Workers try to make Kansas Statehouse virtual before legislative session

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – In less than a month hundreds of legislators, lobbyists, capitol workers, and members of the public will start coming to the statehouse regularly for the start of session.

Workers are trying to make sure people are safe when they’re at the capitol with technology upgrades.

A large part of what happens daily during the legislative session is committee meetings. The capitol has 13 rooms that hold committees. Lawmakers cover topics like elections, transportation, to veterans and military issues.

The upgrades will equip each room with large televisions and cameras. Most rooms will get three of each.

Before this year, committee rooms only had audio capabilities. The House and Senate chambers were the only spaces with video.

Nearly $4 million of federal CARES Act money will be spent on the upgrades. It’s going toward improving the committee rooms, as well as 10 conference rooms, and an auditorium and training room in the visitor center.

The improvements will allow speakers, presenters and even lawmakers to use Zoom and participate from a safe distance. The changes could impact how the legislature operates in the future.

“In the past we’ve had to set up projector screens and projectors to do presentations, the audio streaming, we wanted to expand to video streaming in the committee rooms,” said Alan Weis, the legislative chief information technology officer. “This project kind of brings everything together, presentations in the room, audio/video streaming, interactive video.”

Work started in November and is expected to finish up by the end of this year and be ready for the legislative session that begins on January 11.

“There’s a lot of people that’s worked on this project, the vendors, the legislative staff here in the building, also the facilities and property management people, and the information technology services people over in the executive branch have helped a lot on this project,” Weis said.

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