INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Republican leaders in the Indiana House of Representatives were on the defensive when plans for a $750,00 renovation of the House Chamber were first made public. That renovation is now underway and the price tag has gone up.
That's because the renovation has been combined with a technology upgrade. New video screens and a new voting machine are now being installed along with new carpet and furniture.
The House Chamber is a construction zone. Desktops have been removed and sent out for rehabilitation. Inside the desks, there is new wiring to accommodate a digital voting machine. The old voting machine suffered frequent breakdowns.
"It came from the 70s," said George Angelone of the Legislative Services Agency. "Some of the switches were a little difficult to keep working because they just don't make the parts anymore."
So now two 90-inch video screens are being installed to display votes and there will also be new software that will accelerate the spread of information.
"This new system should allow things to move to the Internet and make it available to the public faster," said Angelone.
Lawmakers will now use touch screens. They have already been installed in the state Senate. It's a project that is being done in coordination with the $750,000 renovation that includes the rebuilding of a 100 light House chandelier. It was being held together by zip ties and has now been sent to a contractor in New Hampshire.
When the renovation plans first came to light in March the House Speaker directed questions to Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown who said, "The repair and restorations were needed because of the wear and tear that normally occurs."
The work must be complete before Organization Day in November.
The digital voting machine and related costs add up to a little more than $150,000. That money is coming out of the budget for the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency. But, like the $750,000 in the House renovation budget, it is all taxpayer money.
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