May 10, 2003

Notes from the Texas 'open source bill' hearing

- by Ken Barber -
The Great State of Texas held hearings this week on their open
source bill, SB 1579. Texas legislators have a little more backbone than the ones in the committee that heard the Oregon bill. Here's an exchange between
Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas), the bill's sponsor, and Mario Correa
(who also traveled to Oregon to testify against our bill) of the
Business Software Alliance.

In his testimony, Correa was wasting the committee's time
objecting to portions of the bill that had been removed in
amendments (which Texas refers to as a "substitute"), when Sen.
Carona interrupted him:

Correa: As I was saying, essentially what we're doing in this
bill is to single out one particular type of development for
further study, review and effectively promotion. Now I also, as
some of the earlier witnesses mentioned, think that studying
these issues can be a perfectly positive thing but that's not the
intent of this legislation.

The intent is to presuppose cost
savings by one particular model of software development. Now, in
some cases open source software can save money; in other cases it
doesn't. As the witnesses mentioned the cost of software is
primarily in its upkeep and maintenance and training. It's not
in the actual initial costs of acquisition.

So in acquiring
software for free at the inception this does not mean that
software will over the long term will be less costly. Now, folks
at the Department of Information Resources know that as well as
they know many other information technology issues that arise
before them and that's why they currently have the ability to
procure the kinds of software that makes sense to them and to
conduct the kinds of investigations that they think makes sense
in terms of their resources. I don't think that this bill gives
them a power that they don't currently have but rather seeks to
set one model above others. I don't...

[Sen. Carona signals the Chair]

Chair: Senator Carona?

Carona: Sir, have you read the five lines of this committee
substitute?

Correa: I believe I have sir, in fact...

Carona: Do you know that all it says is, "Shall publish
guidelines relating to the information a state agency must
consider in determining whether the agency should acquire open
source software products in addition to proprietary software."
Now, what are you threatened by?

Correa: Well, I understand, Senator, that you left out a previous
section in the latest iteration. The previous section talked
about how the report must include the department's
recommendations that effectively...

Carona: That's not...

Correa: That's no longer... that's correct. But the point that
I'm trying to make is, essentially what you've done is to isolate
one particular development of software for further investigation,
assuming that there isn't something already being considered or
the State has already undertaken. What makes our industry
nervous is not that you study any particular type but rather that
you select one under a presupposition of cost savings or not cost
savings for that matter.

Carona: Well, if you'll read the language again, we have already
presupposed that proprietary software will exist and will be
what's purchased. This simply says shall we consider any other
alternatives? That means specifically...

I don't... Again, I don't understand why you all are so
threatened by this, but from a careful look at the lobbyists in
this room that are representing Microsoft, and all of you here
representing proprietary software companies which -- let's face
it, that's where the big money is, it's not in Open Source it's
in proprietary -- it's rather transparent as to why you all feel
so threatened by this language. And I'll tell you, this [bill]
is innocuous, but next session I'll be on a crusade.

Correa: Thank you.

Carona: Any further testimony, Mr. Correa?

Correa: Uh, that's all right.

Carona: Thank you for being here today.

And that was the end of of the BSA's BS in the Texas State
Legislature. My opinion of Texans has just increased by an order
of magnitude.

A recording of this can be heard at
http://www.Senate.state.tx.us/ram/archive/2003/may/050803StAffpm.ram

This exchange occurred about one hour and 28 minutes into the
recording.

Ken Barber wrote and has lobbied strongly for the Oregon open source bill, which probably isn't going to become law (this year) despite his valiant efforts.

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