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NJ Senate Panel To Investigate Series Of Computer Crashes At State Agencies

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New Jersey State House - Trenton, NJ - File Photo

New Jersey State House (file/credit: Marion Touvel/Wikimedia Commons)

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Senate panel will gather this week to consider ways to improve the state’s aging technology infrastructure.

The session comes in the wake of recent computer crashes that have affected operations — to varying degrees — at several state agencies, most noticeably the Motor Vehicle Commission. Crashes that occurred July 11 and 23 kept MVC workers from accessing license, title or registration information, leading to long lines and frustrated patrons at agency offices across the state.

“We need to find out the root cause of these problems and see what we can possibly fix, what upgrades can be done,” said Sen. Robert Gordon, D-Bergen, who called for the Budget Committee hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday in the Lodi municipal building. He said officials from the MVC and other agencies were recently invited to attend the hearing, but it wasn’t known Sunday how many would take part in the session.

“Are these crashes minor incidents, or are they merely symptoms of more fundamental problems? We owe it to residents to find out what needs to be done,” Gordon said.

The ongoing technology problems have spurred spirited debate in recent weeks between some Democratic lawmakers and high-ranking state officials over what can and should be done.

State Treasurer Andrew Eristoff has noted that Republican Gov. Chris Christie budgeted roughly $5.5 million that would have provided tools, consultants and data storage designed to help upgrade the computer system’s infrastructure, which is more than 30 years old and virtually runs the state bureaucracy, including the MVC.

But those funds, Eristoff said, were eventually eliminated by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

“Our primary concern should be focusing on improving our government systems instead of unproductive theater,” Eristoff said in a statement issued shortly after the July 11 crash.

Gordon said he suspects that several factors — including budgetary and economic issues — have contributed to the chronic system problems, adding that he didn’t seek Thursday’s hearing as a way to place blame on anyone or any agency.

“I’m not interested in flagellating anyone or pointing fingers. That’s not what the public wants,” he said. “We’re seeing many symptoms here, and I want to know exactly what the disease is so we can properly address it.”

Does this probe sound like an efficient use of public funds? Sound off in our comments section below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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