Senators dispute laptop buy | NevadaAppeal.com

Senators dispute laptop buy

Two of the most powerful members of Nevada’s Senate Thursday questioned spending more than $140,000 on new laptop computers for legislators.

“Why are we doing that?” challenged Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, charging that too many members are using them for everything but legislative business.

“There’s too much use of these during session,” said Raggio, who doesn’t use one of the laptops. “Too much in committees. There are people e-mailing one another, playing solitaire.

“Buying new ones for staff I agree with, but I don’t think legislators need a new laptop every two or four years.”

He was quickly joined by Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, who said staff should get “the newest and latest and greatest.”

“But abuse is rampant and it’s absolutely a disgrace,” he said, adding that some legislators spend more time playing games and on the Internet during committee meetings than they do paying attention to the testimony.

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The issue was raised during their discussion of the proposed Legislative Counsel Bureau budget for the coming two years. The Information Technology Committee approved buying 100 new laptops Wednesday. They are trying to purchase new Gateway machines for $1,325 apiece. With extra AC-power adapters to provide plug-ins in every committee room, that would cost about $140,000.

Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, and Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, defended the purchases, saying they and many other lawmakers rely heavily on laptops they can carry from committee to committee to keep their notes on legislation and to follow legislative business.

“There’s always going to be some abuse along the way,” said Arberry. “But for me and people like me, this was the best thing that ever happened.”

Hettrick said the younger, newer members of the Legislature who may be more computer literate rely heavily on the machines. He said he relies completely on his laptop for legislative business.

He said the new machines are needed because the old ones are no longer capable of running new software lawmakers need.

But Raggio said he wants to look into the laptops better before approving the purchase of a new machine for every legislator.

Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Lorne Malkiewich said the purchase price is a bargain compared with the $2,700 the Legislature paid for the existing laptops four years ago. And he said it’s up to each legislator whether they want one of the machines.

He added that the budget committee wasn’t being asked Thursday to vote to fund the laptops. He said the funding will be in the legislative appropriation bill funding the 2005 Legislature.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at nevadaappeal@sbcglobal.net or 687-8750.

LEGISLATORS’ LAPTOPS

What: State’s Information Technology Committee decision to buy more than 100 new Gateway laptop computers for legislators and key staff. There are 63 legislators.

Why: Many of the laptops purchased four years ago are now unable to run some of the latest software. Others are simply wearing out, according to legislative staff.

Cost: $1,325 each, for a total of $132,500, plus $8,000 needed for new AC adapters.