How much would you pay for a vote display that offers better clarity and readability and saves time for clerks? A cool $6 million?
The House's main electronic vote display board, dating from 1976, was torn down this week, and installation of a Light Emitting Diode board is set to proceed through the August recess.
Efforts during two weeks to get House Clerk Lorraine Miller and other House officials to talk about changes were unsuccessful. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office on Thursday finally put out a short statement.
"The implementation of the new main displays will provide the House of Representatives with a more dependable voting display that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as it will ensure increased clarity and readability," it explained.
What was not mentioned was the cost. A quick check of Miller's testimony last year to House appropriators showed the price tag for the entire display-updating project was anticipated to be $6 million. Around $2.6 million of that is being dished out this year through the fiscal 2010 budget.
In her testimony, Miller indicated it was well worth the money. She pointed out that with the old board, lawmakers' names still needed to be physically rearranged whenever there was a change in membership, which she called a time-consuming process.
Without mentioning the costs, the statement from Pelosi's office did talk up some potential money-savings elsewhere in the chamber. It noted that, along with the display board changes, "24 energy efficient LED lights are being installed in the chamber ceiling, replacing lights that are nearly 30 years old."
"The new, dimmable lights use 78 percent less energy than the old lights. They also generate less heat and last much longer than their predecessors," it said.