Legislative committee decides not to buy new computers

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A legislative committee has decided to upgrade its existing laptop computers instead of buying new models for the 2003 Legislature.

In the past, lawmakers have routinely purchased new laptops each session for all members of the Senate and Assembly.

But this year, facing a tight state budget, the Legislative Commission's Information Technology Subcommittee decided to go with a much more financially conservative recommendation. Instead of buying new laptop computers for $1,000 apiece, they will upgrade the memory chips in each existing computer and install network cards that enable the computers to communicate more efficiently with the Legislature's mainframe computer.

The upgrades will cost about $150 for each machine.

The total bill will depend on how many legislators request a laptop in the 2003 session. Some members, particularly longtime legislators, don't use the machines.

The subcommittee was asked by Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, to consider providing lawmakers with Palm Pilots -- handheld computer devices -- which he said would be more portable for lawmakers moving around the Legislative Building. But Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, said those devices have some serious limitations.

"If you have a laptop and this," he said holding up one of the devices, "you will almost always go to the laptop."

Coffin said the subcommittee could consider the idea later this year.

The subcommittee did, however, agree to expand public access to wireless legislative Internet service throughout the building. The service is available for a price and was used by lobbyists and governmental advocates during the 2001 session. The expanded service will cost $175 per customer for 2003, which staff members said would pay for additional antennas and wiring.


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