Santa Fe Rep. Brain Egolf didn’t arrive with an armload of books and papers for the start of his freshman year at the Legislature.
Instead, he’s carrying an armload of technological gadgets to help him through the 60-day session that began Tuesday.
With wired Internet access, tablet computers and support for smart devices like the iPhone and Blackberry, the Roundhouse is evolving with the times.
For the 32-year-old Egolf, keeping up with the latest technology is just part of the job. And it’s a great way to stay in touch with constituents.
“I believe very strongly in opening up the (Legislative) process and disseminating as much information as possible,” Egolf said. “It won’t happen this year, but I think we need to have web casting in committees and on the floor as part of that, too.”
Egolf bought a new laptop for the session, and has been honing his iPhone and Blackberry skills, since he has both devices, he said.
One advantage that has already come to light from the new technologies is the ability to instantly track information through some of the features on his iPhone, he said.
“I have an application from Bloomberg News that gives commodity price feeds in real time,” Egolf said. “I was in a committee meeting talking about commodities, oil and gas prices, and I was able to watch those price feeds in real time during the discussion. That’s a big advantage.”
Of course, not all legislators are as up to speed on technology as the newly elected Santa Fean. But the Legislative Council Service tries to keep even the most Luddite of legislators in the technological loop, said Brad Schroeder, systems analyst.
The agency provides tablet laptops — with revolving touch screens — to legislators that don’t already have them, and each year support staff brush up on all the new smart device technology to help everyone integrate into the network, Schroeder said.
“There are so many different devices that come into our network each session, and we have to learn how to use all of them so we can help our legislators,” Schroeder said.
One of the biggest improvements this year has been an upgraded wireless Internet network. The network is free and open to the public in some parts of the Roundhouse, but in the chambers it’s only usable by legislators, Schroeder said.
“There was a real issue of how to restrict access in the chambers while still giving public access on the second floor and in the Rotunda, but we were able to set it up,” Schroeder said.
Each legislator has to bring their computers in to LCS to get access to the restricted wireless, which makes the first few weeks a very busy time for those doing technological support, he added.
Also improved this session is the Legislature’s Web site at www.nmlegis.gov. LCS has added new features and ways to track bills, streamlining the process, Schroeder said.
“We’re hoping to improve that even more this session and make it more customizable,” he said. “You should be able to set up your own area of the site where you can track all the legislation you want, and to access it all you’ll have to do is sign in.”
Egolf is also looking to Web technologies to help keep the public informed. He’s planning to keep an updated blog and schedule on his site at brianforsantafe.com, and he’s also learning how to create a Twitter feed for his constituents at twitter.com/brianegolf.
“I had never used Twitter before,” Egolf said Friday morning, as he took a quick look at the site. “I plan to use it a lot, although right now it just has a test from my phone that says `phone test.”’
“I’ll fix that by the start of the session,” he said.
Egolf has also invited bloggers from around the state to come to the Roundhouse for some live streams, he said.
“I’m not sure how many will take me up on it, but I’ve offered the use of my office to them as a sort of home away from home,” he said.
Still, not everybody is getting the top-notch high tech treatment.
One pre-session training for Senate secretaries on Thursday featured an introduction to Outlook 2003.
“We have a mix of devices,” Schroeder said with a shrug. “Everything has basic office software, though, and access to e-mail.”
And even though it’s a busy time getting everybody up to speed at the start of the Legislature, Schroeder said he enjoys it — especially when he gets to learn about new technology.
“Legislators, they sometimes come in a get really excited when they pick up something new, like these tablet laptops,” Schroeder said. “It’s always fun.”
Contact Sue Vorenberg at email@example.com.