PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Members of the South Dakota Legislature will get new passwords for their state-issued laptops.

That security upgrade won approval Tuesday from the Legislature’s Executive Board.

Elijah Rodriguez is chief IT officer for the Legislature’s professional staff. He said the need for stronger passwords was identified during an analysis of the legislative technology system by Dakota State University.

The current minimum of 10 characters will change to a minimum of 14. “This is step one of several,” Republican Senate leader Casey Crabtree said.

Republican Rep. Chris Karr said he has forgotten his passwords several times and has to return the unit to the Capitol to be re-set. He asked whether the system could be changed to allow to remote re-sets.

Rodriguez said that was one of the first things he noticed when he joined the legislative staff in 2021. “You can’t reset your password unless you’re here,” he said.

“I use my computer on a regular basis. I’ve had that problem,” Republican Sen. Jim Bolin said.

The Legislature’s technology system will switch to a cloud-based approach when the new laptops are issued to legislators after the 2024 elections, according to Rodriguez.

The latest phishing test — emails that contain links that allow the sender to take control of the recipient’s device — showed some improvement. “Legislators had a 7.7 phish rate, or failure rate. Staff had a 3.7 failure rate,” Rodriguez said.

The board’s chair, Republican Rep. Hugh Bartels, said the rate for legislators previously was in the 20s. “We got a ways to go, but we’re getting there,” he said.

Rodriguez asked for advice on how to improve communications with legislators for security training. Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck suggested that the two chambers’ Republican and Democratic leaders be asked to text the “scalawags” to encourage their participation.