Don’t look now

The first week of the Session up at the Capitol saw a rather, um, unheralded debut.

The state Senate started using its new “reader boards.” They’re the signs on either side of the chamber that show what the Senate is doing and how each member votes.


The reader boards are known more affectionately by Republicans as “Jumbotron,” but not necessarily for the size of the displays.

The new digital signage is part of a system that includes voting buttons for Senators and touch screens for Senate staff. The package cost about half a million dollars and went up last fall.

Senate staff said at the time that the old voting system was almost 30 years old and they couldn’t get spare parts for it any more. (By the way, it looks like some of it may have been scrapped out to a corridor in the Capitol basement, if you’re short of parts for your own Reagan-era legislative reader board.)

The new one is swank: it’s full color and can display photos, as well as votes and bill information. It also displays votes with a “Y” and an “N.” The old one used colored lights that were sometimes difficult to decipher on television.

And did we mention the new boards are FULL COLOR?


Minneapolis DFLer Linda Higgins said from the floor that the font hue made the new board a little hard to read. She encouraged staff to change it to something more legible.

Her DFL colleague from St. Paul went even farther. “I find it glary,” said Sandy Pappas, after noting the blue-green LED color of the lettering. “It makes me dizzy and nauseous.”

You could practically see the shaudenfreude on the Republicans’ faces. They voted against the Senate budget that included the upgrade.

“It’s the money that makes me ill,” said Paynesville Republican Michelle Fischbach, during a visit to Polinaut’s World Headquarters yesterday. “You know, the old board served its purpose. The people of Minnesota were able to tell how we voted on a bill, how we voted on an amendment… We didn’t have to spend a half million dollars that makes DFL Senators sick.”