A western Missouri lawmaker who chairs the subcommittee that’s vetting federal stimulus money has tremendous concerns about the state’s IT systems, saying they’re outdated.

State Rep. Doug Richey (R-Excelsior Springs) speaks on the Missouri House floor in Jefferson City on March 8, 2021 (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

Missouri House Subcommittee on Federal Stimulus Spending Chairman Rep. Doug Richey (R-Excelsior Springs) wants a plan in place by January, for a “serious overhaul” of the state’s IT system. He says citizens who need help with constituent services are frustrated, especially when they have issues that involve multiple state departments and agencies.

“It’s very frustrating and a lot of that frustration is tied to the fact that our IT is outdated. We have some departments that are still working with systems that are COBOL,” Richey says.

COBOL is a 60-year-old program. Chairman Richey plans to hold a July hearing on the issue, and wants to see what other states are doing. He tells Missourinet that it’s time to bring the state into the 21st century in IT.

“It is incumbent upon us to ask some serious questions about where we are, what other states are doing, what solutions exist in that space,” says Richey.

He says many Missourians who have constituent service needs have issues that involve multiple state departments, which use different computer systems.

“They also have gotten into the habit over the decades of building unique systems that are tailored to a particular need that Missouri has, and then within five to eight years they become antiquated themselves,” says Richey.

Missouri is expected to receive billions of dollars in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden (D) earlier this year. While it’s unclear what the exact amount will be, Chairman Richey says there will be many opportunities for capital improvements.

He says the stimulus funding is a good opportunity for one-time capital improvement needs, such as the state IT overhaul. He says other potential opportunities include state buildings, colleges, universities, hospitals and for public safety.

Chairman Richey plans a mid-July hearing in Jefferson City, to hear testimony from state budget director Dan Haug and from department directors about restricted money that will come to Missouri under ARPA. He says the hearing about the IT overhaul could take place the same day, or later in the month.

The chairman also confirms that informal discussions that have been taking place are “lining up toward” a September special session in Jefferson City. He tells Missourinet that the special session, if called, would be to approve a supplemental budget to accept the billions of dollars heading to Missouri under ARPA.

It’s ultimately up to Governor Mike Parson (R) whether or not to call a September special session for a supplemental budget.

Click here to listen to Brian Hauswirth’s discussion with Missouri House Subcommittee on Federal Stimulus Spending Chairman Doug Richey (R-Excelsior Springs), regarding Missouri’s IT system. It was recorded on June 18, 2021:

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