Budget Trailer Bill Clarifies Role of Digital Innovation Office

Gov. Gavin Newsom's proposed Office of Digital Innovation won't be made official until legislators approve the state budget and the governor signs it. But a trailer bill offers new details on the office's mission and direction.

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A trailer bill that’s newly in print offers one of the clearest looks yet at how Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed Office of Digital Innovation (ODI) will be established and what it will do.

ODI won’t officially be a reality until legislators approve the state budget; they have until midnight Saturday, then Newsom signs it. The trailer bill, which delineates ODI’s mandate and responsibilities, will be passed separately. However, after a tough reception last month from an Assembly subcommittee, the state budget now in print shows that ODI has gained momentum. Here are key points from the trailer bill:

• The office would be founded July 1, the start of fiscal year 2019-2020. ODI would be charged with delivering “better government services to the people of California through technology and design,” according to the bill. It should do so by working with “state entities to transform government services,” and focus on “measurably improving services using a deliberate, user-focused approach.” ODI should also invest in state capabilities to “put users first, build interactively, and let data drive decisions”; rethink and improve how California buys digital services; and expand the use of “common platforms, services and tools.”

• Its director, appointed by Newsom, would be authorized to “create, update, and publish ... policies, standards, and procedures for state entities in the State Administrative Manual or Statewide Information Management Manual” through working with the individual agencies. (The state’s search for a director is underway.) Engagements with state entities should be “formalized in writing,” spelling out “at minimum” roles and responsibilities during the interaction for ODI and the agency. The director should also stand up a program to improve the state’s service delivery, guided by best practices; and train supervisors and leadership staff on service delivery best practices.

• ODI’s Digital Innovation Services Revolving Fund would also be created effective July 1. The agency would be funded by more than $26.1 million in the state budget — but $10 million of that would seed the fund. Going forward, it would receive “all revenues from the sale of services rendered by the office” and “all other moneys properly credited to the office from any other source.” Money in the fund would be appropriated to the office until July 1, 2024, to pay costs including those associated with approved IT projects and personnel. After July 1, 2024, money in the fund will be available “upon appropriation of the Legislature.” The director will be required to submit annual reports to the chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee describing revenue and expenditures, starting on or before Feb. 1, 2021.

• Staff access to information and systems during service delivery will be subject to confidentiality and privacy regulations. The bill requires ODI to maintain the confidentiality of records, data, IT systems and other documents and components in accordance with laws including the Information Practices Act of 1977. Once a project with an agency is complete, the bill requires the office to get rid of records, data or other documentation that it has “received, copied” or otherwise possesses and to ensure disposal follows the law.

• The trailer bill will follow the state budget on a similar approval process. The budget should be ready for consideration by the Legislature starting late Thursday morning. The trailer bill went into print Tuesday and, like the budget, must remain “in print” for three days before it can be taken up by the Legislature. It should be eligible for approval by late afternoon Friday, but unlike the state budget, is not subject to the same Saturday deadline, a legislative staffer told Techwire.

ODI’s first director will report to Government Operations Agency (GovOps) Secretary Marybel Batjer, and ODI will be within GovOps. 

Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.