Two Pennsylvania state senators are backing legislation aimed at elevating the chief information officer (CIO) of the commonwealth to a cabinet-level position.

State Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill and Tracy Pennycuick, both Republicans, say that the proposed change is intended to enhance the management of critical data, including birth and death records, tax information, criminal lab and evidence data, and health records.

“We believe that by elevating the CIO to a cabinet-level position, we are not just protecting data; we are securing the future of the Commonwealth’s technological landscape,” Sen. Phillips-Hill said. “It is time to empower our CIO to lead with agility, ensuring the resilience and efficiency of our state’s IT services. For years, the Wolf Administration and now the Shapiro Administration tell us everything is fine, when the status quo is clearly not working.”

The senators said in a press release that the change will align the commonwealth with more than half of states nationwide that already have the CIO as a cabinet-level position.

“The sheer growing scope of responsibility that the Chief Information Officer is tasked with alone warrants evaluation to the cabinet-level,” said Sen. Pennycuick. “This move will give the officer more flexibility to ensure that state government is on the cutting edge of the latest information technology, delivery of services and protecting our systems from cybersecurity threats. Additionally, I believe this move will open new avenues for increased transparency and collaboration.”

The senators introduced the legislation shortly after the Pennsylvania Senate Communication and Technology Committee held a public hearing with state officials and IT experts on a data loss that impacted the Pennsylvania State Police’s evidence logs and the State Employees’ Retirement System.

The senators emphasize the potential of the legislation to enhance the state’s technological capabilities, protect sensitive information, and position Pennsylvania as a leader in effective IT governance.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs