Out of Warranty

Just go ahead and put $8 million into next year’s budget for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and legislators will figure out Medicaid, taxes, schools, and everything else a little later.

You see, the KBI, the state’s top law enforcement agency, now has a fingerprint identification system that is a dozen years old. If it was a car, it would be out of warranty, and while parts are still available, the mechanics who will replace and upgrade them are quitting in about two years, the amount of time it takes to get a new fingerprint system up and running.

Now…anyone think that Kansas isn’t going to replace that computer system which keeps track of criminals?

That KBI computer system makes sure that criminals aren’t schoolteachers or day-care operators or workers, or maybe just applying for a job to be a law enforcement officer or a banker or your accountant.

The KBI isn’t saying whether freshman Gov. Laura Kelly’s initial one-fiscal year budget which broke the former Gov. Sam Brownback-era two-year budgets while she got her feet on the ground is the reason for the late notice of the computer system which is essentially in hospice care. 

Instead, KBI folks say there was this problem getting the Office of Information Technology Services (OITS) to OK the reports that proposed updating the KBI system last year, in another administration…

No telling whether the KBI problem getting its new computer request in the short line for consideration was caused by OITS, but it probably means something that almost no legislators in a position to put that update plan in the budget this year had heard of the problem.

Now…depending on how many lawmakers demand to know who in state government knew what and when and why legislators never heard about it, the governor’s order last week to move OITS under the wing of Secretary of Administration DeAngela Burns-Wallace may find some support. 

The governor can just with the stroke of a pen move the OITS management to Administration, but now it appears she has at least the KBI computers as a reason to make the move to make sure that the administration, and not a single agency silo, can delay an important-to-Kansans computer deal.

The computer geek community, of course, is split over moving a very technical piece of state government under the wing of a Democrat governor and her hand-picked secretary of administration. The governor can contend that the skill set at OITS is strong, but important information isn’t getting to the right people.

Kelly, when she announced the movement of OITS management to Administration, said that communication between the agency and its customers—the rest of state government—“has been difficult.”

“This was not the fault of the agency’s previous leadership. It is, however, a direct result of the fact that the previous administration split OITS from the Department of Administration and then failed to properly support the move, convey its mission and get buy-in from the rest of state government,” Kelly said.

So, the OITS move that Kelly ordered now has a new reason for that switch, and one that it is going to be tough for lawmakers to oppose with some line item in the budget bill that it will consider next session. 

Not often that the governor gets a strong and vital law enforcement and public safety sales tool to use as she redesigns state government, as Brownback/Jeff Colyer left it, is it?

Nope, not often. 

And…of course, we’ll see how it works out…

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