As his term as President of the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries(ASLCS) nears its end, guest blogger and Chief Clerk of the Texas House Robert Haney looks back on a year spent vigorously pursuing innovative ways to improve legislative processes and evaluates how effective his quest has been.
As legislative clerks and secretaries, one of our primary objectives is to create tools for our chambers that will reinforce a strong institutional system and instill a deep sense of pride in the privilege we have to be a part of the great social experiment in the governing of people. Embracing new innovative technology in the legislative environment can showcase our institutions as leaders in the parliamentary world while simultaneously respecting differences, heritage, archives, and traditional legislative processes. The elusive union of the past and present between history and parliamentary procedure can easily be achieved with responsible and deliberate use of modern technologies.
In the business of governing, we are prone to embracing antiquity and fearing change due to nostalgia and the possibility of unknown consequences. But, it is important to seek new and improved external development methodologies. Improving ASLCS’s internal toolkit not only protects valuable data but also encourages continued professional development opportunities that translate to more efficient services provided for elected legislators, who are working to create trust and initiate change for their constituencies.
During my time as ASLCS President, I have promoted responsible technology approaches for clerks and secretaries such as embracing the theory of technology evangelism in their projects, specifically designing with open legislature concepts that inspire elected members and citizens to get connected and creating opportunities to share technology solutions across the ASLCS network in an effort to proliferate standardized protocols and useful design of technology. As a result of adopting some of these methodologies, ASLCS’ members are now realizing that the elegant use of information creates more interesting innovation, and without considering elegance in design, we would drown in the complexity that underlies all of our legislative processes. Government technology development is no longer just about function, but also about creating useful, elegant, and agile systems that adapt to broad institutional change when political contests change the landscape overnight.
Internal solutions are rarely mentioned outside the walls of an organization such as ASLCS, but getting our administrative house in order will have an enormous impact on legislative processes throughout the United States. This is the perfect example of how adopting new methodologies for responsible technology development can provide maximum impact for this type of organization and improve efficiency in legislative processes.
As President of ASLCS, I have dedicated my term to documenting and introducing new methodologies that create more efficient and professional society management from an internal and external perspective. Internally, we have taken our society’s management from the ice age to the space age. Unfortunately, our major internal functions concerning membership records, dues management and correspondence, leadership communications, and publication creation were being managed by various homegrown solutions. Most unsettling was the utilization of outdated database software that was no longer being supported by its developer, and the transferring to new leaders and storage of valuable institutional data was being accomplished by use of a portable USB thumb drive. Those who direct the operating institutions of state legislatures at the highest levels are entitled to more efficiency in the governance of their professional society.
As a solution, ASLCS partnered with the National Conference of State Legislatures(NCSL) to develop a centralized, web-based database solution that allows for reliable archiving of data, real-time communication among leadership, continuity during leadership transitions, and streamlined our publication formatting and delivery. In the years to come, this broad-range solution will revolutionize the management of ASLCS.
As President of ASLCS for the past year, I have been honored to work with so many talented legislative clerks and secretaries, reaffirming my belief that they are indeed the unsung heroes of the legislative system. Our society’s code of ethics establishes directives to establish honor and integrity in the legislative process, to serve every member of the legislature regardless of party with dignity and respect, and to strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of American State Legislatures, and thereby protect the freedoms of our people. These ethical charges are certainly the bedrock tenets of an efficient and effective American legislature. If you are new to the legislative arena, or are a seasoned veteran, you most likely depend on an institution that provides an open and consistent process that creates integrity and confidence in our system of government. Principal members of ASLCS are usually the individuals who operate and safeguard these institutions behind the scenes. As my term comes to an end, I am excited for what is to come next for the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries. I know that future clerks or secretaries who follow in this path will heighten our professional reputation nationally, as well as and on the international stage.