MN lawmaker wants outside bids on all state IT projects

Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, wants outside bids on all future state software projects. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Legislation introduced Thursday at the Minnesota Capitol would require state information technology officials to get bids from outside vendors on all computer software projects.

Following the flawed launch of the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS), Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, wants a new process used for future projects. His bill would require Minnesota IT Services (MNIT) to first look to the private sector for commercially-available software to meet its needs. If none is available, the agency would need legislative approval to work on its own solution.

Nash said the legislation is not meant to be punitive to MNIT. But he said it would provide needed guardrails.

“We just want to know that the money that we spend for the software that we need at the state level is going to work, and that we don’t spend extra money building it internally if there is a commercially-available piece of software in existence,” Nash said.

Nash stressed that his bill is for future IT projects and not a fix for MNLARS.

Still, Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, criticized the proposal for dealing with process rather than the state IT agency’s current funding needs to fix MNLARS. Hansen is concerned about the pace of a separate House bill that would provide $10 million.

“The Republican majority shows no urgency in solving this problem,” Hansen said.