Young Lawmaker Takes Helm Of Young Committee

By John Celock

A 33-year-old Kansas state legislator has been elected to chair one of the youngest state legislative committees in the country.

State Rep. Brett Hildabrand (R-Shawnee) was unanimously elected Wednesday to serve as chairman of the Joint Information Technology Committee. The committee – consisting of five lawmakers from each legislative chamber – consists of a membership that is 50 percent under the age of 40, with all of the young lawmakers first joining the Legislature under the age of 35.

“I am very interested in determining how secure our IT infrastructure is,” Hildabrand told The Celock Report. “I would like to know if changes should be implemented in order to remain ahead of security concerns.”

The information technology panel is primarily an administrative oversight body, charged with reviewing state government’s use of computers, telecommunications and information technology. The state law creating the committee charges it with reviewing state government information technology purchase and use, along with making recommendations regarding information technology budgets. The chairmanship rotates annually between the House and Senate, meaning Hildabrand will hold the post for 2015.

Sen. Mike Petersen (R-Wichita), the committee’s chairman in 2014, was elected unanimously to serve as vice chairman this year.

Kansas has had an influx of younger lawmakers in recent years, including leading the country in first term legislators first elected in 2012. Young lawmakers joining Hildabrand on the committee are Sen. Garrett Love (R-Montezuma), Rep. John Wilson (D-Lawrence), Rep. Brandon Whipple (D-Wichita) and Rep. J.R. Claeys (R-Salina).

Hildabrand sees benefits of having the committee consisting half of younger lawmakers.

“I do believe the youth of the committee makeup lends itself towards forward thinking IT policies for the state of Kansas,” he said.

Hildabrand was first elected to the House in 2010. He currently serves as chairman of the Johnson County House Delegation and is a former vice chairman of the House Transportation and Public Safety Budget Committee. He narrowly lost a bid for House majority whip earlier this month.

Hildabrand is known as a leading libertarian voice in the Legislature. He has been active in the Assembly of State Legislatures, a national group seeking for states to petition for an Article V convention to amend the U.S. Constitution. He recently introduced legislation to legalize fantasy sports in Kansas.

The rise of youth in the Kansas Legislature has led for younger lawmakers to take on various leadership slots. Love, the state’s youngest ever senator, serves as the Senate majority whip and chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee. In the House, Whipple and Wilson are both members of the Democratic leadership, while Claeys chairs the House Transportation and Public Safety Budget Committee.

Both Whipple and Love served on the information technology panel for the previous two years.

Wilson told The Celock Report said he never factored Hildabrand’s age into voting for him, noting that he’s qualified for the job. He did note though that the younger bent of the committee will be a benefit to its work.

“We’ve grown up with technology all around us–for work and for play,” he said. “We might provide unique and useful insights into how IT can make our government better. “

Claeys theorized on how the committee came to become one of the youngest state legislative committees in the country.

“The younger skew of the committee may have more to do with reliance on IT than any special knowledge of IT programs,” he said. “We are among an age group accustomed to the consumer side of online forms and databases.”

Hildabrand noted that he is “excited” about taking on the chairmanship and is looking forward to chairing the panel. The committee regularly meets throughout the year.

The committee held 13 meetings during the 2013-14 legislative session reviewing such topics as new technology systems in state government, IT financing, audits of state government IT systems, IT staffing in state government and the state’s IT vendors.

Love noted that the perspective that he and the other young members can bring is valuable to the Legislature as a whole, including on the information technology panel.

“Technology is one of many areas where having the insight of a younger generation can and will prove to be valuable for our state,” Love told The Celock Report.

Claeys said that he believes Hildabrand will do a good job leading the panel this year.

“Representative Hildabrand is the right fit as we look toward performance audits and improvements in the consumer experience with our agencies,” he said.