Commentary: Should Delaware legislators be working remotely?

By Bill Bowden

Are we missing a significant opportunity for improvement by having Delaware’s legislature to continue to sit on the sidelines for the weeks ahead? 

During this crisis, millions upon millions of people across America are working from home using technology to help keep their businesses alive and America moving forward. Millions of college students and schoolchildren are using technology to make progress in their education.

Bill Bowden

Technology has proven to be a game-changer in these difficult times. The need to modernize how we govern in Delaware has never been more evident than it is right now. We can’t continue to address 21st-century problems using 20th-century technology.

In January, Rep. Mike Smith put forward the suggestion that the legislature should put together a plan to make improvements to how we govern in Delaware by embracing modern-day technology.

Unfortunately, this idea received significant push-back from House Speaker Pete Swartzkopf, who said he had studied this for over a year and didn’t see the need.

Times have certainly changed with our current legislature unable to meet. Rep. Smith’s ideas, along with House Speaker’s year-long study, need to be dusted off and used as an impetus for planning. The current situation with our legislature is untenable.

It would be great if lawmakers could use this unusual time in our history to explore how our legislature can stay engaged by using technology. Remote-meeting technology would enable legislators to begin identifying the opportunities and roadblocks we need to overcome to modernize our legislature.  

At the same time, our Delaware legislators need to identify and pull together needed resources and processes to help Delawareans navigate the paperwork needed to access to the benefits provided by the federal stimulus bill. 

Remote-meeting capabilities would also accelerate progress on discussing the budget and other bills critical to this session.

Our legislators should not be sitting on the sidelines. These folks are part of Delaware’s thought leaders, movers and shakers. Yes, our legislature’s processes and procedures are in some cases as out of date as their technology. They can fix them at the same time.

This is a time where we need our legislators to lead. It is time to get them in the game!

Bill Bowden is a retired Verizon Delaware executive, past president of the Delaware Quality Award, and served for eight years as the executive director of Delaware’s Department of Technology and Information.