The team installed high-definition screens in committee rooms, providing unobstructed views for every seat in the room. Experts also installed cameras and equipment to improve videoconferencing and livestreaming. That allowed livestreams of all committee meetings during the 2021 regular session of the General Assembly – either on Kentucky Educational Television or LRC’s YouTube channel.

OCIT also overhauled the voting system in the House of Representatives, which allowed lawmakers to participate in House proceedings and cast votes from their offices – all part of the effort to maintain social distancing. Other upgrades let lawmakers view information about each bill remotely, and in real time.

With an eye on long-term tech advances, OCIT also oversaw the installation of new fiber cables in legislative areas. That has increased LRC’s backbone network speed to 10 gigabits per second. It has also allowed the agency to transition to an improved Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system.

Joel Redding, LRC’s Deputy Director for Computing and Information Technology, thanked the national association for the recognition.

“The pandemic created many challenges for our IT staff,” Redding said. “We were asked to achieve goals that I would never have imagined the year before. I am proud to say that OCIT met every challenge. The team not only found solutions but improved the process at the same time. I truly believe that LRC has one of the most talented and capable IT staffs in the country.”

The National Association of Legislative Information Technology – known as NALIT – is a staff association of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). NCSL is a bipartisan organization that works to advance the effectiveness, independence and integrity of legislatures and to foster interstate cooperation and facilitate the exchange of information among legislatures.