Legislators Face Hands-Off Policy on Handheld Devices During Votes

February 2009
President Obama may have won his Blackberry war, but Colorado legislators still have a fight on their hands over their handheld devices. This week, both Colorado Senate President Peter Groff and Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll sternly reminded their members that they're not allowed to e-mail, text, or speak on their cell phones on the House and Senate floors when final votes are being taken on a bill. The clampdown came after Groff received a complaint wondering if state Senator Scott Renfroe was receiving e-mails from Colorado GOP chair Dick Wadhams, instructing him how to vote on legislation. Renfroe had supported a Democratic transportation bill in committee, but then he switched his stance and opposed the bill on the Senate floor.

Renfroe says it's "insulting" to accuse him of taking marching orders from Wadhams. Wadhams also dismisses the allegation.

Meanwhile, other legislators are just unhappy they're not allowed to e-mail or text during voting time. Many use the Internet to make records of their votes, Twitter how they voted, and research issues.

"I guess you're going to have to pry my Blackberry out of my cold, dead hands," state Senator Evie Hudak told the Rocky Mountain News.

But Colorado legislators don't have as many restrictions on their online actions as their colleagues in some other states. Last week, Maryland state legislators and staff were banned from logging on to Facebook and MySpace from Statehouse computers because of concerns about downloading viruses and malware. (After an uproar, the rules were changed Wednesday to allow legislators access to Facebook--but not MySpace).

Colorado legislators haven't been hit with any restrictions on their Internet access at the Capitol--at least not since former Governor Bill Owens signed an executive order in 2005 banning the use of government computers to post comments on ColoradoPols.